When traveling to the Myanmar country, it will be incomplete if you do not visit the ancient city Bagan, where thousands of ancient temples are gathered with unique and unique architecture. Among them, Ananda temple is considered the most beautiful one.
I/ The Ananda Temple’s history
Ananda Temple is one of the four main Buddhist temples left in Bagan. There are also people who call this temple Ananda Pahto and Ananda Phaya. It bears the structure of a single floor. It was built in 1105 AD, during the reign of King Kyanzittha in Pagan dynasty. This is a masterpiece of pagoda architecture at that time and is still preserved to the present day.
According to legend, the construction of this temple ended in tragedy. Eight monks approached Kyanzittha’s king and gave a graphic description of the temple in the Himalayas, where they meditated. The king was pleased and asked the monks to build a temple in the middle of the plain of Bagan. After the monks completed the construction, to retain the uniqueness of the temple and to ensure that a similar structure would not be built anywhere else, the king ordered to kill these architectures (the monks). So that you can see Ananda Temple only in Bagan.
Ananda Temple – the most beautiful one in Bagan, Myanmar
In 1975, Bagan had an earthquake this temple was severely damaged. However, the people here have restored it very well and maintained until now. The walls here are often whitewashed so the temple looks new. In 1990, on the occasion of the 900th anniversary, its towers were gilded. It shows how much the local people appreciate this temple.
II/ Discover the unique architecture of Ananda Temple
Ananda is considered one of the most beautiful and perfect temples in Bagan. Coming here, visitors will feel surprised and admiring for its beauty. This is a combination of the architecture of Mon and Indian, that is built with special bricks and plaster
1. The layout
The temple has a total length of 290 feet (88 m), with a simple corridor structure, including a 57-foot (17 m) archway, a 53-meter (174 ft) central square. In the central area of the terrace, the core of the temple is shaped like a cube. You can see four giant Buddha statues placed on its four sides. Each statue is over 9 meters (31 ft) tall.
Four entrances have 4 wooden doors that are carved beautifully on teak masonry. These entrances form a perfect cross. In addition, visitors will feel extremely excited to witness Jataka (Buddha’s life story) is embossed on 554 terracotta bricks on the terrace.
The outer walls of the temple are 39 feet high. They are decorated with fortified parapet walls and each corner has a ringed pagoda.
2. The four Buddhas
You will have a special feeling when admiring four gold-covered Buddha statues that are about 10 meters high inside the Ananda temple. They are placed in the sanctum, each faces a direction, from north to south and each has a specific name
Buddha Kakusandha – North facing
Buddha Konagamana – East facing
Buddha Gautama – West facing.
Buddha Kassapa – South facing
Among the 4 statues above, the Buddha one in the north and south are two original statues. The remaining two statues were damaged by fire and restored later. Especially, the statue faces to the south have different nuanced expressions when people worship in different positions. When looking closely, people see it with a sad face. However, when you look from a distance, you can see a mirthful image.
Four famous Buddha statues in the Ananda Temple
3. The stone images
The reason that this temple is considered the most beautiful temple in Bagan is the unique stone sculptures. You will not be able to see them anywhere else. People found 1500 stone images inside the temple, most of them are unclear due to wear and tear. They are carved on the natural rock, that has the average size of 3.5 feet (1.1 m) high, 1 foot (0.30 m) thick, and 2.42 feet (0.74 m) broad. The images engraved on it help visitors understand more about the life of Buddha, whom Myanmar people are extremely revered.
In the earthquake in 1975, Ananda Temple has damaged quite heavily, so are the wall paintings. However, the paintings on the wall inside the prayer halls have been whitewashed well. Burma’s tiger bureaucracy has restored some of the still-visible paintings on the southwestern column of the northern religious room. Some other paintings are still in good condition on the walls of the eastern worship hall. There are the image of arhat, lotus; and flower design on the western entrance or the Buddha re-appearing, north of the statue of Buddha standing.
One of the pictures that depict the life of Buddha on the temple’s wall
Thanks to the above impressive features of the architecture, Ananda Temple has become the most beautiful one, the first attraction for tourists when visiting Bagan.
III/ The festival of Ananda Temple
According to the experience of indigenous people, the best time to visit this place is from the December full moon to mid-January, because at this time, there will be a three-day religious festival and thousands of pilgrims Buddha converges here. During 72 hours of the festival, 1000 monks perform continuous chanting of scriptures. The camps were built around the temple by the people there. In the morning of the full moon day, they offer gift bowls to the monks to pay homage. This is a cultural beauty that you should admire once in your life.
IV/ Other must-visit temples in Bagan
Beside Ananda temple, Bagan also owns thousands of other large and small temples. There are more than 4400 temples that are scattered throughout the 42km2 area of this city, So, after exploring the beauty of Ananda, take the time to discover some other outstanding temples:
1. Thatbyinnyu temple
Built in the middle of the 12th century, Thatbyinnyu Temple is considered the highest temple in Bagan. On the outside, the massive Thatbyinnyu Temple is whitewashed, looks like a Renaissance Catholic monastery in Europe. In inside, Thatbyinnyu temple has long corridors, the altars are arranged with different Buddha postures and shapes, but all are glistened with gold. According to the legend, Thatbyinnyu Temple is a mural treasure of Myanmar Buddhist art, but during the restoration, it was swept with white lime on the wall and all the precious paintings are lost.
2. Sulamani Temple
Sulamani Temple was built by King Sithu II in 1183, located in the middle of an empty field, far from the main road. This temple still holds a number of frescoes with a rough look, but unfortunately, the restoration works lost many ancient characteristics of the temple. Sulamani is the only temple in Bagan with two rows of leaf houses along the entrance. Here, they sell souvenirs, mainly sand paintings and wood carvings. Like Ananda Temple, Sulamani Temple has four sides overlooking the four directions, connected by wide corridors, each has a shrine that worships Shakyamuni Buddha. Along the corridor, there are also recesses, each is a shrine Buddha.
Beside Ananda temple, Sulamani is also a must-come temple in Bagan
3. Shweleiktoo Temple
Shwesandaw Temple looks far away like an Egyptian pyramid, has 4 faces, 5 floors and a stupa (bell-shaped tower) on top. According to the legend, this temple was built by King Anawrahta in 1057 to preserve relics as one of the eight hairs of Shakyamuni Buddha. The special feature of Shwesandaw Temple is that: there are four brick staircases on four sides, each with 5 floors. In order for visitors and pilgrims can climb the elevated balconies, it was fitted with a rather sturdy set of iron tubes on the right side of the stairs so that visitors could climb easily because the stairs were steep and narrow.
4. Dhammayangyi Temple
Not far from Shwesandaw Temple, you can see the Dhammayangyi Temple, it has an entrance gate and brick walls, although many sections of the walls are ruined. Dhammayangyi is the largest temple in Bagan ruins. The document notes that: 6 million bricks were used to build this temple. Unlike other temples, Dhammayangyi does not have a pinnacle in the middle as usual. Due to the mysterious history of this temple, local residents often call this the “ghost temple”, and very few visitors come here. But if you are a discoverer, don’t ignore this temple.
Ananda temple is really a beautiful, magnificent one that you can hardly find anywhere else. Therefore, if you have a chance to travel to Myanmar, remember to visit the ancient city Bagan to admire this temple as well as others ones.