Thai Grace Meets Planet Earth At Wat Hua Khuang; Part Three

by bria4123 on October 31, 2012


Happy Halloween, Thai style!

Thai temples allow lots spirits to coexist. And lots of spirits roam in Southeast Asia’s abundant natural landscape. So every Thai temple has a spooky side. We’ll explore Wat Hua Khuang’s here.


The naga who rears his head in the above shot defends the temple against the many hungry ghosts and bad-tempered nature spirits on the prowl.

Thais believe that a building’s land has a spirit. Wats are no exceptions. The spirit represents the land’s power to generate life, so it must be respected.

The people in Wat Hua Khuang put little statues of revered followers of the Buddha inside the spirit house, but they follow the ancient practice of offering daily provisions. But a fresh bottle of water and a garland, rather than alcohol, satisfy these elevated souls.

Trees also have spirits, and folks must respect them too.

Gee, a Thai wat has enough ghostly creatures shrieking around to give Hitchcock fans the shivers. But Thais add their own culture’s forms to them to make them tame enough to live with.

1. The naga’s aren’t nasty. They’re guarding the Buddha. The 4 nagas’ bodies frame his golden glow with sinuous lines that are elegant as well as potent.

2. The spirit house sports the same forms that the vihara (public meeting hall) does–they lilt, rather than impose.

3. And the profuse growth in the tree is tamed by the graceful carving of an elevated soul.

Thai perspective doesn’t impose one order of things too harshly. But Thais have lived in tropical lands’ profuse growth since ancient times. Imaginations tend to cook up lots of bogeys where nature’s powers seem overwhelming.  If you wander too far outside the order of things, you could expose yourself to dangers.

So Thai art often has tension–the forms are light, but their permissiveness might allow all  sorts of nasty creatures to come out and play.

Graceful forms and polite behavior (like giving the land’s spirit offerings) provide the solutions. Many spirits share the abundant landscape, so Thais stress harmony more than conflict. Everybody has a place in a Thai wat, and the beautiful art-forms keep everyone happy.

Happy Halloween, Thai style–spirits abound, but the pretty art keeps them in balance with everyone else. So don’t forget to leave a little candy for your house’s land spirit tonight.

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