Sunday, December 19, 2010

Shwedagon Pagoda

Name : The Shwedagon Pagoda officially titled Shwedagon Zedi Daw ([ʃwèdəɡòun zèdìdɔ̀]), also known as the Golden Pagoda.

Location :

This is a 98-metre (approx. 321.5 feet) gilded stupa located in Yangon, Burma. The pagoda lies to the west of Kandawgyi Lake, on Singuttara Hill, thus dominating the skyline of the city.

Legend :

According to legend, the Shwedagon Pagoda is 2500 years old. Archaeologists believe the stupa was actually built sometime between the 6th and 10th centuries by the Mon, but this is a very controversial issue because according to the records by Buddhist monks it was built before Lord Buddha died in 486 BC. The story of Shwedagon Pagoda begins with two merchant brothers, Taphussa and Bhallika, from the land of Ramanya, meeting the Lord Gautama Buddha and receiving eight of the Buddha's hairs to be enshrined in Burma. The two brothers made their way to Burma and with the help of the local king, King Okkalapa, found Singuttara Hill, where relics of other Buddhas preceding Gautama Buddha had been enshrined. When the hairs were taken from their golden casket to be enshrined some incredible things happened:

" There was a tumult among men and spirits ... rays emitted by the Hairs penetrated up to the heavens above and down to hell ... the blind beheld objects ... the deaf heard sounds ... the dumb spoke distinctly ... the earth quaked ... the winds of the ocean blew ... Mount Meru shook ... lightning flashed ... gems rained down until they were knee deep ... all trees of the Himalayas, though not in season, bore blossoms and fruit "

History :

The stupa fell into disrepair until the 14th century when the Mon king Binnya U of Bago had the stupa rebuilt to a height of 18 meters (60 ft). It was rebuilt several times and reached its current height of 98 meters (320 ft) in the 18th century. The Mon kingdom possessed two great pagodas of especial sanctity, the Shwemawdaw at Bago and the Shwedagon.

Originally only twenty-seven feet high, it was raised to a height of sixty-six feet in 1362 by King Binnya U as an act of special piety. Dhammazedi's immediate predecessor, his mother-in-law Queen Shinsawbu (1453–72), raised its height to 40 meters (129 ft). She terraced the hill on which it stands, paved the top terrace with flagstones, and assigned land and hereditary slaves for its maintenance.

When in 1472 she yielded up the throne to Dhammazedi, she retired to Dagon, and during her last illness had her bed placed so that she could rest her dying eyes upon the gilded dome of the sacred fane. The Mon face of the Shwe Dagon inscription catalogues a list of repairs beginning in 1436 and finishing during Dhammazedi's reign. It mentions Queen Shinsawbu under a terrific Pali name of sixty-six letters. By the beginning of the 16th century the pagoda had become the most famous place of pilgrimage in Burma.

Description :

It is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda for the Burmese with relics of the past four Buddhas enshrined within, namely the staff of Kakusandha, the water filter of Koṇāgamana, a piece of the robe of Kassapa and eight hairs of Gautama, the historical Buddha.

A series of earthquakes caused damage to the Pagoda. The worst damage came from a 1768 earthquake that brought down the top of the stupa and it was raised to its current state by King Hsinbyushin (lit. Lord of the White Elephant) of Konbaung Dynasty. A new crown umbrella called hti was donated by King Mindon Min in 1871 after the annexation of Lower Burma by the British.

An earthquake of moderate intensity in October 1970 put the shaft of the hti visibly out of alignment. A scaffold was erected and extensive repairs to the hti were made.

The pagoda is listed on the Yangon City Heritage List.

Design :

There are four entrances to the Paya that lead up a flight of steps to the platform on Singuttara Hill. The eastern and southern approaches have vendors selling books, good luck charms, Buddha images, candles, gold leaf, incense sticks, prayer flags, streamers, miniature umbrellas and flowers. A pair of giant leogryphs called chinthe (mythical lions) guard the entrances and the image in the shrine at the top of the steps from the south is that of the second Buddha, Konagamana.

The base or plinth of the stupa is made of bricks covered with gold plates. Above the base are terraces that only monks and men can access. Next is the bell-shaped part of the stupa. Above that is the turban, then the inverted alms bowl, inverted and upright lotus petals , the banana bud and then the crown. The crown or umbrella is tipped with 5,448 diamonds and 2,317 rubies. Immediately before the diamond bud is a flag-shaped vane. The very top, the diamond bud is tipped with a 76 carat (15 g) diamond.

