Field Trip to a Buddhist temple - Chelin Miller

29 November 2013

Region: South East

 

Carved wooden statue of Buddha

 

The monastery is enclosed within white walls that serve as boundary between sacred and profane. From the architectural point of view, the temple was built in the same style as many I visited in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. As you go in, you are transported to the land of smiles, and the only clue that reminds you that you are not in Thailand is that the monks wear low boots instead of sandals; orange fleeces and wooly hats to stay warm as they walk around the monastery in these cold latitudes.

 

Uposatha hall

 

The grounds of the Temple cover an area of approximately four acres. There you will find the Uposatha Hall ordination hall), built for the practice of Thai monastic traditions; an artificial lake, small grove, flower garden and an orchard. There is also a house, where the monks live, and a cottage.

 

The house

 

The Archaeology and Heritage group had arranged a private viewing of the Uposatha Hall, in which photography is usually not permitted. We had it all to ourselves for a whole hour.

 

Stairs to the ordination hall

 

The Hall was designed according to traditional Thai architecture – composed of the four-gabled roofs known as Caturamuk. As you go in you are faced with an impressive Buddha statue cast in black bronze in the old Sukhothai style; a golden Buddha and a third image, which is a replica of the Emerald Buddha at the Grand Palace in Bangkok. There are also two images of the Great Disciples of the Buddha standing on either side, paying respects to him. Before the images of the Buddha on the base of the throne are nine tables inlaid with mother of pearl. On top of the tables are golden lotus flowers, three pairs of large candles, one pair of the chatras and one pair of large Chinese style vases with golden lotus flowers.

 

Another form of worship

 

Ornemental arrangements on the altar

 

Paying respect to BuddhaPaying respect to Buddha

 

Lotus ornamentLotus ornaments

 

The walls of the Ubosot hall are tastefully decorated with stunning mural paintings of the Life of Buddha. The work was carried out by 14 volunteer artists, who came from Thailand specifically for the task. The murals depict important episodes from the life of Buddha.

 

Murals depicting the life of BuddhaMurals depicting the life of Buddha

 

​Exquisite mural paintingsExquisite mural paintings

 

An important feature of a Thai Buddhist temple is the ornamented, multiple tiered roof, although it has a more aesthetic than functional use. To lighten up the huge appearance of the roof above the massive temple halls, the lowest tier is the largest, with a smaller middle layer and the smallest roof on top. This creates a dynamic visual rhythm. Gilded roof decorations are attached to the bargeboard. The decorative structure is sculpted in an undulating, serpentine shape evoking mythical creatures and entities like Naga and Garuda.

 

Exterior ornamentExterior ornament

 

After photographing the ordinations hall, we had a chance to walk around the grounds, admire the peaceful lake, small cemetery and beautiful vegetation in its full autumn glory. A few pilgrims had come to pray and were circumvallating the Uposatha hall in meditation and prayer.

 

A few things to remember when you visit a Buddhist temple:

  • Take off your shoes in or around the temple grounds. 
  • Bow your head and pay respect to the temple and the Buddha statues.
  • Do not point at Buddha statues, monks, nuns and/or elders with your feet.
  • Women should dress respectfully and cover arms and legs (at least up to the knees)
  • Keep your head below Buddha statues, images, monks and nuns.
  • Do not touch (especially on the head) Buddha statues, images, monks, nuns and elders.
  • Keep quiet and show respect. There are those meditating or praying somewhere even though you may not see them.
  • Do not get too close to a Buddha statue when taking a photograph.  When possible kneel on the ground so that you head is below the statue.

 

Pilgrim circumambulating the templePilgrim circumambulating the temple