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Wat That Phanom Chedi

Listed under Sacred Spaces in North East Thailand, Thailand.

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In northeastern Thailand, a kilometer from the shore of the Mekong River stands the exotic temple complex of That Phanom on the sacred hill of Phu Kamphra. According to legend, the original sanctity of the site derived from visits by the Buddhas of the three previous ages. Long after these mythical visits, the Buddha of our current age made a pilgrimage to the sacred hill to venerate the relics of the earlier Buddha’s. Accompanied by his chief disciple Ananda, the Buddha journeyed from India to Phu Kamphra. While there the Buddha telepathically communicated with another disciple, giving instructions that following his death the disciple should bring the Buddha's breastbone relic to the hill.

A collection of stories known as the That Phanom Shrine Chronicles tell that the first shrine was built shortly after the Buddha's demise. Archaeologists however, date the earliest structures to between the 6th and 10th centuries AD, with the present form of the temple being established by the Lao kings of Vientiane in the 15th or 16th century. The centerpiece of the temple is a 57 meter tall That, or Lao style Chedi, decorated with 110 kilograms of gold. The Chedi is known as a popular ‘Wish-Fulfilling Place’ and has a curious ritual whose origins are lost in time. Pilgrims will first purchase a small bird held captive in a finely woven bamboo cage. Carrying the caged bird with them while walking round the temple, the pilgrims will pray at various Buddha images and pre-Buddhist spirit-stones. Then the bird is freed to the skies in the hopes that its release will speed the pilgrim’s prayers to heaven. While pilgrims visit the shrine of That Phanom throughout the year, during the seven-day period of the annual festival held in late January or early February the temple complex is alive with the energy of many thousands of people.

More Information about the Wat That Phanom Chedi.

Written by  Martin Gray.

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