The gold seen on the stupa is made of genuine gold plates, covering the brick structure attached by traditional rivets. Myanmar people all over the country, as well as monarchs in its history, have donated gold to the pagoda to maintain it. It was started in the 15th century by the Mon Queen Shin Sawbu who gave her weight in gold and continues to this day.

Great Bell of Dhammazedi, Singu Min Bell and Maha Tissada (three-toned) Gandha Bell :

In 1608 the Portuguese adventurer Philip de Brito e Nicote, known as Nga Zinka to the Burmese, plundered the Shwedagon Pagoda. His men took the 300-ton Great Bell of Dhammazedi, donated in 1485 by King Dhammazedi who succeeded Shin Sawbu. De Brito's intention was to melt the bell down to make cannons, but when he carried it across the Bago River it fell into the river. To this date, it has not been recovered.

Two centuries later when the British landed on May 11, 1824 during the First Anglo-Burmese War, they immediately seized and occupied the Shwedagon Pagoda. They used it as a fortress until they left two years later. There was pillaging and vandalism, and one officer's excuse for digging a tunnel into the depths of the stupa was to find out if it could be used as a gunpowder magazine. The Maha Gandha (lit. great sweet sound) Bell, a 23-ton bronze bell cast in 1779 and donated by King Singu and popularly known as the Singu Min Bell, was carried off with the intention to ship it to Calcutta. It met the same fate as the Dhammazedi Bell and fell into the river. When the British failed in their attempts to recover it, the people offered to help provided it could be restored to the stupa. The British, thinking it would be in vain, agreed, upon which divers went in to tie hundreds of bamboo poles underneath the bell and floated it to the surface. There has been much confusion over this bell and the 42-ton Maha Tissada (three-toned) Gandha Bell donated in 1841 by King Tharrawaddy along with 20 kg of gold plating; this massive ornate bell hangs in its pavilion in the northeast corner of the stupa. A different but less plausible version of the account of the Singu Min Bell was given by Lt. J.E. Alexander in 1827 . This bell can be seen hung in another pavilion in the northwest of the pagoda platform.

The Second Anglo-Burmese War saw the British re-occupation of the Shwedagon in April 1852, only this time the stupa was to remain under their military control for 77 years until 1929, although the people were given access to the Paya.

Rituals :

Visitors must remove their shoes before the first step at any of the entrances. The southern and eastern approaches have traditional shops with wide gradual staircases. In addition these entrances have an elevator and the infrequently used western one is equipped with escalators. Burmese walk around the stupa clockwise (let ya yit).

The day of the week a person is born will determine their planetary post, eight in all as Wednesday is split in two, a.m. and p.m. They are marked by animals that represent the day, galon (garuda) for Sunday (ta nin ganway), tiger for Monday (ta nin la), lion for Tuesday (in ga), tusked elephant for Wednesday a.m.(bouddahu), tuskless elephant for Wednesday p.m. (yahu), mouse for Thursday (kyatha baday), guinea pig for Friday (thaukkya) and naga (mythical dragon/serpent) for Saturday (sanay). Each planetary post has a Buddha image and devotees offer flowers and prayer flags and pour water on the image with a prayer and a wish. At the base of the post behind the image is a guardian angel, and underneath the image can be seen the animal representing the day. The base of the stupa is octagonal and also surrounded by small shrines, eight in number for each day of the week.

Most Myanmar people are Buddhist, at the same time believing astrology which originated from Hindu Brahmanism. It is very important for every Myanmar Buddhist people to recognize the day of their birth, such as Sunday, Monday, Tuesday etc. Otherwise, he or she may not know which part of pagoda platform to go and make special devotional acts either his or her desire or by the advice of Astrologer.

Myanmar astrology recognizes the seven planets, namely Sun, Mon, Mars, Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, and Saturn. In addition, it recognizes two other planets, Rahu and Ketu. All the Myanmar names of the planets are borrowed from Hindu astrology, but the Myanmar Rahu and Ketu are different from the Hindu Rahu and Ketu. The Myanmar considers them to be distinct and separate planets, whereas Hindu astrology considers them to be either the Dragon's Head and Tails, or Ascending and Descending Nodes. To the Myanmar people, Ketu is the king of all planets. As with other Nations the Myanmar name the seven days of their week after the seven planets, but Myanmar astrology recognizes an eight days week, Wednesday being divided into two days; until 6 p.m. it is Wednesday, but after to the midnight it is Rahu's day.

