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Wat Pho – Temple of Reclining Buddha

After being bedazzled by the grandeur of Grand Palace, I made my way to the temple of Reclining Buddha. The temple is just a 10 minute walk from the Grand Palace. The temple of Reclining Buddha, also called Wat Pho derives its name from the monastery in Bodh Gaya, India – where Buddha attained enlightenment. Originally it was named as Wat Photaram. In 1832, King Rama III began renovating the temple and it took nearly 16 years to complete. Wat Pho was highly regarded as a public center of learning and also a center for traditional Thai massage. Even today, the temple premises have a private school for Thai medicine founded in 1957.

The moment I entered the main chapel, I gazed up to see a huge gold plated statue of the reclining Buddha. The image represents the entry of Buddha into the state of Nirvana and attaining salvation. At 46 m in length, it was the largest reclining Buddha I had seen in my life! The chapel was surrounded by lots of murals and paintings depicting various stories about Buddha. The tight curled head was supported by two huge blocks which were depicted as box pillows.

I walked past each section of the chapel admiring the beautiful paintings and mosaics. As I walked away, the view of the reclining Buddha got progressively better. However I still failed to capture the entire image on my lens. There was a miniature version of the reclining Buddha kept in the middle of the hallway.

At the end of the hallway, I stood near the feet of the Buddha. Now I understood why it was recommended to see the feet of Buddha. The soles of the feet were inlaid with mother-of-pearl. There were 108 auspicious symbols of Buddha such as flower, dancers, elephants and tigers. At the center of each foot was a circle which represented the chakra (energy point).

There were 108 bronze bowls on the other side of the hallway which represented these auspicious characters of Buddha. Visitors dropped bronze coins in each of these bowls to bring them good fortune. Outside the complex, there were large Chinese warrior statues guarding the gates of the temple. These stone statues were brought over from China on trading ships and were used as ballasts.

Outside the chapel, there are many chedis (stupas) of varying sizes and shapes covered in bright tiles.

The outer halls were adorned with beautiful images of Buddha. The view looked very similar to Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon in Ayutthaya.

The main ordination hall also known as Ubosot, houses the principal Buddha Image of Wat Pho. The current Ubosot was reconstructed by King Rama III to replace the old one built by King Rama I. The image is seated on a richly decorated pedestal under which the ashes of King Rama I are buried. The nine-tiered umbrella over the image represented the Authority of Thailand. The multi tiered umbrella represented levels of heaven in Hindu and Buddhist beliefs.  Earlier the umbrella was six-tiered which then later changed to nine. The eight tiers represented king as the conqueror of eight directions of compass and the ninth one represented the burden the emperor had to face as a monarch!

 Copyright ©2017, Lakshmi Nair . This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.

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