The Reclining Buddhas of Ayutthaya

For most travellers to Thailand, their exposure to the Reclining Buddha image (more properly known as mahaparinirvana) is likely to begin and end with Wat Pho, an historic Bangkok wat which is on every tour group itinerary. While this may indeed be the country’s most magnificent Reclining Buddha image, it is far from its oldest. The historically-minded tourist can find far more ancient examples of Reclining Buddha images by heading north to the former capital of Ayutthaya. This post will cover what are arguably the most impressive Reclining Buddha images at Ayutthaya.

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The Reclining Buddha at Wat Lokkayasutharam, Ayutthaya

The best-known of these is at the ruins of the former Wat Lokkayasutharam. Though most of the original temple buildings have been destroyed, the Reclining Buddha itself has survived in excellent condition. Set on a long brick platform, it is made from brick covered in stucco- a type of construction which had probably already existed for a thousand years in Thailand by the middle of the Ayutthaya period. With a length of thirty-seven metres, it is almost as long as the famous Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho but, at a height of eight metres, it is only half as high. The figure has a soft, dreamy expression which is very beautiful. A unique feature is the fact that his head is pillowed on a giant lotus blossom. The treatment of the robes is also very elegant. Though there is little else on offer at the complex, it is worth coming for the Reclining Buddha alone.

A second Reclining Buddha can be seen in the ruins of Ayutthaya at the complex of Wat Yai Chai Mongkol. There are many historical vestiges at this wat complex, including one truly magnificent chedi surrounded by rows of seated Buddhas. However, for the purposes of this post, the sole object of interest is a Reclining Buddha image. Made from brick and stucco, it can be found in the ruins of a former temple building. The brick platform remains, as does a pair of brick and stucco columns. However, the focal point is the image itself. The Buddha is propped up on an elegantly proportioned arm, portions of which are covered with gold-leaf. It appears that the image may have been restored in the recent past, as it appears remarkably intact. During the time of our visit, it was wrapped in saffron-coloured robe as a sign of respect. It is yet more proof of the enduring power of the Reclining Buddha in Thai religious life.

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The Reclining Buddha at Wat Yai Chai Mongkol

A final, noteworthy example of the Reclining Buddha image at Ayutthaya can be found at Wat Thammikarat. This is an important wat complex which was once on the main royal road through the ancient capital; vestiges of the former royal road can be seen nearby. Though it was devastated by the war of 1767, there are still substantial remains to check out, including a massive bell-shaped chedi guarded by fifty-two lion figures and the ruins of an ordination hall. Less well-known, but more important for present purposes, is a wooden vihaan which houses a twelve-metre long Reclining Buddha image. Though it is in good condition, it was an authentic patina of age, with the paint wearing through in parts. The feet of this statue are covered with gold leaf and beautifuk mirror mosaics. Fronted by numerous smaller images and votives, it remains a part of the city’s religious life.

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The Reclining Buddha of Wat Thammikrat, covered in gold leaf votives
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The Carved Stones of Ban Kut Ngong

One of the unique historical legacies of Chaiyaphum province, a remote province in Thailand’s Northeastern region (Isaan), is two Dvaravati-era sites which date back to the ninth century. They have never been comprehensively explored by archaeologists, but if they were, there would doubtless be much to discover: a small museum in a local school contains examples of ancient bricks and pottery. Yet until such excavations are made, the best evidence of the historical importance of the village is its collection of ninth century bai sema, Buddhist boundary markers which were once used to delineate the sacred place of places of worship. No less than 29 stone boundary markers have been found in the small village of Ban Kut Ngong, making it one of the biggest treasure troves of such antiquities in the region.

This suggests that the village was once home to a sizeable community of Buddhist monks and perhaps even a workshop of skilled artisans who could make bai sema of high artistic quality. Ten of the Ban Kut Ngong bai sema feature jataka scenes which tell the life of the Buddha, and they are rendered with considerable artistic skill. Though they are not as crisp as the masterly specimens in the Khon Kaen National Museum, they predate the examples in that collection by a few centuries, making them amongst the old examples of narrative art surviving from Thailand’s Northeast. Some of the other boundary markers feature simpler motifs such as the stupa-khumba design, which is more typically associated with sites in the Chi River system.