Most Myanmar Buddhist approach an astrologer for something or another, whether to go ahead with a move to a new house or get married or pass exams or doing new business. The astrologer would do some calculations according to the magic formulas he alone knows and arrive at a certain conclusion. The astrologer would sometime say that he or she is under the bad influence of a certain planet and to counter this the clients should go to his or her birthday planetary post and pour a certain number of cups of water or place papier mache umbrellas or flowers etc. as "yadaya" or to put it in English, a symbolic counter to avert the bad influences the subject is under currently or looming in the future by using the inherent powers in his or her offering plus some personal wishes.

The pilgrim, on his way up the steps of the pagoda, buys flowers, candles, coloured flags and streamers. They are to be offered in honour of the great stupa wherein are enshrined the relics of Buddha. This act is the act of dana, or giving, an important aspect of Buddhist teaching. The donation boxes around the pagoda receive offerings large and small, given to the pagoda for general purposes. All donations are voluntary, from the smallest coin put into the box to the priceless jewels hung on the top of the pagoda. No fees are ever requested at pagoda for use of the lifts or for the minding of footwear. The pilgrim can make whatever donation he chooses and may even make none if he wishes.

Websites :

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Thiruvannamalai Srinivasa Perumal - Srivilliputhur

Name : Thiruvannamalai Srinivasa Perumal Temple

Location :

This holy place Thiruvannamalai, being called South Thirupathi, is on the top of a small hill, just 3 Km away from Srivilliputhur in Tamilnadu.

Legends :

The Lord is said to protect the public in the form of a hunter. The Lord is all blessingful. It is also said that the mount is but Adisesha himself. There is also a tank at the foothill with beautiful Lotus flowers. It is also called Koneri washing of the sins of the devotees bathing in the tank.

Description :

Lord Srinivasa Perumal is in standing posture. The appearance of this Deity is the re-embodiment of Lord Venkatesa Perumal of Tirupathi. The adoration of this God can be equated to a pilgrimage to Tirupathi.

At downward slope of this hill is the Gopalswamy temple, in the eastern part. Vanappechi Amman temple is found in the western side. A tank called “Koneri Theertham” is at the foot of the hill. On the bank of this tank, a 12' height and 8' breath statue of Lord Vinayaka exists.

There are broad steps to climb up to this hill. At present, a ceiling has been set up over these steps for providing shadow to the climbing devotees. Here, every Saturday is considered to be significant for worship.

Festival :

During all the 5 Saturdays of ‘Purattasi’ month, Garuda Sevai festival is celebrated in grand mannar. Special buses are operated from all parts of the district to this holy place. People from in and around of Madurai, Theni, Ramanathapuram, Tuticorin and Kanyakumari visit this place for worship. Everyday from morning to night, State Transport Corporation buses and Mini buses are operated from Srivilliputhur bus stand to Thiruvannamalai.

Websites :,Srivilliputhur.html

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Koneswaram - Thirukkonamalai [Sri lanka]

Name : Shankari Devi & Trikoneswara Temple

Location :
Along with the temple of Shaankari Devi, there is a temple of Lord Shiva – TRIKONESHWARA Temple. The temple is located on the North Eastern coast of Sri Lanka in a city that is presently known as Trincomalee (a vulgarized form of Thirukkonamalai). The city is well connected by roads. The temple itself is reached by a rigorous hike up the Konamalai. Vehicles can also drive up to the very door step of the temple. The place is as much Tamil as any temple in Tamil Nadu, with even the priests and commoners speaking the language, which is a great convenience.

Legends :

It is but a well known fact that there are a number of holy places referred to as the Shakthi Peethas where the Mother has manifested herself in various forms to offer protection and happiness to all her devotees who take refuge in her. As I have written earlier, these places were chosen by the goddess herself, for these were the spots where many of her Angas (body parts) fell when they were cut off the body of the burnt Dakshayani by Vishnu’s Sudarshana Chakra (See Daksha’s Yagna). However, there is much confusion and controversy over the number of these Shakthi Peethas and their specific locations. Some mention them to be 51 (Panchasat Shakthi Peethas) in number while others say that there are 18, still others maintaining that there are just 4 Adi Shakthi Peethas.

