Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan in Nakhon Si Thammarat (13 January 2013)
Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan (GPS: 8.41102, 99.96611) is the main Buddhist temple in the city of Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand. It is presently one of the sites in Thailand that has been submitted for consideration by UNESCO as a future World Heritage Site. The name is usually shortened to just Wat Mahathat.
Wat Mahathat is the oldest and most important Buddhist temple in southern Thailand. It dates back to the time of the city's founding in the 13th century.
Phra Borommathat Chedi
The Phra Borommathat Chedi is the principal stupa and main focus of visits to Wat Mahathat. It encases a tooth relic of the Buddha. The stupa stands at a height of 78 meters. Arrayed around it are smaller stupas, at least three rows deep, within a courtyard surrounded by a rectangular cloister, or phra rabieng.
At the base of Phra Borommathat Chedi are the statues of 22 elephants, 52 rings and 8 walking monks. They represent the 22 spiritual faculties, called indriya in Pali, the 52 mental factors (cetasika in Pali) and the Noble Eightfold Path leading to the Cessation of Suffering (or in Pali, ariya atthangika magga).
Phra Borommathat Chedi, Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan (13 January 2013)
Phra Borommathat Chedi, as seen among the minor chedis of the inner courtyard (13 January 2013)
Another view of the Phra Borommathat Chedi (13 January 2013)
At various times around the Phra Borommathat Chedi, you will witness the carrying of Phra Bot. This is the act of circumambulating the chedi while holding on to the saffron cloth. A few monks would lead the procession to walk clock-wise around the stupa, followed by the devotees. I have also witnessed this form of Buddhist devotion practised at the Ruwanweliseya Dagoba in Sri Lanka.
Carrying Phra Bot, Wat Mahathat, Nakhon Si Thammarat (13 January 2013)
Viharn Phra Song Ma
Viharn Phra Song Ma is the building which contains the staircase leading to the base of Phra Borommathat Chedi. Flanking the staircase are the statues of a pair of yak, or guardian giants. There is also a huge image of a standing Buddha facing the staircase. Monks are stationed in this room to receive devotees.
Staircase within the Viharn Phra Song Ma, Wat Mahathat (13 January 2013)
Standing Buddha in Viharn Phra Song Ma, Wat Mahathat (13 January 2013)
Buddha image in Viharn Phra Song Ma, Wat Mahathat (13 January 2013)
Viharn Tap Kaset
This is the gallery located at the base of the chedi. You can find here many Buddha statues, and large crowds of pilgrims giving offerings to various images.
Viharn Tap Kaset, Wat Mahathat (13 January 2013)
A sharp corner in the gallery of Viharn Tap Kaset (13 January 2013)
Devotees in Viharn Tap Kaset (13 January 2013)
Alcoves with images at Viharn Tap Kaset, Wat Phra Mahathat (13 January 2013)
Viharn Luang is the large building to the south of the chedi. It is the ubosot, or ordination hall, as monks are ordained here. Further south of Viharn Luang are the monk living quarters.
Viharn Luang, Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan (13 January 2013)
Rear view of Viharn Luang (13 January 2013)
The cloister or Phra Rabieng of Wat Mahathat wraps around the courtyard. Each side is lined with Buddha statues. At one point, there is also the skeletal remains of a Bryde's whale that was washed ahore on the beach of Tha Sung River mouth in Tha Sala district, Nakhon Si Thammarat in November 1919.
Buddha images in the cloister or Phra Rabieng of Wat Phra Mahathat (13 January 2013)
Murals on the walls of the Phra Rabieng of Wat Phra Mahathat (13 January 2013)
Devotees performing an offering ritual at the Phra Rabieng of Wat Phra Mahathat (13 January 2013)
Whale skeleton displayed at the Phra Rabieng of Wat Phra Mahathat (13 January 2013)
Wat Mahathat Museum
There is a new museum at Phra Rabieng Kot of Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan. The museum displays various keepsakes, particularly religious icons and Buddha images.
Signage to Wat Phra Mahathat Museum (13 January 2013)
Wat Phra Mahathat Museum (unfortunately it was closed when I was there) (13 January 2013)
The displays in the museum of Wat Phra Mahathat (13 January 2013)
A large reclining Buddha in the museum of Wat Phra Mahathat (13 January 2013)
Other Sights at Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan
Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan covers such a vast area that it is like a village within the city. There are many other buildings within the confines of its walls. On the northern side there is even a Buddhist school.
Hill shrine, Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan (13 January 2013)
Assembly hall, Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan (13 January 2013)
Rear gate, Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan (13 January 2013)
Viharn, or temple building, at Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan (13 January 2013)
A chapel at Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan (13 January 2013)
A niche with Buddha image in the chapel (13 January 2013)
Nomination of Wat Mahathat as a World Heritage Site
The nomination of Wat Phra Mahathat Worawihan to UNESCO was made on 28 August 2012 The dossier mentions three criterias for its inscription:
Criterion (i) Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan is not only a masterpiece of Buddhist architecture and design, it also presents the human creative genius in conceptual design. The stupa and the temple together showcases the creative genius of the local artisans who built it.
Criterion (ii) Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan preserves the original late 13th century architectural structure that was inspired by Sri Lankan religious architecture which in turn followed the Asokan concept of Buddhist art. Unlike the more rounded Sri Lankan dagobas, the stupa of Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan is more slender. This reflects the adoption and integration of the Sri Lankan tradition to local temple design. The significance of Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan in the spread of Theravada Buddhist cultures in the southern peninsula as well as to other parts of Thailand is also noted.
Criterion (vi) The Phra Borommathat Chedi is the oldest bell-shaped stupa to house Buddha relics in Thailand. It is central to the spread of Buddhism in this part of the world, and is significant in the formulation of merit-making tradition and ceremonies.
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