Thai temple art and architecture

Thai temple art and architecture is the art and architecture of Buddhist temples in Thailand. Temples are known as wat's, from the Pāḷi vāṭa, meaning "enclosure." A temple has an enclosing wall that divides it from the secular world.

Thai-roof
Roof and gable of the main viharn of Wat Phra Singh in Chiang Mai

Architecture

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Wat Chiang Man, from left to right: Ubosot, Ho Trai and Chedi
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The kamphaeng kaeo (crystal wall) surrounding the ubosot at Wat Ratchabophit in Bangkok

Wat architecture adheres to consistent principles. A wat, with few exceptions, consists of two parts: the Phutthawat and the Sangkhawat.

Phutthawat

The Phutthawat (Thai: พุทธาวาส) is the area which is dedicated to Buddha. It generally contains several buildings:

  • Chedi (Thai: เจดีย์) – also known as a Stupa it is mostly in the form of a bell-shaped tower, often accessible and covered with gold leaf, containing a relic chamber.
  • Prang (Thai: ปรางค์) – the Thai version of Khmer temple towers, mostly in temples from the Sukhothai and the Ayutthaya period.
  • Ubosot or Bot (Thai: อุโบสถ or Thai: โบสถ์) – the ordination hall and most sacred area of a wat. Eight Sema stones (Bai Sema, Thai: ใบเสมา) mark the consecrated area.
  • Wihan (Thai: วิหาร) – a shrine hall that contains the principal Buddha images. It is the assembly hall where monks and laypeople congregate.
  • Mondop (Thai: มณฑป) - specific square- or cruciform-based building or shrine, sometimes with a spired roof. It is a ceremonial form that can be appear on different kinds of buildings. It can house relics, sacred scriptures or act as a shrine. Unlike the Mandapa of Khmer or Indian temple, which are part of a larger structure, the Thai Mondop is free-standing.
  • Ho trai (Thai: หอไตร) – the temple library or scriptures depository houses the sacred Tipiṭaka scriptures. Sometimes they are built in the form of a Mondop (Thai: พระมณฑป), a cubical-shaped building where the pyramidal roof is carried by columns.
  • Sala (Thai: ศาลา) – an open pavilion providing shade and a place to rest.
  • Sala kan parian (Thai: ศาลาการเปรียญ) – a large, open hall where laity can hear sermons or receive religious education. It literally means "hall, in which monks study for their Parian exam" and is used for chanting afternoon prayers.
  • Ho rakhang (Thai: หอระฆัง) – bell tower that is used for waking the monks and to announce the morning and evening ceremonies.
  • Phra rabiang (Thai: พระระเบียง) – a peristyle sometimes built around the sacred inner area as a cloister.
  • Ancillary buildings such as a crematorium or a school.

The buildings are often adorned with elements such as chofas.

In temples of the Rattanakosin era, such as Wat Pho and Wat Ratchabophit, the ubosot can be contained within a (low) inner wall called a Kamphaeng Kaeo (Thai: กำแพงแก้ว), which translates to "crystal wall".

Sangkhawat

The sangkhawat (Thai: สังฆาวาส) contains the monks' living quarters. It lies within the wall surrounding the temple compound. The sangkhawat can have the following buildings:

  • Kuti (Thai: กุฏิ) – originally a small structure, built on stilts, designed to house a monk, with its proper size defined in the Sangkhathiset, rule 6, to be 12 by 7 kheup (4.013 by 2.343 meters). Modern kutis take the shape of an apartment building with small rooms.
  • The sangkhawat can contain the 'Ho rakhang' (bell tower) and even the 'Sala Kan Parian' (sermon hall).
  • Houses most of the functional buildings such as the kitchen.

Temple elements

Roof forms

Temples display multiple roof tiers. The use of ornamented tiers is reserved for roofs on temples, palaces and important public buildings. Two or three tiers are most often used, but some royal temples have four. The practice is more aesthetic than functional. Temple halls and their roofs are large. To lighten the roof's appearance, the lowest tier is the largest with a smaller middle layer and the smallest tier on top. Multiple breaks in each roof lighten it further – a double-tiered roof might have 2-4 breaks in each tier. The tiers, breaks and tier patterns create dynamic visual rhythms. In northern temples, the roof area is larger, sweeping low to cover more of the wall. The lower tiers telescope toward the entrance. In a central Thai temple, the lower tiers reach a short distance beyond the top roof at the gable ends.