Turning to literary evidence, one of the most authoritative works that we can lay our hands upon is the AshtaDasaShakthiPeetha Shloka by Shankara himself. Starting with the verses “Lankaayam Shankari Devi”, Shankara details the locations and the names of 18 Shakthi Peethas strewn across the body of the subcontinent. The first amongst them is what he mentions as the Peetha of Shankari Devi in Lanka. This is believed to be the spot where the groin of Sati Devi is said to have fallen and is exalted as one of the most sacred spots in Sri Lanka.

1) Ravana Legend :

Long long ago, in the Tretha Yuga, Parvathi was suddenly hit with a strong desire. She wanted a house, a large palatial mansion, where she could live happily with Shiva and her children, Heyrambha and Skanda. Coyly, she approached Shiva. “Swami, I have one request to make of you” she said, her head hanging down with shyness.

Shiva smiled his all-knowing bubbly smile. “Devi, you know full well the repercussions of your previous request to me. But still, you have a desire. Speak away.”

“I want a house Swami. I want to live in a lovely mansion, attended by Yoginis and playing with our children. Please grant me this wish” said Parvathi.

Shiva laughed. “Shakthi, who are you speaking to? Have you forgotten that you are talking to me, who is extolled as the yogi of yogis, who has achieved supreme control over his senses and who sees no difference between the luxurious and the mundane.”

“I fully understand Swami, but it is you who does not understand my intentions for the goodness of this world. I want a house and I want it now.” said Shakthi with a hint of finality.

Shiva realized the thought behind Shakthi’s request and finally he gave his assent. Waving his hands in front of him he said, “Vishwakarma, I am in need of your help”. Lo, before him stood the Devaloka Architect, with a chisel in one hand and a hammer in the other. He bowed to the divine couple and awaited his instructions.

“Vishwakarma, build me the best palace ever seen in this world so that Uma can have her desire satisfied.” intoned Shiva.

In an instant Vishwakarma flew southwards and chose a beautiful spot on the island of Lanka. There he raised a magnificent structure, gleaming with gold and gems, cooled with water fountains and filled with the smell of any divine flowers in the garden, a palace that befit to be the residence of the Mother of the three worlds.

Parvathi was extremely pleased with the outcome and wanted to perform the Griha Pravesha of this beautiful palace with the help of the best of the Brahmanas. Shiva and Shakthi came down to Lanka to find a suitable brahmana for the Grihapravesha. It was then that the distant but powerful chant of “Om Namah Shivaya” reached their ears. Following the divine sound they came to a place where they beheld a ten-headed man, performing austere tapasya invoking Shiva. Shiva smiled at Shakthi and then spoke out.

“Ravana, you have achieved the purpose of your tapas. So strong was your tapa that it not only drew me to you but also attracted Shakthi along with me to the place of your penance. You will achieve all that you desire.” he blessed.

Realising that Ravana was the son of the great saint Vishravas and very well versed on all the four Vedas, Parvathi is suddenly sure that he would be the right brahmana to perform the Grihapravesha to her house. Ravana gladly accepts the invitation and sets a date for the auspicious entry into the palace (Ravana is believed to have been an authority in Astrology too and is said to have authored a separate book on Astrology titled Ravana Samhita)

On the prescribed date, Ravana performed the ceremony with much grandeur and splendor with the correct usage of all the mantras and shlokas. Shiva and Parvathi entered their mansion and added further sanctity to the spot. Parvathi was extremely pleased with Ravana’s prowess in the Vedas and offered him any boon that he wanted as dakshina for performing the ceremonies.

Shiva, however laughed silently besides Parvathi. “It is not proper for a Brahmana to ask what he wants for dakshina. He should be pleased with what the Yajamana or Yajamani gives him. However, as Shakthi herself offered you the boon, you may ask whatever you please.”

Ravana smiled at the couple and realized suddenly what he wanted. He had fallen in love with the palace itself. He had admired every piece of woodwork, every carving and every room that had been designed by Vishwakarma. “Jaganmata, I would like this house of yours in return for my ceremonies.” He asked.

Parvathi smiled at the play of fate and granted him his wish. Ravana was thrilled but at the same time guilt rattled him. He felt ashamed at robbing Parvathi of her house. “Devi,” he exclaimed, “do continue to live in Lanka as long as you please. This land is but equivalent to one speck of dust on your feet. Please give your consent to stay here and bless this land forever.”

