We then headed to the Northern Plain where we visied the Ananda Temple, considered the masterpiece of Bagan's surviving Mon architecture. Said to have been inspired by a visit to Kyanzita's palace by eight Indian monks, who wilst collecting alms told the King they had once lived in a legendary Himalayan cave using meditative powers made that mythical landscape "appear" before the King's eyes thus having led the king to be so awe stricken that he soon had it replicate personally executing the architecture so as to ensure it could never be duplicated.
The structure of the building is that of a simple corridor with four large vestibules, each of which opening our symetrically into entrance halls. Because we walked straight into its labyrinthine interior I'll start by describing it.
Each of the entrances is protected by a pair of guardians and rather than the existence of one ambulatory there are two with one enclosed inside the other whose total length from end to end is of 88 metres, with a sculptural ornamentation in the form of 80 large reliefs carved out of volcanic rocks in which Buddha's life from birth to death is depicted. Four fully gilded Buddhas stand on each side of the temple's central core - Kassapa (facing South), Kakusandha (facing North), Konagama the East and Gautama (facing West), with the latter being the one undergoing restoration.
Wood carved door providing access to the ambulatory
We only gained access to three of the four huge Buddhas, as one was undergoing restoration work. They are rather impressive in terms of size and mudra positioning though what mostly impressed me were their facial expressions, which seemed to slightly change if one photographed them from the side.
I came across a few wall paintings inside the prayer halls of the temple which depicted the re-appeared Buddha, sitting Buddhas, lotus flowers and flower designs. Despite being faded they were still distinguishable if one thoroughly looked at them.
Whilst we were inside we had the impression it was a big temple and that was clearly reinforced when we walked out onto the inner yard. The roof above the central structure consisted of five terraces covered with 389 terracota-glazed tiles. The ones embedded on the upper part couldn't be photographed and we didn't have enough time to photograph those which could be seen at the base of the temple.
The Temple's roof corners were protected by seated nats and chinthes, though one's attention was naturally drawn towards the capped golden stupa which reaches 51 metres and rises from the tiered roof. Smaller pagodas stand at each of its four corners so as to create the impression of a mountainous Himalayan landscape.
Double bodied Chinthe (right)