It only takes seconds of research to realize that Thailand is primarily known for its immense Buddha sculptures. Scattered across the whole of the country, the Buddha is one of the most adored figures in the land. There are so many in fact, that no one could potentially hazard a guess as to the accurate quantity of statues and structures built to resemble this holy character. Buddhism is followed by almost 95% of the Thai population, so you can understand the reasoning for countless embodiments of their religion, through physical art. Undoubtedly, one of the most specifically iconic Buddha statues is What Pho – Thailand’s ‘Reclining Buddha’ Statue.
As we have discovered, Wat Pho is one of the more iconic features of Buddhist expressionism in Thailand. This statue depicts a Buddha leaning to one side, hence where he gets his name the reclining statue, or more authentically Wat Pho. Trust us, this is much easier to remember than the full name… Wat Phra Chetuphon Wimon Mangkhalaram Rajwaramahawihan. A design in this position represents the historical Buddha during his final illness, at the end of all reincarnations, preparing to enter parinirvana (a paradise after death). Fascinatingly, Buddhas built in this silhouette will always lean onto their right elbow, lying down on their right side, supported by one or more pillows in their sculpture. Wat Pho’s stunning figure is located on Rattanakosin Island, immediately south of the famous Grand Palace.
This Buddha is the very first of its kind! Built by Rama III in 1832, it stands 15 meters tall and 46 meters long – his feet alone are 3 meters high and 4.5 meters long! To get that in perspective, that is a 15 ft length, just from heel to toe. The base of these gigantic feet is also inlaid with mother-of-pearl, engraved with carvings to display the auspicious symbols of Buddha. We have no accurate measurement for the weight of this Buddha. However, we do know the entire model had a brick core, which was modeled with plaster before finally being gilded… so we’re taking a guess that he is tremendously heavy. Gleaming in all of his glory, the ultimate coating is warm and golden, a commonality shared with many other Buddha statues in Thailand’s vast repertoire.
Thailand’s highest reclining golden Buddha statue, Wat Pho, is located in one of the fifty Buddhist temple complexes in Bangkok – the Phra Nakhon District. The district is recognized by UNESCO for its Memory of the World Program, an international safeguard initiated to protect documented heritage sites around the world, from damaging circumstances. It is notified as one of the earliest centers for public education in Thailand, in addition to being first on the highest graded list for the nation’s first-class royal temples. Thai massage is theorized to have begun in this very complex, where to this day it is still taught and practiced at the temple, alongside a school for Thai medicine. There are other respected sites to note in the vicinity of Wat Pho: The Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew chapel, and Wat Mahathat temple to name a few. Spending a day discovering this area of Thailand will leave you with a few additional km on your step tracker, and a whole new comprehension for legendary, religious material representation.
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