Parvathi smiled again. “Ravana, I accept your invitation. My shakthi will always pervade this place. But on one condition- I will go away from the island the moment you disobey any of my commands.” Ravana agreed to her condition and with one last Tathastu, Parvathi returned to Kailasha.

Ravana built a gigantic temple, replete with architectural details, dedicated to the goddess Shankari Devi. The temple was located on the top a cliff that fell sharply into the magnificent sea below. Around the temple, Ravana set up a beautiful garden, one of the best in all of Lanka. The goddess smiled on the people of Lanka and the kingdom prospered.

Trouble began when Ravana, overcome by carnal desire, kidnapped Seetha and brought her to Lanka. Shankari devi was angered by this base action of Ravana. She asked him to leave Seetha and return her to Rama. But lust clung to Ravana like a leech and he did not obey Devi’s advice. Highly disappointed, Shankari left the island country and with her left all the peace and prosperity of the kingdom.

We are of course familiar with the remainder of the story detailing the Rama-Ravana war and the subsequent defeat of Ravana. When Vibheeshana was crowned by Rama as the emperor of Lanka, he prayed that Shankari devi once again take residence in the island nation. Shankari Devi accepted his prayers and re entered her temple, bringing glory to Lanka again.

2) Adisesha Legend :

When this universe was born, Parameshwara had delegated various tasks to various gods and demigods and blessed them with the required powers. Adisesha was assigned with the duty of holding up the earth, steadily until the next Mahapralaya. Having heard about this Vayu, the wind god, was furious. “Sesha”, he taunted, “how can you, who is afraid of Garuda, be the perfect choice to hold up this earth”. Adisesha was livid. “I live just by eating you, oh Wind. I am much stronger than you are” he slashed back. Blinded by fury, they attacked each other. Adisesha coiled himself around Kailasha and sneered at Vayu. “If you are as powerful as you say, try blowing away one peak of this great mountain”. Vayu turned into a hurricane and attacked Kailasha. The worlds trembled at the force of this combat and the devas yearned for refuge at Shiva’s feet. Shiva then ordered Brahma to create another Kailasha to the south and then descended with Parvathi to reside at the Southern Kailasha.

“Adisesha,” said Shiva. “All this is another play of mine. I have decided to protect the people of Bharatha Khanda from the south too. This war of yours will end just as successfully in my favour. Listen to me.” Adisesha lifted three of his thousand hoods to look and listen to the lord. At that instant, Vayu broke away three peaks from Kailasa. By Parameshwara’s orders he placed these three in Thondai naadu (ThiruKaalahasthi), Chozha Naadu (Thirichirapalli {See Thayumanavar}) and in Eezha Naadu (Thirukkonamalai, Lanka) respectively. The third hill came to be known as Thirukkonamalai and lies along the same longitude as Kailasha, thus earning the name Dakshina Kailasha. This was where the famed Shankari Devi temple was located.

For those of you who did notice the past tense in the last sentence, it was not a mistake. Sadly, the temple no longer exists. All that remains of the magnificent temple, that was lovingly build by Ravana, is but one pillar.

3) Kethu Legend :

Foraging around for legends, we came across a few that were vital to the temple. The Asura, Kethu, stealthily swallowed a portion of the Divine Nectar obtained by churning the Ocean of Milk, which would confer immortality on him alone. Vishnu beheaded him and Kethu wandered headless until Brahma took pity on him and transformed him into the planets Rahu and Kethu. Restless with the burden of sin, Kethu came to Ketheeswaram, propitiated Lord Siva and obtained moksha. Thus the place came to be known as Tiru — Kethu — eeswaram.

The other legends of Linga and Macchendira Malai Legend are detailed in the blog post

Description :

Built atop Swami Rock, a rocky promontory overlooking the Trincomalee harbor, the temple has lay in ruins, been restored, renovated and enlarged by various royals and devotees throughout its history.

Koneswaram is heralded as a grand seat of Shiva worship in the 6th-7th century CE Tamil hymn canon Tevaram. Its bronze idols date from the 10th century CE and reflect the high points of Chola art. The temple has been administered and frequented by Tamil Hindus and is located in Trinconamalee, a classical period port town with a mixed Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim population.