As at Ban Khon Sawan, a similar site from Chaiyaphum province, the boundary markers are no longer placed in situ. They have been rounded up and put together under a protective shelter in the grounds of a local wat. While something has been lost in terms of historical authenticity, keeping them all in one place makes it easier to protect the stones from art thieves or merely weathering from the elements. In recent years chicken-wire has been fitted to the underside of the ceiling as well. This would stop birds nesting under the shelter and defecating on the ancient stones. It is encouraging to see that the unusual heritage of the village has been protected in this way.

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A time-worn image of a seated Buddha

One of several beautiful images from the site is the image featured to the left. Though time-worn, the image of the Buddha is still very beautiful, showing an elegant head-dress,the broad nose and thick lips of the Mon people, slender, delicate limbs and a lower body folded in the lotus position, with the feet seemingly crossed Sri-Lanka style. A figure to the right is shown in a attitude of devotion. The comparatively small size of this figure emphasizes the preternatural qualities of the Buddha, who assumes a larger-than-life presence.

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A standing Buddha and the banyan tree

Perhaps the greatest masterpiece of the Ban Kut Ngong boundary markers is the one featured to the left. It shows a beautifully rendered standing Buddha with a graceful form adorned with a loincloth, a towering head-dress showing the Buddha’s worldly status and a slight, almost feminine torso. To the left of the image is a highly stylized image of a tree, presumably the banyan tree beneath which the Buddha attained enlightenment. Once more, there is a second humanoid figure on the stone, and again its comparatively diminutive size appears to emphasize the particular status of the Buddha. This is the crispest of the Ban Kut Ngong bai sema and the most interesting scene to the casual visitor.

IMG_0177  A third memorable image from Ban Kut Ngong shows another standing Buddha, but this one without the banyan tree. This Buddha is demonstrating the vitarka mudra hand position, which looks somewhat like the Western ‘okay’ hand gesture. The significance of this hand gesture is that it is the delivering a sermon posture, which would be far from obvious unless it was explained to you. This beautiful carving has its eyes averted downwards and the facial features are again typically Mon and rendered with sensitivity and finesse. The Buddha has wearing a cloth about the waist which resembles a delicately draped Khmer sampot (sarung). Behind the Buddha’s head is what appears to be an ornamental wooden pavilion with a pair of lanterns hanging down from it. It is yet another example of the little-known artistic legacy of this small Thai village.

 

 

 

Wat Phra That Khao Noi: Nan’s Hilltop Wat

In a town as richly steeped in history and art as Nan, it seems strange to recommend what is, architecturally speaking, a rather undistinguished wat. However, if there is one comparatively modern temple complex in Nan you should visit, it is undoubtedly Wat Phra That Khao Noi, primarily because of its spectacular location 800 feet above Nan town. The best way to go there is by rented motorcycle, because it will be a long and demanding walk on foot.

The trip by bike took us no more than about ten minutes from downtown Nan, heading out towards Khao Noi, the mountain on which the mountain was situated, past a number of historic wats and at least a couple of beautiful, old teak houses. At the outskirts of town, we suddenly entered a patch of hillside jungle, beginning the climb towards the hilltop wat. Suddenly we were in the midst of dipterocarp forest, with huge trees rising up along the roadside, wrapped in a dense mesh of lianas. Suddenly the lush greens of tropical forest were all around us and the shirr of insects could be heard on every side.

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The ceremonial staircase up to Wat Phra That Khao Noi

We wound higher up the mountainside, eventually coming to a vast ceremonial staircase with balustrades in the form of nagas. This reminded me of the magnificent naga staircase at the World Heritage site of Khao Phra Vihaan on the Thai-Cambodian border, though this one was obviously a concrete construction of much more recent vintage. Even so, the sight of hundreds and hundreds of stairs ascending the mountainside was an impressive sight in its way- a reminder that in the past Buddhist pilgrims would have seen toiling up to the peak of Khao Noi as an act of Buddhist devotion. I noticed that on the left hand side of the staircase there was a small Chinese style temple complex with pavilions and statues; evidently, Nan’s small ethnic Chinese population also revered this remote forest temple site. The motorbikes continued past the staircase, climbing to the peak of the hill, where Wat Phra That Khao Noi was located.

