Temple hopping

Even though Thailand follows the Buddhist solar calendar used through much of South East Asia, Thais still celebrate the gregorian New Year. Their way of celebrating, however, does not usually include a countdown, fireworks, and list of things to change in the new year, but rather a trip to the temple. On January 1 you will find all the temples in Thailand packed with Buddhists who want to start the year out giving merit and racking up their good karma. This year I spent the new year with a couple of Thai friends. Little did I know this would mean spending the entirety of two days facing the crowds and temple hopping. But witnessing the passion and devotion of everyone added to the whole experience. Here are a few that we went to:

Mahamariamman temple is the oldest and most important Hindu temple in Thailand. The building is in the south Indian architectural style, built in 1879. It is also referred to by Thais as “Wat Khaek,” literally translating to “Indian Temple.” It is on the corner of Pan and Silom road. Though it is a Hindu temple many Buddhists go to pay respects and worship as they have similar roots and Thai Buddhism is infused with many Hindu tranditions.

 

วัดพระศรีมหาอุมาเทวี / ARULMIGU SRI MAHA MARIAMMAN TEMPLE

 

Giving merit

 

The inside of the temple. It was very busy since it was the first day of the year.

Wat Phanan Choeng was built in 1324. It is part of Ayuthaya, the old capital of Thailand, about an hour outside of Bangkok. The main building in the complex houses a 62 foot high Buddha statue dating back to 1334, called the Luang Pho Tho. The statue was restored in 1854 after the devastating destruction of Ayuthaya by the Burmese in 1767. Everyday many Thais come to see this Buddha and the ceremony that takes place where they offer orange cloth to dress the statue.

 

We waited for about half an hour just to get into the room to sit for the ceremony. Here is the crowd waiting outside the doors, as everyone is trying to get their hands on the cloth for good luck.

 

The crowd of people waiting for the robing ceremony. The chaos and pushing reminded me of Carnevale in Venice. Only these are sober, excited, Buddhist!

 

Dressing the Buddha statue

Wat Na Phra Meru is a temple on the north side of Ayuthaya, positioned opposite to the Royal Palace. It was built in the later part of the Ayuthaya period. This temple contains a couple of unique Buddha statues, atypical of traditional ones from the Ayuthaya period.

 

Phra Buddha Nimitr Vichit Maramoli. This Buddha statue is unique from many others around Ayuthaya in that the image is robed in royal dress including a crown and jewelry. This type of statue was popular in the late Ayuthaya period.

 

A small Buddha image in the temple. When Thai's go to a temple they usually light incense and a candle, pray, and then press gold leaf onto a Buddha statue.

 

A woman adding gold leaf to the Buddha statue.

 

Phra Khantharat. This stone statue is in the style of Dvaravati. It is thought to be over 1000 years old. The way it is sitting is unusual for Buddha images, and is considered the European way of sitting.

 

Wat Chai Watthanaram is on the west bank of the Chai Phraya River. This is one of the best known and most visited temples in the Ayuthaya UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built in 1630 in the prang Kmer style, with 4 small prangs around the main one, a rectangular platform around it, with 8 chedi and 120 seated Buddhas around the walls. After the Burmese destroyed the city it wasn’t until 1987 that the Thai department of Fine Arts restored this temple.

 

Looking into Wat Chai Watthanaram

 

The main prang

 

With my best friend here, P Punn

 

An old Buddha statue inside one of the Chedis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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