Roof finials

Thai Temple "Krueng Lamyong" no label
Basic Lamyong decorative structure

Most decorations are attached to the bargeboard, the long, thin panel on the edge of the roof at the gable ends.The decorative structure is called the lamyong. The lamyong is sculpted in an undulating, serpentine nag sadung shape evoking the Nāga. Its blade-like projection called bai raka suggest both Nāga fins and the feathers of Garuda. Its lower finial is called a hang hong, which usually takes the form of a Nāga's head turned up and facing away from the roof. The Nāga head may be styled in flame-like kranok motifs and may have multiple heads. A roof with multiple breaks or tiers has identical hang hong finials at the bottom of each section. Perched on the peak of the lamyong is the large curving ornament called a Chofah, which resembles the beak of a bird, perhaps representing Garuda.

Popular temple icons

Thai Theravada Buddhism and Hindu cultures merged, and Hindu elements were introduced into Thai iconography. Popular figures include the four-armed figure of Vishnu; the garuda (half man, half bird); the eight-armed Shiva; elephant-headed Ganesh; the Nāga, which appears as a snake, dragon or cobra; and the ghost-banishing giant Yaksha.

See also

Depictions of the Buddha

Statues and ornamentation: deities, demons and mythical beings

Architectural elements

General

Sources

  • Discovery Channel by Scott Rutherford, "Insight Guides: Thailand.", APA Publications GmbH & Co., 2004.
  • Discovery Channel by Steve Van Beek, "Insight Pocket Guide: Thailand.", APA Publications GmbH & Co., 2004.
  • Maria Grazia Casella and Paola Piacco, "Thailand: Nature and Wonders.", Asia Books Co,.Ltd., 2004.
  • John Hoskin and Gerald Cubitt, "This is Thailand.", Asia Books Co.,Ltd., 2003

Further reading

  • Karl Döhring, Buddhist Temples of Thailand: an Architectonic Introduction, White Lotus, 2000. ISBN 974-7534-40-1

External links

Abhidharmadīpa

The Abhidharmadīpa or Lamp of Abhidharma is an Abhidharma text thought to have been authored by Vasumitra as a response to Vasubandhu's Abhidharmakośakārikā.

The text consists of verse and prose commentary. It currently survives as an incomplete collection of Sanskrit fragments. However, the text is valuable insofar as it confirms the identity of Vasubandhu as author of the Abhidharmakośakārikā.

Ajahn

Ajahn (Thai: อาจารย์, RTGS: achan, IPA: [ʔāː.tɕāːn], also romanized ajaan, aajaan, ajarn, ajahn, acharn and achaan) is a Thai language term which translates as "professor" or "teacher." It is derived from the Pali word ācariya, and is a term of respect, similar in meaning to the Japanese sensei, and is used as a title of address for high-school and university teachers, and for Buddhist monks who have passed ten vassa. The term "ajahn" is customarily used to address forest tradition monks and the term Luang Por, "Venerable father" is customarily used to address city tradition monks in Thai Buddhism.

Anagarika

In Buddhism, an anagārika (Pali, 'homeless one', [əˈnəɡɑːrɪkə]; f. anagārikā [əˈnəɡɑːrɪkɑː]) is a person who has given up most or all of their worldly possessions and responsibilities to commit full-time to Buddhist practice. It is a midway status between a bhikkhu or bhikkhuni (fully ordained monastics) and laypersons. An anagārika takes the Eight Precepts, and might remain in this state for life.

Anagārikas usually wear white clothes or robes, depending on the tradition they follow. Some traditions have special ordination ceremonies for anagārikas, while others simply take the eight precepts with a special intention.

Given the lack of full ordination for women in modern Theravada Buddhism, women who wish to renounce live as anagārikās under names such as maechi in Thailand, thilashin in Myanmar, and dasa sil mata in Sri Lanka. In Vajrayana Buddhism, many nuns are technically anagārikās or śrāmaṇerikās (novitiates).