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The main chedi at Wat Phra That Khao Noi

Accoding to local legend, there had been a wat on the site since the late fifteenth century. Whatever the truth of this claim, most of the current ensemble of buildings were clearly no more than a few decades old. If any of them had a sense of age, it was the chedi (or thaat), which was a white spire rising up in the centre of the complex. Though it had clearly been renovated in recent decades, having a well-maintained exterior of white plaster, in its shape it resembles many historic chedis from Thailand. There is a history of temples being renovated and repaired many times over the centuries in this part of the world, so it did not seem impossible that an ancient brick core still existed within the modern incarnation of the chedi. The other extremely noticeable construction on the site was a large Walking Buddha in the Sukothai style which stood on an enormous lotus pedestal, looking out towards the Nan Valley. Though this statue only dated back to 1999, it did recall the classic Walking Buddha sculptures of the past, and it was certainly worth a couple of photos.

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However, really the attraction of this wat are the views. Descending to the terrace of the Walking Buddha statue, you will gain a view across the entire city of Nan, with steeply forested hills rising in the background. Somewhere in the middle of town is the Nan River; you are able to make out some of the bridges across it. This 750 km-long river is the third longest which is entirely within the territory of Thailand, eventually draining south into the Ping River, which later joins the Chao Phraya and flows into the Gulf of Siam. The fertility of the Nan River Valley is various obvious from up on Khao Noi, with lush alluvial river lands spreading along its banks. Apart from the city, the entire landscape consisted of various shades of green. It was this river which had nurtured and fed the city for the past thousand years. In addition, to the views, the surrounding forest adds to the appeal, with butterflies drifting past and a large, blue-headed lizard sitting on the tiles and looking up at us. After we taken it all in, we set off down that long ceremonial staircase, starting the walk back towards town.

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The views of Nan city from Khao Noi

The Mystical Hill of Phu Po

Our final stop in the little-visited province of Kalasin was Phu Po, a hill situated about twenty-eight kilometres to the north of Kalasin city. With the site receiving very few visitors, there was no hope at all of getting there by public transport, so we went by hired car. Still, even that did not remove all difficulties, as the site was set off the main road and was extremely poorly signposted. While Google Maps may work very well in major cities, it is far from accurate on the backroads of Kalasin province, and we took a few wrong turns. We had to keep stopping to ask for directions, which was not always easy as there were so few people around. However, in the end we made it to Phu Po (sometimes referred to as Phu Por), a sandstone mountain which rises to a height of 336 metres above sea level. Though certainly not one of the world’s great peaks, it almost looked like one in the generally flat terrain of Kalasin.

Alongside the hill, there was a large parking lot with very few parked cars. Our driver brought the car to a halt and told us he would wait for us there. We got out and headed straight toward the hill, ignoring the obviously modern religious buildings which had been built at the foot of the hill. On the far side of the parking lot, there was a deep rock shelter (not really a cave), which was home to one of the two relics of the Dvaravati era which had survived at Phu Por. As usual we were a little nervous in approaching a religious site in a foreign country, but the caretaker was a friendly, laid-back soul who just waved us in with a laugh and told us there was no need to remove our shoes first.

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The Reclining Buddha at the bottom of Phu Por

Carved into the sandstone wall of the rock shelter was a mahaparinirvana scene, otherwise known as a Reclining Buddha scene. The English translation of the name is somewhat misleading in that it merely suggests a recumbent Buddha; in fact the mahaparinirvana pose is the scene of the Buddha’s death bed, which gives it a deeper emotional impact. The scene depicts the moment when the Buddha left the world and entered Nirvana. The version at Phu Por dates from either the eighth and nineteenth century and belongs to the Mon-Dvaravati artistic tradition. The image here is about five metres long and the carving is still crisp despite its great age. It was now covered in gold paint of no great vintage, but in spite of this we still had the sense of being in the presence of an ancient example of Mon art.

It is believed that the carving is the product of Buddhist monks who had retreated to Phu Por to live the spartan life of the forest monk in a small community there. In all likelihood, they hoped to reach Buddhist enlightenment away from the temptations of the world. Apart from meditation and other ascetic pursuits, they had turned their hand to the making of Buddhist artworks. Without the resources to build large stupas, chedis or wats, they merely carved Buddhist art into the sandstone walls of the hill itself. It was a tantalizing hint of a vanished culture and tradition, a crisp evocation of a world of Mon monks seeking enlightenment in remote forests, centuries before either the Khmers of Thais arrived in this part of the world.

