Suitcase and World: In Honor of Buddha's Faithful Attendant. Ananda Temple.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

In Honor of Buddha's Faithful Attendant. Ananda Temple.

In my humble opinion, Miu saved the best temple for last today.

Ananda Temple was built in 1105 AD during the reign of King Kyansittha of the Pagan Dynasty. Kyansittha is considered one of the greatest Burmese monarchs.  The temple is named in honor of the Venerable Ananda, Buddha's first cousin, personal secretary, one of his many principal disciples and a devout attendant.

According to the traditional story, King Kyansittha was inspired to build the temple by eight visiting Indian monks who told of their life in the legendary Nanadamula cave in the Himalayas. The temple was designed and built to recreate a vision of this cave and reflect the endless wisdom of the Buddha.

The temple itself is a simple corridor temple, designed on a perfectly proportioned Greek cross plan (+) and is beautifully symmetrical down to its vestibules and gabled entrance porticos. The central square measures 53 meters (174 feet) along each side and stands 10 meters (35 feet) high. The central tower soars 167 feet above the ground, topped with a gilded sikhara and hti.

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 temple is still in full use so it is well maintained; the  exterior is whitewashed from time to time.

Be respectful!

Faded fresco.

Inside Ananda Temple are four 9 meter (30 feet) tall gilded teak standing Buddhas, facing the four cardinal directions, represent the four Buddhas who have attained enlightenment in the present world cycle.  Each Buddha is given a specific name We entered via the west entrance and so before us stood the image of the Buddha we are most familiar with - Gautama.

The Kassapa Buddha is depicted with the abhaya mudra displayeded – with hands outstretched in the gesture of fearlessness.

Huge carved teak doors separate interior halls from cross passages on all four sides.

Inner corridors take you on a circumambulatory path around the inner core of the temple.  The corridors have tall, vaulted ceilings.  They were dark and cool - very cavelike.

In the corridors, wall niches displayed countless small Buddha images.

Light streams in from small windows on the exterior walls.

From west, we made our way to the corridor leading to the southern side of the temple where we gazed up at the Kassapa Buddha.  Supposedly, depending on the angle from which you look at this Buddha, he can look sad (up close) or mirthful (from afar).

From south we headed east, down another of the internal corridors.  No surprise.  More Buddha images diplayed in niches.

We had made our way to the east-facing image of the Buddha known as Kongamana.

Kongamana is depicted displaying a mudra with both arms hanging at the sides with palms stretched out. This mudra is not seen in traditional Buddhist sculpture outside this temple.

Kongamana is shown holding, between his thumb and middle finger, a small nutlike object.  It's an herb that is said to symbolically represent the Buddha suggesting dhamma (Buddhist philosophy) as a cure for misery and distress.

The inner walls are mostly whitewashed but there is evidence they originally contained a number of frescoes.  Miu showed us one set n the corridor between the east and north Buddha images.  The painting was faded but quite lovely.

Last but not least is the fourth Buddha - Kakusandha who stands facing the north entrance.  This is the only photo I took of him.  No offense to Kakusandha but I got tired of seeing Buddhas.  Between the four standing ones and all the smaller ones in the corridors, it was lot of Buddhas!

Out of the four Buddha images, the images facing north and south are said to be original, in the Bagan-style depicting the dhammachakka mudra, a hand position symbolizing the Buddha's first sermon.  The east and west images are in the Mandalay Konbaung style and are replacements as the original statues were destroyed by fire in the 17th century.

We followed Miu outside and across the courtyard.  It was already midday and the pavement was scorchingly hot.  I darted as quickly as I could on my toes.  I was wondering where we were going - it had better be worth the pain to my tender soles :-)

He stopped inside an arched portico.  There, we took in a view of the exterior of the temple.  What was nice about this spot was that we could enjoy the view without anyone else around.  We were in the north part of the temple which I think is the back of the building.  No one else but the four of us were here so I think most people take their photos from the main entrance i.e., the south side.  Thank you Miu, the view was worth the pain of darting across the hot pavement!

Through my zoom lens, I could appreciate the beautiful decorations adorning the roof lines and facade.

We've crammed in a lot of sightseeing this morning.  It's time for lunch and a relaxing afternoon.