Friday, December 10, 2010

Ananda Temple - Bagan

The Ananda Temple located in Bagan, Myanmar is a Buddhist temple built in 1105 AD during the reign (1084–1113) of King Kyanzittha of the Pagan Dynasty. It is one of four surviving temples in Bagan. The temple layout is in a cruciform with several terraces leading to a small pagoda at the top covered by an umbrella known as hti, which is the name of the umbrella or top ornament found in almost all pagodas in Myanmar. The Buddhist temple houses four standing Buddhas, each one facing the cardinal direction of East, North, West and South. The temple is said to be an architectural wonder in a fusion of Mon and adopted Indian style of architecture. The impressive temple has also been titled the "Westminster Abbey of Burma". The temple has close similarity to the Pathothamya temple of the 10th–11th century, and is also known as “veritable museum of stones”.
The temple was damaged in the earthquake of 1975. However, it has been fully restored and is well maintained by frequent painting and whitewashing of the walls. On the occasion of 900th anniversary of its construction celebrated in 1990 the temple spires were gilded. It is a highly revered temple of Bagan.
The name Ananda of the temple is derived from the Venerable Ananda, Buddha's first cousin, personal secretary, one of his many principal disciples and a devout attendant. It was once known as Ananta Temple, coming from the phrase 'ananta pinya' in Sanskrit, which translates as "endless wisdom". However, the word 'Ananda' in Pali, Sanskrit as well as other Indian languages mean "bliss". It is a popular Buddhist and Hindu name. The attributes of the Buddha, his infinite wisdom "Anandapinnya in Burmese and Pali" is commemorated in its name 'Ananda'.
The legend associated with building of this temple ended in tragedy to the builders. Eight (8) monks who approached the King Kyanzittha seeking alms gave a graphic description of the Nandamula Cave temple in the Himalayas where they had meditated. When the king invited them to the palace to hear more details, the monks invoked their meditative psychic skills and vividly explained to the King, the landscape of the place they had lived. The King, pleased with this show of their skills, requested the monks to build a temple in the middle of the Bagan plains creating cool conditions in the temple. After the monks completed the temple construction, the King, in order to retain the uniqueness of the temple, got the architects (monks) killed to ensure that another similar structure was not built by them anywhere else.
History of this perfectly dimensioned temple structure built in 1105 is credited to King Kyanzittha. It denotes "the stylistic end of the Early Bagan period and the beginning of the Middle period". The timing of building this temple is considered as a culmination of religious education that began during the Pahothanya temple building activity in 1080 AD. The Theravada Buddhism adopted by the King motivated him to present the teachings of Buddha to his people in an accurate and a genuine way through the medium of this temple, to unite Burma under one flag and thus "creating mass religious enthusiasm". It has been inferred that the King, as the upholder of the Law wanted to convey his firm belief in the Buddhist doctrine according to his interpretation.
Through the unique iconographic depictions (in stone images, the numbered jataka plaques and the standing Buddha images), presented in the symmetrically planned layout of the Ananda temple was built by the King Kyanzittha to establish and convey his doctrine to his people in a vivid visual format. It is said that the King who founded this temple became illustrious in the sphere of Buddhist architecture.
The architectural history of the temple has been widely analysed. While the Mon architecture of Burmese origin is noted, strong influence of Indian Architecture from many temples of Bengal and Orissa is very clear. In this regard archaeologist Duroiselle has made these observations: "There can be no doubt that the architects who planned and built the Ananda were Indians. Everything in this temple from Shikara to basement, as well as the numerous stone sculptures found in its corridors, and the terra-cotta plaques adorning its basement and terraces, bear the indubitable stamp of Indian genius and craftsmanship...In this sense we may take it, therefore, that the Ananda, though built in the Burmese capital, is an Indian temple." It is also said that the architecture of this temple greatly represents the Ananta cave temple in Udayagiri hills in Orissa, India.
Ananda temple is a perfectly dimensioned stylistic structure, a fusion of Mon and Indian architectural styles and is the central monument built in the Pagan valley. It has been built with bricks and plaster depicting iconographic images in stones and plaques (terra-cotta glazed tiles) with the main purpose of educating the people of the region in the religious ethos of Theravada Buddhism and in accordance with the personal beliefs of the King Kyanzittha.
Other structures

Ananda Oakkyaung is simply a Monastery built with red bricks, located within the precincts of the Ananda Temple. It was built in 1137 AD. Paintings of the 18th century are seen in the walls of the monastery, which also have an inscription that attributes building of the monastery to three brothers. Shin Thuddhamma Linkara, a highly venerated monk lived here.

Tharabar Gate is the only surviving gate of the ancient Bagan city (previously known as Pagan); the Ananda temple is located to its southeast. Tharabar, a word derived from the Pali word "Sarabhanga", which literally means "shielded against arrows". Tharabar was one of the 12 gates of entry to the Pagan city built by King Pyinbya, in 849 AD. Some stucco engravings of Ogres are still seen on the gate. It is believed that two spirits protect it namely, the brother "Lord of the Great Mountain" on the left of the gate and the sister "Golden face" on the right side.



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