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The trail up Phu Por, a sacred hill in Kalasin

From the lower rock shelter, we began our ascent of the hill. A well-maintained staircase led up the face of the hill, passing through spindly trees, clumps of bamboo and rock formations. I found myself wondering how similar it was to the environment the monks of Phu Por had encountered twelve centuries ago. Apart from the staircase and a single tin-roofed pavilion about halfway up the hill, the rest of the hill appeared to be in a natural condition. Perhaps the shrubs and trees on the hill had been much the same when monks had first made the hill into a forest retreat, bringing the Buddhist faith to a remote part of ancient Thailand.

When we got near the top of the hill, there was a second rock shelter. This one was being visited by a group of Thai children, who started back down the hill when we approached. At this point I was partly drawn by the impressive views which had opened across the surrounding countryside and also curious to see the second of Phu Por’s ancient Buddha carvings. The rock shelter here was much smaller than the one at the foot of the hill, but it also had a potent aura of mysticism. This was partly a product of the votives and intense sticks which had been left in the shelter and also of the prayer flags which had been strung around the site. But, as below, the main attraction was the Buddhist carving which had been carved into the rock face. Artistically, this one is viewed as even better than the one below. Like its brethren from the foot of the hill it depicts a mahaparinirvana scene, but the treatment of the face and the robes is ever more artful here. Furthermore, the Buddha has a soft, dreamy expression which suggests a state of spiritual bliss. The carving was also a reminder of the importance of religion in Thailand from the earliest periods of history.

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A close-up of the Buddha near the top of Phu Por

From the second rock shelter, a wooden ladder went up the rock face to the very top of the hill. We climbed up it and found ourselves on top of Phu Por. From there we walked on through the forest on top of the hill, which was denser than the forest and scrub on the slopes. We wandered for about ten minutes along a clear trail. At some points there were beautiful purple wildflowers alongside the trial. I was curious to see where it lead and wanted to keep going, but my travelling companions reminded me that our driver was waiting and that the trail might descend down another face of the hill. Agreeing with this logic, we headed back from the top of Phu Por and began our journey back to Kalasin.

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The view from the top of Phu Por

The Mysterious Site of Prasat Phanom Wan

A few years ago, this temple used to receive very little attention from travelers. The few people who made it there described it as an unsatisfying jumble of stones in a field. The only detailed attention it received was from French archaeologists, some of whom had written field reports that were sadly opaque to me. However, in recent years the temple has been full restored by the Department of Fine Arts, making it a worthwhile destination for anyone passing through Nakhon Ratchasima Province. While the architecture is neither as dramatic as that of Phanom Rung nor as lyrical as Muang Tam, it is still an impressive 11th century Khmer shrine. What adds considerably to the mystery of the site is a small tower, one of several traces of an early temple on the site, perhaps dating back as far as the 7th century.

Prasat Phnom Wan is located around fifteen kilometres out of the city of Nakhon Ratchasima (formerly Khorat), on the road to Khon Kaen. Even though it has been fully restored, it is still not seem to be on many tour bus itineraries, and we had it to ourselves when we visited during the middle of the week. When you arrive, you will see that the temple is set in an open, grassy area, with shade trees set around the edge of the temple today. There was once a moat around the temple, but only the barest traces of it remain today- a sort of minor depression which you could easily overlook. The outermost part of the complex is the rectangular outer gallery. These consist mostly of a red laterite base, though there is also extensive use of white and pink sandstone, especially in the door jambs and window frames. Even following the restoration, the gallery is far from complete: parts of the walls and the entirely of the roof is missing. Nonetheless, you get a clear impression of the outermost walls of a sacred space.

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A panorama of Prasat Phanom Wan before the restoration

There are gopuras in each of the outermost four walls, which lead into the inner courtyard. Here you can get your best sense of the gallery, with its narrow passageway and slender sandstone columns. These galleries were notoriously unstable in Angkorean temples, as the ancient Khmers had only invented the corbelled arch, which was very unstable. Therefore, it is not surprising that the gallery here is roofless, bringing to mind the many collapsed galleries at Angkor Archaeological Site, yet it is still an evocative structure, somehow bringing to mind ancient robed figures and smoky Brahmanical rites.

