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Ananda Temple

Ananda Temple Bagan Myanmar

  • It is a Buddhist temple, situated in Bagan, Myanmar and was constructed in 1105 during the rule of King Kyanzittha. It’s 1 of 4 remaining temples in Bagan. Layout of the temple is in a cruciform with a number of verandahs resulting in a smaller pagoda at the topmost position protected by an umbrella. The Buddhist temple includes 4 Buddhas standing, each oriented towards the cardinal direction of South, North, West and East. The temple is considered as an architectural miracle in a union of Mon and used Indian method of construction. The spectacular temple is also called the "Westminster Abbey of Myanmar". The temple is similar to the Pathothamya temple and is called as “real museum of stones”.
  • In the earthquake of 1975, the temple was severely damaged. Nevertheless, it has been completely renovated and is nicely maintained by repeated whitewashing and painting of the walls. The temple spires were gold-plated on the event of 900th anniversary of completion of its construction commemorated in 1990. It’s an extremely sacred temple of Bagan.


  • The name Ananda came from Venerable Ananda, Buddha's devout attendant, personal secretary and first cousin. It’s a popular Hindu and Buddhist name.


  • The legend has that construction of this temple culminated in disaster to the workers. Eight monks came to the King Kyanzittha requesting donations and presented a detailed account of the Nandamula Cave temple in the Himalayas in which they had prayed. When they were invited to the palace by the king them to hear more details, the monks vividly described to the King, the land of the place they had resided. The King was pleased with this and requested the monks to construct a temple in the centre of the Bagan creating cool atmosphere in the temple. After completion of the temple by the monks, the King killed monks, in order to maintain the exclusivity of the temple to make sure that another similar building wasn’t constructed by them anywhere else. You can see it in Bagan only.


  • Credit goes to King Kyanzittha for this perfectly dimensioned temple building constructed in 1105. It shows the stylistic culmination of the Early Bagan era and the start of the Middle period. The timing of constructing this temple is thought as an end of religious education which started during the Pahothanya temple construction activity in 1080. The King was motivated by the Theravada Buddhism to present the trainings of Buddha to his people in a genuine and an accurate way through this temple, to unify Myanmar under one flag and to create mass religious fervor. It has been deduced that the King, as the defender of the Law desired to express his strong belief in the Buddhist principle as per his analysis.
  • The King Kyanzittha built the Ananda temple to convey and establish his doctrine to his people in a colourful graphic format presented in the symmetrically planned layout through the exclusive iconographic portrayals (in the standing Buddha images, the numbered jataka plaques and stone images). The King who established this temple became famous in the realm of Buddhist architecture.

Inside Ananda Temple Bagan Myanmar

History of Architecture

  • The history of architecture of the temple has been analysed extensively. Very strong impact of Indian Architecture from several temples of Orissa and Bengal is quite obvious. Archaeologist Duroiselle said that it is without doubt that Indians architects planned and built the Ananda Temple. Everything in this temple from Shikara to basement, and the large number of stone sculptures in its corridors as well as the terra-cotta plaques decorating its terraces and basement, bear the stamp of Indian craftsmanship and genius. Although the Ananda constructed in the Burmese capital, is an Indian temple. It’s also said that the construction of this temple significantly represents the Ananta cave temple in Orissa, India.


  • Ananda temple is a blend of Indian and Mon architectural styles, an ideally dimensioned stylistic building and is the central monument constructed in the Pagan valley. It has been constructed with plaster and bricks showing iconographic pictures in plaques and stones with the main aim of enlightening the people of the area in the religious philosophy of Theravada Buddhism and as per the personal views of the King Kyanzittha.


  • The temple building is in the shape of a simple corridor. It contains a central square of 53 metres. The 51 metres high superstructure is formed by ornamented terraces. The full length of the temple from end to end is about 88 metres. In the crucifix blueprint approved for the temple, the central platform on which 2 receding curved roofs have been constructed is followed by 4 receding balconies over it. The 4 terraces lead to the peak, exactly where it ends in a smaller pagoda and an umbrella. The main part of the holy place, at the middle of the balconies, is in the form of a cube, that contains the 4 standing Buddha gigantic sculptures on its 4 faces, each 9.5 metres high (above a 2.4 metres high throne). The spire goes up above this cubic building. Two paths delineate the middle cube, with the 4 sides of the cube; each façade is ornamented with a gigantic figure of the Buddha. The 4 doorways are provided with teak wood engraved doors in the interior and these doorways make a complete cruciform or cross. A stupa decoration crowns each door. Jataka pictures (life history of the Buddha – thought to be found from Mon texts) are engraved on 554 terra cotta tiles which beautify terraces, sides and the base. Each place, in the four 4 doors of the cubical building, form the temple in which standing Buddhas, completely gold-plated and in different forms or mudras are worshipped and deified.
  • The 2 circumambulatory paths have curved roof. In these inner tracks, encircling the middle cubicle, sculptural decoration in the shape of 80 big reliefs engraved out of volcanic rocks, signifying life of Buddha from birth to death, are portrayed. The 2 main tracks have cross tracks too, that provide the linkage between the standing images of the Buddha and the porch.
  • The outer walls of the temple are 39 12 metres high. They are decorated with reinforced parapet walls. Each nook has got a ringed pagoda.


  • The 4 standing Buddhas (depicted) are decorated with gold foliage and each Buddha figure faces from north to south, said to signify accomplishment of a status of spiritual enlightenment; each one is given a particular name, Kassapa (in Pali, it’s the name of a Buddha, the 3rd of the 5 Buddhas of the current kalpa (the Bhaddakappa or 'Fortunate Aeon' and the 6th of the 6 Buddhas before the historic Buddha) – south facing, Kakusandha (in Pali, is the name of the 25th Buddha, the 1st of the 5 Buddhas of the current kalpa, and the 4th of the 7 ancient Buddhas). Out of the 4 figures, the figures facing south and north are considered to be earliest, of the Bagan-style showing the dhammachakka mudra, a hand position signifying the 1st address of the Buddha, while the other 2 figures are latest substitutes, when the originals were damaged by fires. All the 4 figures are made from solid teak wood (some people say that the southern figure is made from a bronze alloy). The 4 Buddhas positioned in the temple, known as the "Buddhas of the modern age", provide a clue of Buddha's sense of the omnipresence through time and space.
  • The original south facing Buddha (known as the Kassapa) has an exceptional architectural presentation, because when it’s seen closely it shows a gloomy look. But, the same figure seen from a distance shows a look of mirthfulness.
  • The west and east facing Buddha figures are created in the later Mandalay or Konbaung style. The east-facing figure of Buddha (called 'Kongamana') is depicted holding a small nutlike sphere – a herb, between the middle finger and thumb. This herb is said to symbolically signify the Buddha proposing dhamma (Buddhist way of life) as a remedy for distress and misery. In this gesture, both arms hang at the sides with palms stretching out. This gesture isn’t seen in conventional Buddhist statue outside this temple.
  • In the west-facing Buddha, named Gotama, the abhaya gesture is shown – with hands stretched out in the gesture of boldness. At the bottoms of this Buddha 2 actual size sculptures made in lacquer, signifying the crowned figure of King Kyanzittha bowing devoutly in prayer and Shin Arahan, the Mon hermit who transformed the King into Theravada Buddhism and as a bishop also crowned the king, are also shown. The western entrance also shows 2 Buddha footmark symbols on platforms. Writing under the small figure of the King says that the King supposed himself as a "bodhisattva, an incarnation and cakkavattin of Lord Vishnu".

Ananda Temple Bagan Myanmar