Koneswaram was developed in the post classical era, between 300 CE and 1600 CE by kings of the Pandyan and Chola empires as well as local Vannimai feudal chiefs with decorations and structural additions such as its thousand pillared hall furnished by kings of the Pallava dynasty and the Jaffna kingdom.

In 1624 CE, the Koneswaram temple was largely destroyed by Portuguese colonials. Hindus built a successor temple at a nearby site in 1632 CE - the Ati Konanayakar temple in Tampalakamam - to house some of the destroyed temple's idols, where they are still worshipped. In the 1950s, the ruins of the original temple were discovered underwater beside Swami Rock. It was rebuilt of much more modest dimensions at its original site by local Hindu Tamils 450 years after its destruction.

Sinhalese Buddhists have claimed that the Tirukoneswaram temple was originally exclusively a Buddhist temple. They cite and interpret historical information of three Pagodas at the Koneswaram site as alluding to Buddhist temples. Buddhists have also claimed that the site was the location of the ancient Gokanna Vihara built by King Mahasena.

Solitary Pillar :

The recently recovered Panchaloha idols are worshipped in the Vasantha Mandapam. There is a separate smaller temple dedicated to the goddess worshipped as Mathumai Ambal. Though many pilgrims worship her as Shankari Devi, the Peetha Nayaki of the Shankari Shakthi Peetha, she is not the ancient Shankari devi who was worshipped by Ravana and Shankara to whom the grandest temple on Lanka was built.

The form of Shankari devi as described in the Dhyana shloka does not match the divine form of Mathumai Ambal. The original idol is lost forever. People worship the lone pillar standing at the summit of the hill as the only remnant of the grand Shankari temple. Many believe that the pillar itself marks the exact position of the Shakthi peetha though this is a debatable topic.

Mavaliganga Theertha :

The temple theertha, the Mavaliganga, bubbles up from a well at the western portion of the hill, circumambulates the hill and empties into the Indian Ocean. It is believed that when Parvathi once examined Shiva’s matted locks, she caught sight of a woman’s face for a fleeting second. The terrified Ganga froze into and ice drop which was covertly scooped up and dropped into the sea by Shiva. It is believed that it is she who wells up in the Sivanolipadam hills on northern Lanka, flowing towards Thirukkonamalai as Mahabaliganga, towards Ketheeswaram (the only other Paadal Petra Thalam in Lanka) as Manikka Ganga and towards Kathirgama as Kaveri Ganga.

Bilva Tree :

The temple offers a spectacular vista of the calm Indian ocean stretching out for miles. By the edge of the cliff, stands an ancient Bilva tree, under which Sri Rama is said to have meditated.

Nearby Attractions :

The Kannyayi Hot Springs :

Among the sights of the place are the seven hot springs of Kanniyayi, on the road to Trincomalee. About a mile on a side road branching from the main route, the springs are worth a visit. A high wall assembles all the seven springs in a rectangular enclosure. Each enclosed in a dwarf wall forms a well of its own. The water is mildly hot; the temperature varies but slightly in each. In effect, a public bathing resort, the use of the springs is controlled by the neighboring Mari Amman Kovil who holds the lease of the wells. People believe that bathing in these well will refesh themselves.

Festival :

Workers of the Sri Lanka Port Authority in Trincomalee will be holding the ‘Theppath Thiruvilazh’ (Boat Festival) as usual this year also on 13 April in the Dutch Bay Sea. Lord Konesar, chief deity of the temple with his consort Mathumai Ambal will be taken in boat around the temple from the Swami Rock via Back Bay Sea to the Dutch Bay Sea. Religious discourses and cultural items will take place throughout the night of 13 April in the Dutch Bay sea beach. Thereafter the deity will be taken to the temple next day early morning by road through the Fort Frederick entrance, the sources said.

Pathirakali Ambal Temple and some other Hindu Temples are holding their water-cutting festivals in the Back Bay Sea for several centuries.

Websites :

Monday, December 6, 2010

Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep

Name : Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep

Location :

Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep is a Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai Province, Thailand.
The temple is located 15 km from the city of Chiang Mai and is a sacred site to many Thai people. From the temple impressive views of Chiang Mai can be seen and it remains a popular destination of foreign visitors.

Legends :

The original founding of the temple remains a legend and there are a few varied versions. The temple is said to have been founded in 1383 when the first chedi was built. Over time the temple has expanded, and been made to look more extravagant with many more holy shrines added. A road to the temple was first built in 1935.