Asita

Asita or Kaladevala or Kanhasiri was a hermit ascetic of ancient India in the 6th century BCE. He is best known for having predicted that prince Siddhartha of Kapilavastu would either become a great chakravartin or become a supreme religious leader; Siddhartha was later known as Gautama Buddha.He lived in the forest in the Shakya country. The name Asita literally means 'not clinging' while Kanhasiri means 'dark splendour'. Asita is described as wearing matted hair.

Buddha images in Thailand

A Buddha image in Thailand typically refers to three-dimensional stone, wood, clay, or metal cast images of the Buddha. While there are such figures in all regions where Buddhism is commonly practiced, the appearance, composition and position of the images vary greatly from country to country.

Buddhism in Venezuela

Buddhism in Venezuela is practiced by over 52,000 people (roughly 0.2% of the population). The Buddhist community is made up mainly of Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans.

Most identify with the Mahayana tradition, reflecting the religious heritage of their emigrant countries.

However, in the mid-1990s Keun-Tshen Goba (né Ezequiel Hernandez Urdaneta), together with Jigme Rinzen, founded a meditation center using the Shambhala Training method.

There are Buddhist centers in Caracas, Maracay, Mérida, Puerto Ordáz, San Felipe, and Valencia.

Buddhism in the Maldives

Buddhism in the Maldives was the predominant religion at least until the 12th century CE. It is not clear how Buddhism was introduced into the islands.

Buddhist architecture

Buddhist religious architecture developed in the Indian subcontinent. Three types of structures are associated with the religious architecture of early Buddhism: monasteries (viharas), places to venerate relics (stupas), and shrines or prayer halls (chaityas, also called chaitya grihas), which later came to be called temples in some places.

The initial function of a stupa was the veneration and safe-guarding of the relics of Gautama Buddha. The earliest surviving example of a stupa is in Sanchi (Madhya Pradesh).

In accordance with changes in religious practice, stupas were gradually incorporated into chaitya-grihas (prayer halls). These are exemplified by the complexes of the Ajanta Caves and the Ellora Caves (Maharashtra). The Mahabodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya in Bihar is another well-known example.

The Pagoda is an evolution of the Indian stupa.

Dharma talk

A Dharma talk (Sanskrit) or Dhamma talk (Pali) or Dharma sermon (Japanese: 法語 (ほうご, Hōgo), Chinese: 法語) is a public discourse on Buddhism by a Buddhist teacher.In some Zen traditions a Dharma talk may be referred to as a teisho (提唱). However, according to Taizan Maezumi and Bernard Glassman, a teisho is "a formal commentary by a Zen master on a koan or Zen text. In its strictest sense, teisho is non-dualistic and is thus distinguished from a Dharma talk, which is a lecture on a Buddhist topic." In this sense, a teisho is thus a formal Dharma talk. Vietnamese master Thich Nhat Hanh says the following about Dharma talks:

A Dharma talk must always be appropriate in two ways: it must accord perfectly with the spirit of the Dharma and it must also respond perfectly to the situation in which it is given. If it only corresponds perfectly with the teachings but does not meet the needs of the listeners, it's not a good Dharma talk; it's not appropriate.

Koliya

The Koliyas were Kshatriya of the Adicca (Iksvaku) clan of the Solar Dynasty from the Indian subcontinent, during the time of Gautama Buddha.The family members of the two royal families, that is the Koliyas and Sakyas married only among themselves. Both clans were very proud of the purity of their royal blood and had practised this tradition of inter-marriage since ancient times. For example, Suddhodana's paternal aunt was married to the Koliyan ruler Añjana. Their daughters, Mahamaya and Mahapajapati Gotami, were married to Śuddhodana, the chief of the Sakyans. Similarly, Yashodhara, daughter of Suppabuddha, who was Añjana’s son, was married to the Sakyan prince, Gautama Buddha. Thus, the two royal families were related by marriage bonds between maternal and paternal cousins since ancient times. In spite of such close blood-ties, there would be occasional rifts between the two royal families, which sometimes turned into open hostility.

