Bangkok is a splendid hub of culture, history and entertainment but its most iconic feature may be the magnificent array of Buddhist temples or “Wats” dotting the cityscape. Its impressive 31,000 temples each carry a unique aspect to venerate the Buddhist faith and one of the most notable temples is the Wat Pho, which houses the majestic stature of the Reclining Buddha, Thailand’s largest Buddha image at a height of 15 metres and a length of 43 metres. The statue depicts the Buddha in his final resting pose, with his right arm supporting his head and his eyes dreamily gazing into the eternity free of suffering that is his final reward.
The majestic statue is entirely gold-plated, with the soles of the feet and the eyelids inlaid with glistening pieces of mother-of-pearl. The soles are divided into 108 intricate panels that depict the various auspicious symbols, by which the Buddha can be recognised, such as flowers, elephants, white tigers, dancers and altar accessories. The statue’s head rests on two golden box pillows encrusted with glass mosaics. Poised over the statue is a seven-tiered umbrella that represents the authority of Thailand. In the hallway adjacent to the statue are 108 bowls, all presenting the Buddha’s various characters and visitors drop coins into them for good luck, which also helps the presiding monks preserve the Wat.
The Reclining Buddha is one of more than a thousand Buddha images installed at the Wat Pho temple, which is also the oldest and largest temple in Bangkok. The temple complex comprises two walled complex bisected by the Soi Chetuphon river that runs east to west. The Northern compound holds the Reclining Buddha and Thailand’s oldest massage institution, while the Southern building, known as “Tukgawee”, houses an operational Buddhist monastery and a school. The grounds of the complex boast an amazing 91 stupas, 4 magnificent halls and a central shrine. 71 smaller stupas have the ashes of the Thai royal family and 21 larger stupas contain the ashes of the Buddha. The temple complex is enclosed by 16 gates around the perimeter, protected by rock-carved Chinese giants. The main temple sits on a raised marble platform, adorned by mythological lions carved on the gateways. The outer cloister has 400 Buddha images of various styles and postures that have been mounted on matching gilded pedestals. The outer balustrade features 150 portrayals of the epic Ramakien, which points the way to transcendence into the spiritual realms from the secular. Visitors to this regal Buddhist temple will be awed at its spectacular array of Buddhist tributes.
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