Many cities in Thailand feature their own ‘city pillar’, which is invariably held in high esteem by the local residents. Typically composed of stone, the pillar is situated in a location which is identified as the hub of the city. Often having religious significance, these columns, sometimes referred to as ‘omphalos’ are called navel pillars as they are positioned in the very heart of the town or city.
Chiang Rai’s Navel City Pillar, identified as Sadu Meuang in the local tongue differs from other such monuments as it features no less than 109 individual pillars instead of only a single column. The famous monument was built in 1987 to commemorate the Thai monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s 60th birthday as well as the 725th anniversary of the creation of Chiang Rai. The height of the central pillar corresponds to the height of the monarch while its width is precisely five times the width of the King’s fist.
The pillar stands atop Cho Thong Hill in a tranquil yet majestic setting. The principal pillar and the 108 smaller columns which surround it were conceived in the Khmer architectural style known as ‘Banom Ba-Keang’ which draws inspiration from the Lanna system of belief. The external area of the plaza is considered to represent land and rivers, while the inner section represents the six heavenly realms. This segment is subdivided by a portrayal of the five principal rivers of local legend. The main column is positioned on a triangle-shaped base which rests on a marble platform; this platform is divided into three tiers depicting the three exalted spiritual states.
Interestingly in proximity to the square there lies a ‘National Cultural Cell’ buried in January 2001 which is supposed to be unearthed after a century as a reminder of the cultural traditions and way of life of the region.
Chiang Rai is the capital town of the province of the same name in Northern Thailand. The visitor will enjoy exploring the many temples, churches and monuments to be seen in the area.