Ananda Temple

It is said that every Myanmar should visit Bagan and without visiting Ananda you cannot be said to have visited Bagan. Ananda Temple is like a museum. You can study all kinds of Myanmar arts here — architecture, stone sculpture, stucco, glazed plaques, terra cotta, wood carving, artwork of blacksmith etc. There are three different versions regarding the name of this temple. 1. When King Kyansittha asked eight Arahats (Saints) to provide him with a design for the religious monument he was about to build, they created the image of Nanda Mula Cave Hall held to be in the Himalayas. So the temple was constructed on the model of that image and it came to be known as “Nandamu” which in course of time corrupted to sound “Ananda. 2. The Sanscrit word “Anand” means “very beautiful.” The name “Ananda” must have been derived from this Sanscrit word. The Temple is extremely beautiful. 3. There is a Pali word ” Ananta Panna” which means ” the endless wisdom of the Buddha.” The temple sym¬bolizes this attribute of the Buddha. Hence it is called “Ananta Temple.” It cannot be said for certain which version is correct because the original stone inscription was silent about its name. But “Ananda” is the traditional name known to the Myanmar people for generations. Ananda Temple was constructed in Koza Sakarit 452 M. E (A. D. 1091) by King Kyansittha. He was also known as Hti Hlaing Shin. His regnal title was ” Sri Tribuvanaditya Dhamma Yaza” meaning “the King of Justice who shines like the sun over three auspicious worlds.” According to modern archeologists, the ground plan of Ananda Temple is similar to Paha Pu Zedi in Bangladesh and Nakhonpahton Zedi near the ancient city of Dwaravati in the west of Bangkok, Thailand. The ground plan is in the form of a cross with four devotional halls, each on one side, facing four cardinal direc-tions, and the main structure in the center. In Bagan there are’ only two Temples with such ground plan. The other Temple of this type is Dhammayan Gyi which was built by King Kyansittha’s grandson, King Narathu. It seemed that the grandson copied the ground plan of his grandfather’s Temple. But it was found that for some unknown reasons the inner circumambulatory corridor of Dhammayan Gyi was blocked. The size of Ananda Temple is 289 feet from one end to the other and 168 feet in height from the base to that portion atop, which was decorated with plaster mouldings of down-turned and up-turned lotus petal motifs. The fencing wall measures 596 feet from East to West and 592 feet from North to South. It is said that there are 10000 surrounding Zedis, 1000 niches, and three vaulted corridors. 10000 surrounding Zedis include zedis on the fencing walls, those on the walls of the vaulted corridors and those around the main stupa. 1000 niches include niches on four sides of the Sikhara (pyramidal spire) those niches on the walls of the vaulted corridors and those niches on the inner walls of the four devotional halls, totalling over one thousand. These niches were installed probably to reduce the echo. Regarding the three vaulted corridors, the inner most one was meant for the monks to walk around and worship the shrine, the middle vaulted corridor for the princes, royal sons and nephews and the outer vaulted corridor that passes through the devotional halls was meant for the com-moners. One architectural wonder of Ananda Temple is the natural ventilation system by means of windows built inside the thickness of the walls. There are light wells in the very high ceiling through which beams of light fall directly on the faces of the four, gigantic statues of Buddha in standing posture facing four cardinal points. On each side of the structure are eight light wells through which light comes, passing through the three tiers of wall for a distance of 108 feet and falls directly on the Buddha images inside the niches. These light wells also serve as ventilator since fresh air constantly enters through them into the whole structure. On four sides of the Sikhara are niches, five on each side. The roof of the structure is not flat but dome-like and sloping, thus indicating the architectural style of the early period of Bagan. Ananda Temple is the best architectural accomplishment in Bagan. The earthquake of 1975 damaged only the finial and top zedi above the Sikhara, and surrounding slim and small zedis. No crack was caused to the main structure. As a result of that earthquake one architectural secret was brought to light. Due to the quake, some cements were pealed off revealing the system of brick laying, with stone bricks wedged in between them. The arch span was formed by laying the baked bricks in a radiating pattern and placing stone bricks as wedges between them. These places where cement fell off were left unplastered so that the visitors can see and appreciate the architectural technique of Bagan time. Similarly key stones cut with precision were used in the corners of the wall. They were wedged in at an interval of 4 or 5 feet. This technique was a kind of strengthening the whole structure for longer durability. To strengthen the corners of the ceilings above the vaulted corridors, there are two vaulted arches at/each corner joining the inner and outer walls and also buttressing the upper vaulted arches.

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