December 2012
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Thailand – about Thai temple art and architecture

Thai temples art and architecture is entirely based on Buddhism. A typical Thai Wat, which is loosely translated as monastery or temple has an enclosing wall that divides it from the secular world.

Wat architecture

• The architecture of a Wat has seen many changes in Thailand in the course of history.
• There are many differences in lay-out and style but they adhere to the same principles as other Buddhist temples.
• A Thai temple, with few exceptions, consists of two parts: The Phuttha-wat and the Sangha-wat.

Phutthawat – – Thai Temple Architecture

The Phutthawat is the area which is dedicated to Buddha. It generally contains several buildings:
1. Chedi
– Also known as a stupa.
– Mostly seen in the form of a bell-shaped tower.
– Often accessible.
– Covered with gold leaf.
– Contains a relic chamber.

2. Prang
– This is the Thai version of Khmer temple towers.
– It is mostly seen in temples from the Sukhothai and the Ayutthaya period.

3. Ubosot or Bot
– It is the Ordination Hall.
– It is the most sacred area of a Wat.
– Eight Sema stones mark the consecrated area.

4. Wihan
– This designates a shrine hall that contains the principal Buddha images.
– It is the assembly hall where monks and believers congregate.

5. Mondop
– A Mondop is a specific square or cruciform based building or shrine.
– It is sometimes with a spired roof within a Thai Buddhist temple or temple complex.
– It is a ceremonial structural form that can be applied to several 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 a free -standing unit.

6. Ho Trai
– The Temple Library or Scriptures Depository houses the sacred Tripitaka scriptures.
– Sometimes, they are built in the form of a Mondop which is a cubical-shaped building where the pyramidal roof is carried by columns.

7. Sala
– An open pavilion providing shade and a place to rest.

8. Sala kan prian
– This is a large open hall where people can hear sermons or receive religious education.
– It literally means “Hall”.
– This is a hall in which monks study for their Prian exam and is used for saying afternoon prayers.

9. Ho Rakang
– The bell tower is used for waking the monks and to announce the morning and evening ceremonies.

10. Phra rabieng
– This is a peristyle and is sometimes built around the sacred inner area as a cloister.

11. Other Buildings
– Additional buildings can also be found inside the Phuttawat area like a crematorium or a school.
– The buildings are often adorned with elements such as chofahs.
– In temples of the Rattanakosin era, such as Wat Pho and Wat Ratchabopit, the ubosot can be contained within a (low) inner wall called a Kamphaeng Kaew.

Sanghawat – Thai Temple Architecture

– The Sanghawat contains the living quarters of the monks.
– It also lies within the wall surrounding the whole temple compound.
The sanghawat area can have the following buildings:

1. Kuti
– It is originally a small structure, built on stilts.
– It is designed to house a monk.
– Modern kutis take on the shape of an apartment building with small rooms for the monks.

2. Ho Rakang
– The sanghawat can contain ‘Ho rakang’ (bell tower) and even the ‘Sala Kan Prian’ (sermon hall).

3. Other Buildings
– It will house most of the functional buildings such as a kitchen building where food can be prepared by lay people.
– Sanitary buildings.

What are different temple elements?

1. Roof forms
– Multiple roof tiers are important element of the Thai temple.
– The use of ornamented multiple tiers is reserved for roofs on temples, palaces and important public buildings.
– Two or three tiers are most often used.
– Some royal temples have four.
– The use of multiple roof tiers is more aesthetic than functional.
– Roof areas are massive.
– To lighten up the roof’s appearance, the lowest tier is the largest, with a smaller middle layer and the smallest roof on top.

2. Roof finials
– Most decorations are attached to the bargeboard.
– It is 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 naga.
– Its blade-like projection called bai raka represents both naga fins and the feathers of Garuda.
– Its lower finial is called a hang hong, which usually takes the form of a naga’s head turned up.
– The head is facing away from the roof.
– The naga 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.
– This resembles the beak of a bird, perhaps representing Garuda.

3. Temple Icons
– Four-armed figure of Vishnu
– The garuda (half man, half bird)
– The eight-armed Shiva
– Elephant-headed Ganesh
– The n?ga, which appears as a snake, dragon or cobra
– The ghost-banishing giant Yaksha

Statues and ornamentation: deities, demons and mythical beings
– Apsara
– Erawan
– Ganesh
– Garuda
– Hanuman
– Indra
– Kinnara
– Kirthimukha
– Makara
– Naga
– Rama
– Ravana
– Shiva
– Vishnu
– Yaksha

Best time to visit / climate

• Thailand is largely tropical.
• It’s hot and humid all year around with temperatures in the 28-35°C range (82-95°F).
• From November to the end of February, it doesn’t rain much and temperatures are at their lowest.
• From March to June, Thailand swelters in temperatures as high as 40°C (104°F).
• From July to October, although it only really gets underway in September, tropical monsoons hit most of the country.

Location on Google Maps

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How to get there?

1. By plane
• The main international airports in Thailand are at Bangkok and Phuket.
• Both are well-served by intercontinental flights.
• Practically every airline that flies to Asia also flies into Bangkok.
• International airports are also located at Hat Yai, Krabi, Koh Samui and Chiang Mai.
• Kuala Lumpur and Singapore make excellent places to catch flights into these smaller Thai cities.
• The national carrier is the well-regarded THAI Airways with Bangkok Airways filling in some gaps in the nearby region.
• Bangkok Airways offers free internet access while you wait for boarding to start at your gate.
• Chartered flights from and to Thailand from international destinations are operated by Hi Flying group.
• They fly to Bangkok, Phuket, Koh Samui and Udon Thani.

2. By Road
Cambodia – six international border crossings.
Laos – The busiest border crossing is at the Friendship Bridge across the Mekong between Nong Khai and the Lao capital Vientiane.
It’s also possible to cross the Mekong at Chiang Khong / Huay Xai, Nakhon Phanom /Tha Khaek, Mukdahan / Savannakhet, and elsewhere.
Vientiane / Udon Thani: A bus service runs from the Morning Market bus station in Vientiane to the bus station in Udon Thani. The cost is 80 Baht or 22,000 Kip and the journey takes two hours. The Udon Thani airport is 30 minutes by Tuk Tuk from the bus station and is served by Thai Airways, Nok Air and Air Asia.
• Malaysia and Singapore – driving up is entirely possible. Main crossings between Thailand and Malaysia are Padang Besar (Padang Besar) and Sadao (Bukit Kayu Hitam) in Songkhla province, Betong in Yala province, and Sungai Kolok in Narathiwat province. There are regular buses from Singapore to the southern hub of Hat Yai.

3. By Train
Thailand’s sole international train service links to Butterworth (near Penang) and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, continuing all the way to Singapore.

4. By Ferry
• It is possible to travel by ferries in high season (Nov-May) from Phuket and island hop your way down the coast all the way to Indonesia.
• This can now be done without ever touching the mainland, Phuket (Thailand) to Padang (Indonesia). Islands en route:
– Ko Phi Phi
– Ko Lanta
– Ko Ngai
– Ko Mook
– Ko Bulon
– Ko Lipe
– Langkawi
– Penang

Some Travel Books about Thailand

Lonely Planet Discover Thailand Thailand PhotoMazing Thailand

Places to stay (hotels / restaurants along with website / contact numbers)

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Blogs / Sites about Thailand – about thai temple art and architecture

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Images and photos of Thailand – about thai temple art and architecture

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Videos of Thailand – about thai temple art and architecture

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