Inspired by faith

By Patsinee Kranlert, The Bangkok Post, April 19, 2009

Buddha Monthon, the country's largest Buddhist sanctuary, was built to mark the 2,500th anniversary of the Buddhist era

Bangkok, Thailand -- Thailand's rich religious and spiritual culture is strongly evident in almost every nook and cranny of the country. Of all the distinctive artistic monuments to this tradition, none can match the enormity of Buddha Monthon, the country's largest Buddhist sanctuary on Buddha Monthon Soi 4 in Nakhon Pathom province.

Buddha Monthon park clearly reveals the depth of the Buddhist influence on Thai culture. Overwhelming faith was the main inspiration behind the construction of the public park, which started in 1955, when the Thai government and people came to a mutual agreement on the need for a sacred place of worship to mark the 2,500th anniversary of the Buddhist era.

With a total area of four square kilometres, this large consecrated spot has many corners to explore and countless interesting things to discover.

Gracefully standing tall against a vast green field and a splendidly decorated marble viharn is Phra Sri Sakaya Todsapholayan Phratan Buddha Monthonsuthat, the principle Buddha image in the walking posture. The colossal figure offers a picturesque symbol of Thai Buddhist representation.

The gigantic landmark was cast from 137 pieces of bronze, and is surrounded by a shady site which represents the four major periods of the Lord Buddha's life.

Seven granite sculptures carved in the shape of lotus blossoms depict a miraculous story of his birth. Legend has it that the little Buddha was able to take his first seven steps immediately after he was born, and wherever his feet touched the ground, a blooming lotus appeared from underneath to support his step. The top of each brick is cast in the footprint of the Lord Buddha, and each contains an inscription of the name of one of seven regions where he delivered an important sermon.

Adjacent to the monument to his birth is a carved granite throne representing the Lord Buddha's enlightenment.

The wheel of Buddhist teaching - Dharmachakra - symbolises the period which the Lord Buddha delivered his primary sermons, whereas the granite replica of the Lord Buddha's bed represents his attainment of nirvana.

In the vicinity of the four commemorative sites representing the Lord Buddha's life lies the Temple of Tripitaka, a striking religious sanctuary uniquely built in traditional Thai architectural style.

The temple houses more than 1,400 pieces of marble with inscriptions from Pali canon.

Creatively designed to catch the eye are the nine glittering pagodas that superbly adorn the roof of the building in the heart of the Tripitaka complex. Vivid and vibrant, an elaborate mural painting of Phra Mongkol Thep Munee, the highly revered abbot of Pak Nam temple, embellishes the ceiling.

The magnificent mural highlights the sophistication and sacred ambience of the dome-shaped hall under the pagodas.

Though Buddha Monthon park was initially constructed to serve a very religious purpose, the venue also offers a variety of recreational and social activities. Its lush landscape and tranquil setting attracts visitors in all seasons who wish to escape the rush and noise of the outside urban world to immerse themselves in the relaxing atmosphere.

The extensive grassy areas are ideal for family picnics, and the pleasant pathways surrounded by towering trees are perfect for the avid bike riders and enthusiastic joggers who come every evening.