The Ananda Temple is a Buddhist temple built in 1105 AD. It is one of the most well preserved structures of the Mon architecture. It is also known as the finest and most revered among all temples in Bagan.
Says the legend that there were 8 monks (or saints) who appeared to the king Kyanzittha asking for alms and telling him about the Nandamula Cave in the Himalayas and also giving the King a graphical representation of the place.
The king was fascinated and asked the monks a unique temple to be constructed in the middle of Bagan plains, plus it should offer a good temperature inside. The monks accepted the request and after the completion of the temple, to ensure there will be no other place with the same structure, the king ordered the execution of the monks.
With a structure of a simple corridor, the temple was built in a perfect cross shape design with four devotional halls, each on one side, facing the four cardinal points, north, south, east and west with a main hall in the center.
Despite the tragedy inflicted to the monks by the king Kyanzittha, you can find a similar design not far from there, in another temple, the haunted Dhammayangyi, built by his grandson, the king Narathu.
Inside there you will find the four Buddha statues all of them adorned with gold. Each one is facing a cardinal direction.
There is also a sort of art like stones monuments, paintings and also plaques telling the Jataka tales which are the stories that tell about the previous lives of the Buddha, in both human and animal form.
The south and north facing Buddha statues have a unique architectural display. Viewing from close you will see the depiction of a sad look. However, those expressions change for something like a happy face as you get a distance from the statue.
The Ananda Temple has a week-long festival takes place from December to January, when 1000 monks perform continuous chanting of scriptures for 72 hours.