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Ananda temple in 360°
Ananda pahto, built by King Kyansittha (1084-1113) in 1105 is a must for all visitors of Bagan, a masterpiece of Buddhist architecture. The king's reign was largely peaceful and as a great admirer of Mon culture, he pursued a conciliatory policy towards the Mon of the south. Thus Ananda temple follows Mon traditions, and although being seriously hit by the 1975 earthquake it has totally been restored since then. On the occasion of 900th anniversary of its construction celebrated in 1990s the temple spires were gilded.
1. About King Kyansittha
He was the son of King Anawrahta, ruler of Upper Burma with a seat in Bagan. In his early life, Kyansittha led his father's military campaigns and became a successful general. Troops of the king of Bagan ventured into Lower Burma and occupied the Mon kingdom of Thaton by 1057. Kyansittha's brother, Sawlu inherited the throne in 1077, but he was inexperienced and got captured and killed in a Mon rebellion in Lower Burma. Kyansittha took revenge, suppressed the rebellion and ascended to the Bagan throne in 1084.
King Kyansittha's reign was largely peaceful and as a great admirer of Mon culture, he pursued a conciliatory policy towards the Mon of the south. His reign brought a synthesis of Bamar, Mon, Pyu and Buddhist practices into a Burmese cultural tradition that began to reach a level of maturity.
2. What to see
Layout of the building follows a Greek-cross topped with a central stupa. Exterior is decorated with 554 glazed tiles on the base showing Jataka scenes (life stories of the Buddha), derived from Mon texts. Chinthe figures stand at each corner of the building.
There are four entrances leading to four porches and shrines inside it. Each shrine is adorned with a 9.5m high standing Buddha statue. These four Buddha statues symbolize the four directions, and they are supposedly carved of teakwood, although some sources claim some of them to be out of bronze or pinewood. Two of them facing north and south are still original, while the other two were replaced after fires in the 17th century. The original ones depict dhammachakka mudra, a hand position symbolizing the Buddha's first sermon. The west-facing image of Buddha shows abhaya mudra, the symbol of fearlessness. At the feet of this Buddha, there are two life-size statues representing King Kyansittha and Shin Arahan, the Mon monk who converted the king to Theravada Buddhism.
3. Legend of the temple
There is a legend associated with the construction of the temple explaining its uniqueness. Once upon a time, eight monks came to visit the king and got invited to the royal palace. They showed king Kyansittha the Nandamula Cave using meditative powers where they lived in the Himalayas. Fascinated by the sight of a cool cave, the king ordered the construction of such a place in the middle of the hot plains of Bagan. After the completion of the building the king decided to execute the architects to prevent them from replicating this masterpiece. In some versions of the legend, the monks were themselves the architects.
4. When to see
The temples of Bagan can be visited from sunrise till sunset. Please note that terraces of popular sunset spots might get closed.