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Ananda Phaya (အာနန္ဒာဘုရား)

Burmese. ‘Temple of Joy’ or Pagoda of Bliss’. Name of a Buddhist temple in Bagan. The name Ananda is often wrongly thought to derive from the name the cousin of Siddhartha Gautama and chief disciple of the Buddha, i.e. Ananda. However, the name actually comes from the Burmese term Ananda Pyinnya, in Pali known as Ananta Panna. Whereas the word Ananda means ‘Infinite’, Pyinnya translates as ‘Wisdom’, and together it refers to the Infinite Wisdom of the Buddha, one of his attributes. The name of the temple in full would hence be the ‘Temple of Infinite Wisdom’. The temple was built in 1105 AD, during the reign of —and according to legend, also by— King Kyansittha (fig.), in pinkish-white sandstone and topped with a gilded tower. The layout of the temple is in the jaturamuk style, i.e. with four entrances, one for each point of the compass. Past each of these entrances stands a large Buddha statue, each representing a specific buddha, i.e. Kassapa facing South (fig.), Kakusandha facing North (fig.), Konagamana facing East (fig.), and Gautama facing West (fig.), reminiscent of the lokapala. Each gate has a number of dvarapala, i.e. door or temple guardians, both on the inside watching over the inner sanctum (fig.) and wearing a golden belt decorated with kala faces, used as an ornament to drive away evil (fig.), and on the outside, where at the outermost corners of the building and on the roof are also several stone statues of chintha, Burmese-style mythical lions believed to be the protectors of the dhamma (fig.). Beneath the peak, on the terraces surrounding the upper parts of the façades, as well as on the lower part of the façades, near the base, are hundreds of glazed terracotta tiles of a dark greyish-green colour. Those plaques, embedded in all four of the exterior sides, portray scenes of the jataka, as well as episodes from the life of the Buddha. Inside, there are parallel corridors that surround the centre of the edifice, each with high walls that are decorated with niches containing Buddha images in various poses and countless bas-reliefs, again depicting episodes from the life of the Buddha, as well as from the jataka. At the main entrance is a large lotus pedestal with two Buddhapada (fig.), i.e. giant footprints of the Buddha. The original exquisiteness and splendor of the building was once again revealed during the temple's outer renovations in 2016 (fig.). According to legend, after completion of the temple's construction, the ecclesiastic architects were killed, supposedly buried alive on the orders of King Kyansittha (fig.), in order to retain the uniqueness of the temple and to ensure that no copies of it would be built elsewhere, though according to another source they were killed in order to let the architects become nats, i.e. guardian spirits, of the temple. See also Phaya, as well as TRAVEL PICTURES.