The focus on the inner courtyard is the central sanctuary, which has been extensively renovated over the past few years. It is very easy to distinguish between the original stonework and the modern reconstruction because the new portions were deliberately rebuilt from a very pale sandstone. This has enabled the Department of Fine Arts to restore the original lotus-bud shape of the temple- something which is highly esteemed by Thai visitors- but at the same time it enables visitors to immediately distinguish between the eleventh and twenty-first century stonework.At first I was a little startled by the mottled appearance of the restored temple, but in retrospect I see that the project was well-conceived and executed.

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The restored main prang in the background and one of the original towers in front

The main is 25 metres tall. While not quite as massive as the main tower at Phimai or Phanom Rung, it is still a monumental structure which rates among the tallest Khmer towers in Thailand. In addition to the main tower, it also consists of a mandapa and connecting antarala,  a configuration which also brings to mind the more famous temples of Phimai and Phanom Rung, though the architecture here is a much more modest scale. Perhaps the best position from which to appreciate the whole of the sanctuary is from the southeast: in the foreground is the mandapa with its arched roof, pinkish walls and balustraded windows, and behind it is the pale prang (tower), with its characteristic lotus shape, drawing to mind Angkor Wat. This is perhaps the most impressive silhouette the temple has to offer.

Where this temple absolutely does not compare with Phimai or even Muang Tam is in terms of carving. There is not the wealth of carving on lintels, pediments and gopuras which are associated with some of the finest Khmer temples. This is perhaps because the temple was never completely finished. Nonetheless, there are a few carvings worth looking out for, such as some beautiful floral motifs on the pilasters and a half-done lintel on the north face which shows a kneeling figure, garlands and a crude kala head. There are also a number of Buddha statues inside the temple, which are thought to date back to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries- though they have since been heavily restored. They suggest that Prasat Phanom Wan, originally a Hindu construction, was later repurposed as a Buddhist wat.

But for me, perhaps the most intriguing part of Prasat Wat Phanom is not the main temple but the minor ruins of an earlier temple which can be found in the inner courtyard. The most substantial of these is a simple one-and-a-half metre high temple with no roof. It is thought to date back to somewhere between the seventh and ninth centuries. The foundations of other temples of this type can still be seen in the southwest corner. It is believed that there were once three small temples in a row, including one where the central tower now stands. Excavations during the restoration of the prang revealed the vestiges of an earlier soil-filled tower.

We know that the area around the modern city of Nakhon Ratchasima was once home to an early polity called Sri Canasa or Canasapura. Originally Buddhist, it later converted to Hinduism, perhaps indicating the influence of nearby Angkor. Eventually the kingdom was to disappear from the records as an expansionist Angkor extended its control ever deeper into modern Thailand. It is often presumed that the political centre of Sri Canasa was Muang Sema, but the traces of very early temples at Prasat Phanom Wan suggests that this may have been another urban and religious centre. In building a new Khmer temple over the site of the earlier one, the Khmers may been attempting to merge the beliefs of the local Mons with their own, thereby assimilating the locals into their growing empire. These unanswered questions add to the enigmatic pull of the site.

 

The Mon Buddha of Prang Ku

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After a visit to the temples of Buriram province, we headed north to the little-visited province of Chaiyaphum. We were advised at the bus station in Nang Rong that there was no direct service from Buriram. The bus station touts were all agreed: we should go back to Nakhon Ratchasima first and then get a bus onwards to Chaiyaphum from there. This turned out to be not such a hardship as the connections were quite good and we made it to Chaiyaphum after a few hours on the road.

img_0165 A Thai-style pavilion at the Siam River Resort

Chaiyaphum was off the main highways, so it seemed a particularly sleepy town even by Isaan standards. There were few cars or pedestrians around as we wandered through the middle of the city towards our pre-booked hotel, the Siam River Resort. It was a sprawling complex with a swimming-pool, a Thai restaurant and…

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Prasat Hin Muang Tam: The Temple of the Lily Ponds

Prasat Hin Muang Tam is certainly less celebrated than its neighbour, Prasat Phanom Rung, but it is still a magnificent temple in its own right. If this temple were located anywhere in Central or Northern Isaan, it would be the premier historical attraction in the province. However, it is located in Southern Isaan, where it competes with both Phanum Rung and Phimai. As a result, it is usually viewed as an add-on to Phanom Rung rather than a destination in itself. This led us to underestimate how impressive this temple would be. Set amongst attractive parkland in the vicinity of an enormous baray, it is a beautifully presented temple which evokes the majesty of the Angkorean era in Isaan.

