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The Sanctuary of Truth in Pattaya, Thailand

Today I’d like to take you on a photographic journey to the Sanctuary of Truth (ปราสาทสัจธรรม) which is a temple construction in Pattaya, Thailand. The Sanctuary is also known as Wang Boran and Prasat Mai.

The Sanctuary of Truth

Entrance to the Sanctuary of Truth in Pattaya, Thailand

Entrance to the Sanctuary of Truth in Pattaya, Thailand*

The special characterisitc of this temple is that it is completely constructed from wood. Thus, it is a great example of the art of Thai woodcarving. The sanctuary harbours numerous wooden scupltures from Buddhist and Hindu mythology.

The Sanctuary of Truth is an amazing example of Thai woodcarving

The Sanctuary of Truth is an amazing example of Thai woodcarving*

However, in the top of the building, which is 105 meters high, there are also pieces of modern visionary art exhibited. In 1981, the temple complex was initiated by Lek Viriyaphant who is also the founder of the Erawan Museum in Samut Prakan. Actually, the Sanctuary of Truth is not completed yet and the year for its completion is supposed to be in 2050.

Wang Boran, the Sanctuary of Truth, hall with royal images

Wang Boran, the Sanctuary of Truth, hall with royal images*

The temple construction is a unique and fine example of Thai architecture and it is also reminiscent of ancient Khmer buildings. There are four monumental towers representing images from the Buddhist and Hindu religions and mythologies of Asian countries like Cambodia, China, India and Thailand. Hence, the Sanctuary honours the ancient civilizations of Southeast Asia and their accomplishments.

The construction of Wang Boran is reminiscent of Khmer architecture

The construction of Wang Boran is reminiscent of Khmer architecture*

Therefore, the Sanctuary of Truth also gives credit to the seven creators which are of vital importance to man because without them, he cannot exist. These creators are Heaven, Earth, Father, Mother, Moon, Sun and the Stars. Thus, the purpose of this temple complex is to use art and culture in order to reflect Eastern philosophy and the ancient knowledge and vision of Southeast Asia. Visitors are invited to take a glimpse at and experience ancient knowledge, the connectedness of all beings and the cycle of life.

Prasert Mai, Sanctuary of Truth in Pattaya

Prasart Mai, Sanctuary of Truth in Pattaya*

The Sanctuary of Truth is divided into different halls. Hence, the 1st hall is about the origin and stands for the earth, the four elements and the universe. According to Hindu belief, Shiva is the God of Earth and Fire (beginning and end), Vishnu is the God of Water and thus the preserver of life, while Brahma is the God of the Wind and thus the creator. Trimurati is the God of the Universe and the universal aspect.

Wang Boran stands for stands for the earth, the four elements and the universe

Wang Boran stands for the earth, the four elements and the universe*

The 2dn hall represents the sun, moon and stars and thus symbolizes the created environment. The sun, moon and stars are also creators because without the sun there would neither be day nor night. The moon causes tideing and the stars are the reason for every cause. Hence, everything and even the creators are interconnected.

Sanctuary of Truth, everything is interconnected even the creators

Sanctuary of Truth, everything is interconnected even the creators*

The 3rd hall represents Parental Love which also stands for unconditional love, starting a family, tranquility and peace. In this way, the hall also represents father and mother who are givers. They do not ask anything in return for their love and the receivers, the children, are grateful and pay respect to their parents. The 4th hall stands for the world supporter and thus for the Bodhisattva who is the Buddha. His attributes are love, compassion, selflessness and service to others. What is more, this is also the basis for all religions.

Bodhisattva, his attributes are love, compassion, selflessness and service to others

Bodhisattva, his attributes are love, compassion, selflessness and service to others*

Finally, the Centre Hall stands for the four noble truths that the Buddha has preached to all men. It means that human beings can understand the wheel of life and overcome suffering in order to reach Nirvana.

Centre Hall stands for the four noble truths that the Buddha has preached to all men

The Centre Hall stands for the four noble truths that the Buddha has preached to all men*

Hence, the four spires on the top roof represent the four elements: there is a female celestial being holding a book representing the continuation of philosophy and morality. The other female celestial that holds a pidgeon in her hand stands for peace. The male celestial with a lotus flower represents the establishment and continuation of religion. Finally, the celestial holding the hand of a child and leading the elderly represents life.

The Sanctuary of Truth, the four spires on the top roof represent the four elements

The Sanctuary of Truth, the four spires on the top roof represent the four elements*

Summing up, we may say that the Sanctuary of Truth is an amazing temple construction and a stunning example of Thai woodcarving that captures the ancient vision of the earth. I really recommend a visit to this place 🙂

Yours, Sirinya

*all photos in this post by Amporn Konglapumnuay




Hindu Gods in Thai Culture

You may certainly have noticed that Hindu gods are very prominent in Thai culture. Thus, there are often images of these gods in Thai temples and shrines. In fact, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are the three most important Hindu gods representing the recurring and continual cycles of birth, life, death and rebirth.