Kuri (kitchen)

A kuri (庫裏, lit. warehouse behind) or kuin (庫院, lit. warehouse hall) is the kitchen of a Zen monastery, typically located behind the butsuden (or, Buddha Hall). Historically the kuri was a kitchen which prepared meals only for the abbot and his guests, though in modern Japan it now functions as the kitchen and administrative office for the entire monastery.

List of Buddhas

This is a list of historical, contemporary, and legendary figures which at least one school of Buddhism considers to be a Buddha and which have an article on Wikipedia:

Acala

Adi-Buddha

Akshobhya

Amitābha, principal Buddha of Pure Land Buddhism

Amoghasiddhi

Bhaisajyaguru

Budai

Dīpankara Buddha

Five Tathagatas

Gautama Buddha

Kakusandha

Kassapa Buddha

Koṇāgamana Buddha

Lokesvararaja

Nairatmya

Nichiren Daishonin, Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law (Nikko Lineage)

Padumuttara Buddha

Padmasambhava

Ratnasambhava

Satyanama

Sumedha Buddha

Tara

Tonpa Shenrab

Vairocana, embodiment of the Dharmakaya

Vajradhara

Vajrayogini

Yeshe Tsogyal

List of suttas

Suttas from the Sutta Pitaka of the Pali Canon.

List of Digha Nikaya suttas

List of Majjhima Nikaya suttas

List of Samyutta Nikaya suttas

List of Anguttara Nikaya suttas

List of Khuddaka Nikaya suttas

Punna

Pūrṇa Maitrāyanīputra (Sanskrit; Pali: Puṇṇa Mantānīputta, Chinese: 富楼那弥多罗尼子; pinyin: fùlóunàmíduōluónízǐ), also simply known as Pūrṇa (Sanskrit; Pali: Puṇṇa), was an arhat and one of the ten principal disciples of Gautama Buddha, foremost in preaching the dharma.

Rinpoche

Rinpoche, also spelled Rimboche and Rinboku (Tibetan: རིན་པོ་ཆེ་, Wylie: rin po che, THL: Rinpoché, ZYPY: Rinboqê), is an honorific term used in the Tibetan language. It literally means "precious one", and may be used to refer to a person, place, or thing--like the words "gem" or "jewel" (Sanskrit Ratna).

The word consists of rin(value) and po(nominative suffix) and chen(big).

The word is used in the context of Tibetan Buddhism as a way of showing respect when addressing those recognized as reincarnated, older, respected, notable, learned and/or an accomplished Lamas or teachers of the Dharma. It is also used as an honorific for abbots of monasteries.

Threefold Training

The Buddha identified the threefold training (sikkhā) as training in:

higher virtue (adhisīla-sikkhā)

higher mind (adhicitta-sikkhā)

higher wisdom (adhipaññā-sikkhā)

Upāli

Upāli (Sanskrit उपालि upāli) was a monk, one of the ten chief disciples of the Buddha.

Upāli was originally a barber from a Vaidya caste family in service to the Sakyan princes. When the princes left home to become monks, Upāli also sought ordination.Several variations on the story of Upāli's ordination exist, but all of them emphasize that his status in the Sangha was independent of his caste origin. In the Pali version, the princes voluntarily allow Upāli to ordain before them in order to give him seniority and abandon their own attachment to caste and social status. In some Tibetan versions, Sariputra encourages Upāli to ordain when he hesitates because of his caste origin.In the literature of every Buddhist school, Upāli is depicted as an expert in monastic discipline and the monastic code. At the First Buddhist Council, he was asked to recite the Vinaya and monastic code. He attained the state of arhatship before his death, and is regarded as the 'patron saint' of monks who specialize in the Vinaya.

Ṛddhi

In Buddhism, rddhi powers (Sanskrit; Pali: iddhi) are "psychic powers", one of the five or six supernormal powers (abhijñā) of the mundane plane attained by performing the four dhyānas. The normal Sanskrit meaning of ṛddhi is "increase, growth, prosperity, success, good fortune, wealth, abundance".

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