Adventures at Wat Arun: Meeting Demons and a King

Seeing Wat Arun from the Chao Phraya River express boat brought excitement to my heart. I can finally climb up its tower and say to my friends that I visited a prime tourist spot in Bangkok.

I only expected to see Wat Arun, climb its steep steps, and then leave. I didn't know that I had to pass between two giants, look the Chinese lions at the eyes, or even see a king standing under the sun.

Our adventure began the moment we passed through the gates of Wat Arun. Giants greeted me from afar.

Grounds of Wat Arun

I had no idea who these giants are during that time. With my little knowledge of the Thai culture, I know that these are demons posted to guard a Buddhist temple. The building behind the giants is not Wat Arun nor even a temple. It is just a hallway to the Ubosot of Wat Arun. The ubosot is the most important building in a Buddhist temple complex.*

Demon guards at Wat Arun

The hallway to the ubosot is not an important structure yet the builders of Wat Arun also made it beautiful. Its roof is adorned with inticate design of lotus flowers.

Intricate facade at Wat Arun

The two giants guarding the Wat Arun have an interesting story. They are the villain of the epic Ramakien, which is the Thai version of the Hindu myth of Ramayana. The green giant is called Indrajit and the white one is called Sahatsadecha.

Statues of Indrajit and Sahatsadecha at Wat Arun
Indrajit and Sahatsadecha

I find it weird that the demons of the Hindu myth are guarding the entrance to the most important Buddhist place. Is it their punishment? Or does Indrajit and Sahatsadecha went over to Buddhism since they were the villains in Hinduism?

Thai culture is a great hotpot. The mixture is very evident at Wat Arun. The two giant statues came from Hinduism. Wat Arun was built to honor Buddha. Then I also saw some elements from the Chinese culture like the Chinese lanterns and the Chinese lions.

Chinese Lanterns at Wat Arun

The Chinese elements are very familiar since the the Chinese culture are well ingrained in the Filipino culture. Our ancestors had traded with the Chinese for hundreds of years. The Binondo Chinatown in Manila is the oldest Chinatown in the world! Even some elements of the Chinese culture can be seen at our churches like the Chinese lions in front of San Agustin Church.

Chinese lions at Wat Arun
The pose of these Chinese lions are very similar as those in front of San Agustin.

One of the peculiar character of the Thai is their reverence of the royalty, including those who are long gone. In the many places that I've been in Thailand, I saw the statues of their kings and local heroes bedecked with garlands and burning incense. An example would be the statue of King Rama VI at the entrance to Lumphini Park.

A well-adorned king, or rather statue of a king, can also be found at Wat Arun. It is the statue of King Rama II. The king restored Wat Arun so it is fitting that his monument was placed here.*

Monument of King Rama II at Wat Arun

There are many things that can be done at Wat Arun. There are souvenir shops, food shops and other shops. But the most most interesting shop is the one where you can rent a set of Thai national costume and have your photo taken.

Thai costume for rent at Wat Arun

Foong and I were not silly enough to try wearing those things. But I bet girls will look like a Thai princess if they wear those and have Wat Arun as the background of their photos. :-)

The grounds of Wat Arun was interesting enough but the real deal is waiting for us. We will be visiting the main attraction soon, that if we defeated the two demon guards and their lion pets.

A minor prang of Wat Arun

5 comments:

  1. Interesting info about those 2 demon guardians a. Bat nga kaya nandun sila? =)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yun nga rin pinagtataka ko. Kasali na rin ba sila sa Buddhism?

      Delete
  2. I was there, many many many years ago when I visited Bangkok. Not too thrilled...temple after temple...but I loved the food. Sooooo nice!

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  3. ...I find it weird that the demons of the Hindu myth are guarding the entrance to the most important Buddhist place. Is it their punishment? Or does Indrajit and Sahatsadecha went over to Buddhism since they were the villains in Hinduism?... >>> It's not necessary for demon to be bad or angel to be good in Buddhism.

    Regarding your curious about Hinduism deities, Buddhism adopted many deities from Hindu. And it's not just Thai Buddhism. It also happen in other countries like Tibet, Japanese and Chinese. Take this Four Heavenly Kings for example.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Heavenly_Kings

    PS. You make me chuckle when I've read that Thai culture is a great hotpot. Yes you are right. One thing many people misunderstand is that TH has only one ethic. No it's not. And it's not hard to see why. Just take a look at the map. TH located in the center of the SE Asian inland for thousand years. Hence Thailand are mixed with many ethics. Tai, Mon (a minority from Myanmar in the west), Lau (native northern Thai), Tai Yai (people from Chan state in MM), Kuy (a minority in the east of Thailand), Hill tribes, Malay, Chinese, Persian. Even Japanese and the West. (They came here since Ayuthaya era for trading and be mercenary. Some even got high rank in the government (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yamada_Nagamasa))

    What we called "Thai" is nationality, not truly an ethics.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are correct. Thailand is mix of many cultural influence and that's what your country beautiful.

      Delete

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