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Ananda Pahto Temple, Bagan

Ananda Pahto. Photo © Ross Thomson. View all images in our Ananda Pahto Temple Photo Gallery.
Photo © Sara Heinrichs.
Photo © Simon Taylor.
Photo © Simon Taylor.
  Photo © Huggy47.
Photo © Simon Taylor.
South Buddha from afar and up close. Photo © Temka.
Photo © Markku Arttola.

Located just east of the city walls of Old Bagan, Ananda Pahtowas the first of the great temples at Bagan and is one of the most largest and most beautiful. This symmetrical masterpiece was built around 1090 AD by a king inspired by tales of visiting Indian monks.

History

The Ananda Pahto was built by King Kyanzittha (r. 1084-1113) around 1090-1105 as a work of religious merit. According to the traditional story, he was inspired by eight visiting Indian monks who told of their life in the legendary Nanadamula cave in the Himalayas. The Ananda Pahto was built to recreate a vision of this cave and reflect the endless wisdom of the Buddha. It inspired the meritorious temple-building of later rulers.

The stucco and other features of the temple were restored in the late 18th century in the Middle Konbaung Era style and on the temple's 900th anniversary in 1990, the temple spires were gilded. The exterior is whitewashed from time to time.

What to See

The Ananda Temple is surrounded by an enclosing wall with four arched gateways containing seated guardian deities. Since the Ananda was always a monastery as well as a temple, there are several associated buildings within the enclosure wall. The British built a brick museum nearby in 1904, which is now used as a storage facility. Around it are few ordination markers, inscribed stellae and Buddha images.

The Ananda Pahto itself is designed on a perfectly proportioned Greek cross plan (+) and is beautifully symmetrical down to its vestibules and gabled entrance porches, each topped with a stupa finial. The main building stands 35 feet high and the central tower soars 167 feet above the ground, topped with a gilded sikhara filial that can be seen shimmering from all over the plain. The Ananda is in constant use and kept in good repair.

Six terraces rise pyramid-like to the central tower. The lower terraces have a complete numbered set of 537 Jataka plaques (scenes from the lives of the Buddha) in Pali; the upper terraces have a set of 375 Mon language plaques depicting the last ten Jataka. Including those on the interior, this is the largest Bagan collection of terracotta tiles.

At each corner of the second main level are four smaller stupas reflecting the central one, and several tiers of windows help illuminate the inner corridors. Inside, the central square of the cross-shaped temple is about 175 ft on each side and contains two parallel ambulatories around the central core with arched niches for images of the Buddha. Huge carved teak doors separate the interior halls from cross passages on all four sides.

Over 80 instructional sandstone relief scenes in the outer corridor depict the life of the Buddha from his birth until his enlightenment. The inner walls are mostly whitewashed but there is evidence they originally contained a number of murals. Upper floors are closed to visitors.

Four impressive 30-foot-tall gilded teak standing Buddhas, facing the four cardinal directions, represent the four Buddhas who have attained enlightenment in the present world cycle.


The images facing north and south date from the temple's construction around 1090 and display the dhammachakka mudra (gesture representing the Buddha's teaching).

Tour guides often point out that if you stand by the donation box in front of the southern Buddha he looks sad, while from a distance he looks like he is smiling (enlarge the photos at right and see what you think).

The east and west Buddha images are later replacements in the Mandalay Konbaung style (the originals were destroyed by fire in the 17th century) and wear different robes.

A small nutlike object held in the hand of the east-facing image is said to resemble an herbal pill, and may symbolize the Buddha's teachings as a cure for suffering. Both arms hang at his sides with hands outstretched, a unique mudra unknown outside this temple.

The west-facing Buddha (representing the most recent Buddha, Siddharta Gautama) displays the abhaya mudra (gesture of no fear); at his feet sit life-sized lacquer statues thought to represent King Kyanzittha and Shin Arahan, the Mon monk who initiated the king into Theravada Buddhism.

Quick Facts on Ananda Pahto Temple

Site Information
Names:Ananda Pahto Temple; Ananda Pahto Temple, Bagan
City:Bagan
Country:Burma
Categories:Temples
Visitor and Contact Information
Location:Bagan, Burma
Coordinates:21.172887° N, 94.867029° E  (view on Google Maps)
Lodging:View hotels near this location
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

Map of Ananda Pahto Temple

Below is a location map and aerial view of Ananda Pahto Temple. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.

References

  1. Lonely Planet Myanmar (Burma), 9th ed. (October 2005).
  2. Ananda Temple - Asian Historical Architecture

More Information

Article Info

Title:Ananda Pahto Temple, Bagan
Author:Holly Hayes
Last updated:10/03/2009
Permalink:www.sacred-destinations.com/burma/bagan-ananda-pahto-temple/burma/bagan-ananda-pahto-temple
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