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Photo of the Month - exploring the Story behind the Image...

Line of Gold Buddhas at the Wat Pho

Line of Gold Buddhas at the Wat Pho

Year: 2014, Month: March

Thailand > Bangkok > Bangkok

Wat Pho is a Buddhist temple in Phra Nakhon district, Bangkok, Thailand. It is directly adjacent to the Grand Palace. Wat Pho is one of the largest and oldest wats in Bangkok (total area: 80,000 square metres), and is home to more than one thousand Buddha images. Though the temple's official name is Wat Phra Chettuphon Wimon Mangkhlaram Ratchaworamahawihan, it best known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. It houses one of the largest single Buddha images anywhere in the world: the Reclining Buddha, which is 15 m high and 43 m long. The 3 m high and 4.5 m long feet of Buddha are especially fine, and are covered with images inlaid with mother-of-pearl, divided into 108 arranged panels which display the auspicious symbols by which Buddha can be identified, such as flowers, dancers, white elephants, tigers and altar accessories. Over the statue is a seven tiered umbrella representing the authority of Thailand. There are 108 bronze bowls in the corridor indicating the 108 auspicious characters of Buddha. People drop coins in these bowls as it is believed to bring good fortune, and to help the monks maintain the wat.

The Wat Pho complex consists of two walled compounds bisected by Soi Chetuphon running east–west. Part of the complex is used by monks as a working monastery, and part is used to house a school for traditional medicine and massage. The outer cloister has images of 400 Buddhas out of the 1200 originally bought by King Rama V. These Buddhas statues are varied in style and posture, but are evenly mounted on matching gilded pedestals. This 'Photo of the Month' shows one line of these Buddha statues. The ones that I have chosen for my image are all depicted in the same posture: that of Meditation, known in Thai as the Dhyana mudra or 'pang sa-maa-ti'. The right leg is shown resting above the left leg with the sole upwards, in the position known as the 'Single Lotus Position'. The hands are shown lying flat in the Buddha's lap, palms upward. It shows that the Buddha is disciplining his mind through mental concentration, a necessary step to achieving enlightenment. As this position represents focused concentration, the eyes of each Buddha are depicted in the 'halfway closed' position. For further comments relating to the choice of gold as the base metal for Buddha statues, please see my 'Photo of the Month' for November 2013.

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