When we arrived at Muang Tam, we immediately received a couple of surprises. The first of these was the size of the baray (reservoir) alongside the temple. Almost a kilometre long and more than half a kilometre wide, it is compares with some of the great barays of Angkor itself. Of itself, this suggests that the area was once home to a significant population, and the archaeological evidence backs this up: it was the area around Muang Tam which was the population centre. Phanom Rung, a mere eight kilometres away on the rim on an extinct volcano, was more of a ceremonial centre; the major settlement was around Prasat Hin Muang Tam. This is also reflected in the modern name of the temple, Prasat Hin Muang Tam, which translates as the Temple of the Lower Town.

The second surprise was that a local fair was underway just outside Muang Tam. As far as we could tell, it was something like an Agricultural Machinery Fair: various tractors, winnowers and other machines were on display. As part of it, there was a street market set up opposite Muang Tam selling snacks, clothes and knick-knacks. We bought a pair of sandals for a hundred baht and also some Isaan-style sausages. The ones for ten baht were quite good but the one for twenty-five baht was excellent; it had a rich garlicky taste. As we snacked on sausages and shopped for shoes, a modest crowd assembled on the grounds of the compound behind. Some local bands and dancers were about to start their performance. Not being overly fond of Thai music, we continued on our way to the temple.

The entrance to Muang Tam was via the baray end of the temple site.We went into the temple grounds and immediately spotted part of an exquisite gopura which was sitting on the ground alongside the path. The restorers must have been unable to incorporate it into the renovated temple. Depicting the god Indra atop his vehicle, the three-headed elephant Erawan, it was the first indication of the artistic treasures within. From there we followed the path to the outer walls of the temple, which are believed to be an eleventh century addition enclosing an earlier tenth century temple. At each of the compass points there was an impressive and elaborately decorated stone gateway, with stone bars on the windows and beautifully carvings on the gables. This included the much beloved Khmer motif of the five-headed naga and also striking examples of kalas, a kind of demon. The foundation of the outer walls is made of laterite, which has a dark reddish colour, but the walls themselves are made of sandstone of a soft pinkish hue. The gorgeous colour of the temple enhances the intricate carving to give an impression of softness and sensuality.

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One of the gopuras in the outer walls of the temple complex

Once you have passed through the entranceway, you enter the inner courtyard. It is here that perhaps the greatest surprise of the temple is to be found: there are four L-shaped ponds which encircle the central sanctuary, creating what is sometimes referred to as the ‘moat’. These ponds are filled with water lilies, which brought to mind two incongruous images: first of all, the late canvases of the French painter Claude Monet, and secondly the Buddhist religion, with its extensive use of the lotus blossom as a symbol for the enlightened mind of the Buddha. In truth, neither of these things had anything to do with Prasat Muang Tam; it was a Hindu temple which was devoted to Shiva, with the cult of Vishnu also being represented. Nonetheless, the lily pond leant the temple a lyrical charm which was rare for a Khmer temple.

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One of the lily ponds at Prasat Hin Muang Tam

In the centre of the complex is the main temple, which may predate the outer walls by a century or so; there are no inscriptions which can confirm its date of construction. The main temple consisted of five brick towers on a low base, four of which are still extant; it is only the central tower which has not survived to the present day. The most noteworthy feature of these towers is the crisp lintels which remain above the doorways. These include some of the finest Khmer lintels in all of Isaan (though they are only replicas, with the originals being stored in museums now). One of the most impressive depicts Shiva and his consort Uma atop Nandin, the sacred bull. A more common scene shows the god Vishnu seated with bended knee atop kala heads. The backgrounds are filled in with intricate foliage and scrolls which are in astonishing condition considering they are a thousand years old. On the backs of some of the towers are false doors, a common feature on Khmer temples dating back to their earliest years of Khmer monumental architecture.

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This lintel depicts Shiva and Uma atop their vehicle, Nandin

Overall, the impression we got from Prasat Hin Muang Tam was of a small but exquisite temple which rated as amongst the picturesque of the Khmer temples in Thailand. With its lily ponds, pink sandstone walls and remarkable lintels depicting scenes of Hindu mythology, it is one of the prettiest temples you will encounter in your wanders through Isaan.