Ananda Temple

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The most uplifting of Pagan temples, the Ananda was built by King Kyanzittha in the mid-eleventh century. The Ananda Temple represents the maturity of the early period style at Pagan. Based on a single story elevation, it is a balanced and harmonious design with its central spire rising from a square base and terraces. The true effect is best seen from the west side, where nineteenth-century donors did not add covered walkways. The plan is a Greek cross: a two hundred-foot central square with four prayer halls that project out at the cardinal points. Facing these prayer halls, the four cardinal shrines are set in giant arched niches cut into the block. These contain colossal standing buddhas. Only the south image is original early period; the others are Konbaung replacements from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, as are the splendid carved wood doors at the entrance to the outer ambulatory. These images are dramatically lit by concealed shafts that connect to skylights contained in the external pediments. Fragments of the original paintings have been recovered in the halls; the remainder, which would have covered all the walls and vaults, were whitewashed by misguided do-gooders during an earlier period. There is a double ambulatory running around the main block over which the exterior terraces climb. These terraces contain glazed plaque scenes of the jĀtakas. Around the base are more glazed plaques depicting the attack and defeat of the army of MĀra (the personification of evil who tried to tempt the Buddha just before his enlightenment). Inside, the outer ambulatory contains ninety relief scenes from the life of the Buddha. This was a time when people were converting to the new faith and these scenes were intended to teach the story of the Buddha's life. The stone carving is vigorous and at times dynamic. As with the entire building there is an energy and excitement to these scenes. The Ananda is a monument to the establishment of TheravĀda as the state religion of Myanmar (Burma). There is none of the grand complacency of the colossal late temples; the place vibrates with the force of a newfound faith.

See also:Monastic Architecture; Myanmar; Myanmar, Buddhist Art in; Southeast Asia, Buddhist Art in


Duroiselle, Charles. The Ananda Temple at Pagan. Delhi: Manager of Publications, Archaeological Survey of India, 1937.

Luce, G. H. Old Burma—Early Pagan. 3 vols. Locust Valley, NY: J. J. Augustin, 1969–1970.

Strachan, Paul. Pagan: Art and Architecture of Old Burma. Whiting Bay, Arran, Scotland: Kiscadale Publications, 1989.

Paul Strachan