By: Karsten Gillwald & Melody Van De Graff
Thais perform Buddhist worship at various holy sites throughout the country. We visited several of these sites ranging from traditional “wats” to simple worship sites. A wat is a monastery or temple in Southeast Asia. All temples have a representation of the Thai Buddha in one of the seven positions (?), an open area in front of the Buddha for worship, offerings to the Buddha and some other form of decoration. Some temples had little more than this, while others were incredibly ornate and complex.
One worship site we visited was in the Kalasin province in northeast Thailand. Here, we saw an example of a simpler site called “Phutthasathan Phu Po” at the end of what seemed like a never-ending staircase, was a reclining Buddha. Laid out in front of us was a gold statue that was carved into the cliff face. In front of the statue: candles, incense, a prayer mat, offering table, and gongs were set out for worshipers; and that was it.
However, unique to this site, a religious symbol, in this case a rock, was raised by worshiper. If they were able to raise the rock over their head three times, their prayer would be acknowledged.
Another very different worship site we visited in Chiang Mai was called “Phra That Doi Suthep”. This temple was much more ornate and elaborate than the one in Kalasin.
The temple is located on a mountain and provides a great view of Chiang Mai. On the steps up to the temple, many people had set up shops with various goods to buy and there were even some shops on temple grounds. At the beginning of the staircase were two “Naga”, or wise serpents, protecting the entrance to the temple.
The Naga lining the stairs to the temple
Located inside were many opportunities to donate to causes of need such as feeding children or helping sick monks. There were also a few activities people could participate in to receive blessings, such as shaking a carton of sticks until a certain number came out corresponding to the blessing that person would receive.
This temple was one of the largest and most well-known holy site we visited, as well as the most ornate temple we had visited. There were multiple holy buildings on the temple grounds, each protected by “Naga”. The roofs were terraced and went far above the ceiling and there were many different Buddhas throughout the temple grounds.
(Picture 8 &9)
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