At the Ganesha Park (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

At the Ganesha Park (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

Hindu Gods in Thai Culture

This trinity, along with the god Indra, Ganesha and some enlightened divinities and demons, have been converted to the Buddhist doctrine according to Buddhist belief. Hence, these gods often occur as guardians of temples and monasteries. In addition, they may also be seen attending the Buddha on important events in his life.

Brahma, Hindu gods (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

Brahma, Hindu gods at the Ancient City, Samut Prakan (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

First there is Brahma (in Thai: Phra Phrom) who is the creator in the Hindu trinity. He is commonly depicted having four heads and the book of Vedas in his hand. His female aspect is the goddess of learning, Sarasvadi and his mount is the mythical celestial swan called Hong or Hamsa. Brahma is considered a guard of doors and pediments in temples. Furthermore, he is also popular as a protector of Thai hotels. Thus, in Thai culture, he is a deity of good fortune and protection.

Wat Yannawa Brahma (credit: photo dharma, Anandajoti Bhikku, wikimedia.org)

Wat Yannawa Brahma (credit: photo dharma, Anandajoti Bhikku, wikimedia.org)

In Thai art, Brahma is depicted in attendance to Buddhism along with Indra, at the crucial events in Buddha’s life. Hence, he is also considered to be converted to Buddhism. By the way, Hindu gods might also be the subject of one or the other Thai song. For instance, Noi (Krissada Sukosol), singer of the band Pru, featured a song called ‘Brahma Brahma’. I think this song is from the horror movie ‘Pawn Shop’ (Long Jamnam, 2013).

Another important god is Vishnu who is the preserver deity of the Hindu triad. In his hand, he often holds a disk and a conch shell. His mount is Garuda, the mythical bird that is half-human and half-eagle and the natural enemy of the Nagas. In other words, Garuda can be seen as the vehicle of Vishnu. What is more, Vishnu’s avatar is Rama, the hero of the Ramakien tale. In addition, this god is also associated with Thai royalty since the kings of the Chakkri dynasty have ‘Rama’ as part of their names. Similar to Brahma, Vishnu often functions as a (door) Wat guardian.

หน้าบันรูปพระนารายณ์ Vishnu tympanum (photo credit: กสิณธร ราชโอรส, wikimedia.org)

Vishnu tympanum (photo credit: wikimedia.org)

Shiva is the destroyer and regenerator aspect of the Hindu trinity. He usually has a third eye that is centred vertically on his forehead. Further characteristics are a brahmanical cord across his torso and sometimes a crescent moon which is caught in his tangled hair. Parvati is his consort and his mount is the bull Nandi.

Shiva on the bull Nandi, Prasat Muang Tam (photo credit: Ddalbiez, wikimedia.org)

Shiva on the bull Nandi, Prasat Muang Tam (photo credit: Ddalbiez, wikimedia.org)

The image of Ganesha (in Thai: Phra Pikanet) is also very prominent in Thai culture. For example, there is the Ganesha park in Nakhon Nayok which is considered a tribute to this elephant-headed god who is Shiva’s son. In Thailand, he is commonly seated at temple portals. What is more, he is also the patron of the arts and a protector of business.

Ganesha (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

Ganesha at the same-named park in Nakhon Nayok (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

Finally, we have the god Indra who is the god of Tavatimsa heaven. Hence, he is also the god of weather and war wielding a lightening bolt and riding Erawan, the multi-headed elephant. Indra is a temple guardian of portals and pediments. He is also prominent in the Vessantara story which is the last life of the Buddha-to-be. In addition, Indra occurs on mural paintings where he can be identified by his green colour. Along with Brahma, he is kneeling when attending Buddha during particular life events. Thus, it is indicated that the Hindu gods are subservient to Buddhism.

Bangkok Wat Arun Phra Prang, God Indra and the three-headed Erawan (photo credit Tsui, wikimedia.org)

Bangkok Wat Arun Phra Prang, God Indra and the three-headed Erawan (photo credit Tsui, wikimedia.org)

Summing up, we may claim that Hindu gods play a significant role in Thai culture. As a matter of fact, they not only show that Buddhism and Hinduism are intertwined but also represent a subservience of Hinduism to Buddhism. In this context, you might also want to check out my Thai Art Motifs Glossary for more general information 🙂

Yours, Sirinya

(Reference, Carol Stratton, What’s What In A Wat, Silkworm Books, 2010)