Friday, October 18, 2013

Last temple.....

I posted these with no really does deserve some 'splaining.  The funny thing about our temple visits and tourism in Thailand was that we have done a lot of the learning after-the-fact.  So little information was given or posted or translated into English that we kind of floated around these amazing heritage/cultural/religious sights just appreciating them for their beauty/enormity/age but not really understanding what we were looking and without being able to put things in context.  This temple was one of the last we visited in Thailand.   It is "Wat Pho" and is named for the monastery in India where the Buddha was thought to live. The official name is....wait for it...... Wat Phra Chettuphon Wimon Mangkhlaram Ratchaworamahawihan  which explains a why such a grand and important and enormous place has such a plain's only a nickname.  It is one of Bangkok's oldest (founded in 1781) and biggest (20 acres/80,000 square meters) monasteries and it houses both the working temple/school and a theravadic massage schools.

The bronze bowls (above) number 108 -- one for each of Buddha's auspicious symbols -- and visitors/pilgrims drop coins in the bowls for good luck.  The donations help support the monks.

There are a number of stone guards on the grounds of the temple...they were originally brought to Thailand as ballast in Chinese ships.

I could start a whole gnarly cat blog.  I could even start a gnarly cats at temples blog.  that would just be gross.
The monastery grounds are not..."overrun" with stray cats but there are a lot and they really don't look like ones you'd want to take home.  In fact you kind of want to avoid them.  Maybe it's just that I'm not a cat person?

The grounds have 400 of 1200 gold Buddha statues in the same pose but in different styles and from different period displayed.  This pose represents the Abhaya mudra pose -- fearlessness and reason.  I found some wonderful iconographic explanations of the different poses (seating, standing, relcining, and hand gestures (there are 6 options)) and can share this (small) bit about the statues at Wat Pho:

There is no requirement that every Buddha image be identical, and in fact there is a wide variety of artistic styles and national traditions in representing the Buddha. There are, however, certain rules of representation that must be adhered to.  Fearlessness (Abhāya mudrāth:ปางประทานอภัย pang bprà-taan à-pai: either one or both arms are shown bent at the elbow and the wrist, with the palm facing outwards and the fingers pointing upwards. It shows the Buddha either displaying fearlessness in the face of adversity, or enjoining others to do so. Right hand raised is also called "calming animals" th:ปางโปรดสัตว์pang pròht sàt; both hands raised is also called "forbidding the relatives" th:ปางห้ามญาติ pang ham yat. These 'mudrā are usually associated with a standing Buddha, but seated representations are not uncommon.

I feel like I have to apologise for the black and white photos.  Sometimes the gold and the jewels and the colours and smells and was just too much.  The only way I could sensorily process these temple visits was to just dial it down and focus on composition and contrast....But...check it out: Incredible.  There are nearly 100 of these chedis or mounds...each one completely overwhelmingly spectacular. (and crawling with the gnarly stray cats...)

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