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Famous Buddhist Temple in Bagan: Ananda Temple

By Devik Balami at

One of the famous Buddhist temple in Bagan, built in 1105 CE is Ananda Temple. The temple got the name from the Venerable Ananda, Buddha's principal disciples as well as cousin. The temple was built in the period of King Kyanzittha of the Pagan Dynasty. The myth associated with this temple explains that eight monks designed this awesome temple and after the completion of this temple, everyone associated with the construction of the temple was killed with the order of the King. The main reason for this type of evil act was to ensure the uniqueness of the temple and no one can again build the similar type of temple. It is also believed that this temple acted as the medium to unite Burma and created mass religious enthusiasm.

Layout of the Temple

The temple has a central square of 53 m and the overall height of the temple is 51 m. The total length of the temple is about 88 m. The temple is built in cross format, in which two receding curvilinear roofs have been built over the main foundation of the building. It is then followed outwardly by four receding terraces which lead to a small pagoda. The top of the pagoda has an umbrella like structure known as hti.

The main part of the temple is in the shape of a cube in which four Antique Buddha Statues are placed. The statues are placed in such a way that each of the statues faces the cardinal direction of East, West, North, and South. All the Buddha statues have a height of 9.5 m which is portrayed in standing position.

Antique Buddha statue in the Ananda Temple

The Antique Buddha statues are painted with gold leaf and are placed in the shrines. They are raised about 2.5 m above the throne. The Buddha is placed facing four different cardinal directions. The South facing Buddha is Kassapa Buddha. He is the third of the five Buddha of the present Kalpa- Bhaddakappa and the sixth of the six Buddhas prior to the historical Buddha. Among the four Buddha statues, south facing Kassapa Buddha has a unique characteristic. When one looks from near, he looks sad. However, when the same sculpture is viewed from far away then he has the expression of mirthfulness. This Buddha statue is depicted in Dhammachakra Mudra posture.

The North facing Buddha is Kakusandha. He is the twenty-fifth Buddha among thousand Buddha; the first of the five Buddhas of the present Kalpa- Bhaddakappa and the fourth of the seven ancient Buddhas. This Buddha statue is also depicted in Dhammachakra Mudra posture.

The East facing Buddha is Konagamana. He is the twenty-sixth Buddha among thousand Buddha; the second of the five Buddha of the present Kalpa- Bhaddakappa and the fifth of the seven ancient Buddha. The Kongamana is depicted with holding a small nut-like sphere- a herb by his thumb and middle finger. This herb is said to be symbolically represented to follow dhamma as a cure for misery and distress.

The west facing Buddha is Shakyamuni Buddha. He is the Buddha of the present Kalpa. The Shakyamuni Buddha is depicted in Abhaya mudra posture. At the feet of the Buddha, there are another two life-sized statues of King Kyanzittha and Shin Arahan, the Mon Monk.

The medium of these Buddha Statues are solid teak wood but some people claim that the Buddha Statue of Kassapa is made up of a bronze. Since, the east and west facing sculpture were the replacement to the originals which were destroyed by fire, later it was made according to Konbaung or Mandalay style.


Plaques in this temple are made up of glazed Terra-cotta tiles. These tiles depict Jataka tales; normally one tile portrays one story of the Jataka. We can see five plethora of plaques in the temple premises. The first one is at the base of the structure depicting with 552 images of Mara's marching warriors with an intention to attack Buddha. The images also include procession of gods. The plaque depicting these images are extended from south to west. The plaque which extends from west to north is depicted with warriors vanquished by supernatural powers of Buddha. The second one extends from the southwest corner of the first terrace to the northern side of the third terrace. In this plethora of plaque, it displays 537 plaques related to the story from Jataka tales. The third one extends from the northern side of the second terrace to the fifth terrace. It displays Tey Mi Jataka. The fourth one is depicted at the fifth terrace which depicts 547 plaques of stories of Vessantrara Jataka. The last one shows the last ten lives of the Buddha. These lives are depicted in green color plaques.

Apart from these plaques, there are stone sculptures which are considered unique in Bagan. All total 1500 stone sculptures, mostly unclear, are found inside the temple premises. One of the important sculpture is carved from a single rock that depicts 80 episodes from Buddha's life. The sculpture is of 1.1m high, 0.74 m broad and 0.3 m thick. Wall painting can also be seen inside the prayer hall but mostly washed. Although some of the paintings are in good condition.