1) White Elephant Legend

According to legend, a monk named Sumanathera from Sukhothai had a dream; in this dream god told him to go to Pang Cha and look for a relic. Sumanathera ventured to Pang Cha and is said to have found a bone, which many claim was Buddha's shoulder bone. The relic displayed magical powers; it glowed, it was able to vanish, it could move itself and replicate itself. Sumanathera took the relic to King Dharmmaraja who ruled the Sukhothai.

The eager Dharmmaraja made offerings and hosted a ceremony when Sumanathera arrived. However the relic displayed no abnormal characteristics, and the king, doubtful of the relic's authenticity, told Sumanathera to keep it.

However, King Nu Naone of the Lanna Kingdom heard of the relic and offered the monk to take it to him instead. In 1368 with Dharmmaraja's permission, Sumanathera took the relic to what is now Lamphun, in northern Thailand. The relic apparently split in two, one piece was the same size, the other was smaller than the original. The smaller piece of the relic was enshrined at a temple in Suandok. The other piece was placed by the King on the back of a white elephant which was released in the jungle.

The elephant is said to have climbed up Doi Suthep, at the time called Doi Aoy Chang (Sugarcane Elephant Mountain), trumpeted three times before dying at the site. It was interpreted as a sign and King Nu Naone ordered the construction of a temple at the site.

2) Another more recent legend about Doi Suthep concerns a monk in the 1930's. In 1934, there was still no road leading up the mountain and the faithful had to make the arduous climb in order to visit the temple. Pra Krubra Srivichai, a local monk, thought that the temple needed better access and organized the local villages in order to build a road. A statue honouring Srivichai still remains, at the base of the mountain. It is believed to be good luck to pay homage to him before ascending Doi Suthep.

Description :

It is easy enough to get to Doi Suthep. Public transportation may be used to travel the road 16 kilometres northwest out of Chiang Mai, past Chiang Mai University and ascend the winding road up the mountain to the base of the temple.

Doi Suthep is part of Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, which is easily accessible from Chiang Mai. Huay Kaew Road connects the northwest corner of the old town directly with Doi Suthep. After a few kilometers we had entered the park and stopped off at Huay Kaew Waterfall, which was running low as winter is the dry season, but was still a nice diversion and a good place for a cold drink.

There are two choices once you have reached the base of the temple - either hike up the 290 steps to the temple gate (admiring the longest Naga staircase in Thailand on the way) or, hop on one of the cable cars and get conveyed to the top. Most opt for the walk.

Once inside Wat Suthep, you are free to wander the grounds, admiring what each section has to offer. Like many temples in Thailand, there are elements of Hinduism mixed in with Buddhism and an intriguing array of statues, including a model of the Emerald Buddha and a statue of the Hindu God Ganesh, peek out from corners, cubby holes and from the sides of temple buildings. There are Metal bells, double-stacked, line a couple of walls and are kept busy throughout the day. Signs above the bells admonish visitors "not to push the bell."

In the middle of the temple is the sacred square cloister area, where, upon shedding shoes and ascending another dozen steps, visitors can see the Lanna-style, copper-plated chedi topped by a five-tiered gold umbrella. It is considered one of the holiest areas in Thailand contains a piece of holy relics of Lord Buddha. Monks inside are kept busy blessing the devout with holy water and the smell of incense and burning candles fill the senses as you circumnavigate the cloister.

Views of Chiang Mai can be seen on the other side of the temple. The lookout area is the other side from the entrance gate and viewers can gaze down at the city of Chiang Mai and its international airport far below. From here, you have a clear view of the winding Ping River and the surrounding mountains.

Thanks to the roads made by of Monk Srivichai, so it is now easy to pay a visit to Doi Suthep, although the old hiking trail does still exist for those yearning for a more difficult challenge. Either way, the beauty, the holiness and the legends of Doi Suthep wait to be explored.

Tourists attractions :

For the first-time visitor to Chiangmai, the temple part of the tour usually takes them to the famed Doi Suthep or further afield to Doi Inthanon. Then comes the elephant rides and the paltry attempt at giving you a glimpse of the hill tribes. And the other highlight — the tourist trap called the Night Bazaar, where all manner of ethnic handiwork, handicraft, antiques and touristy clothes are on offer.

The other delights of Chiangmai is a favourite local breakfast fare, kao soi. It is a scrumptious bowl of flat green noodles in a curry gravy served thick chilli paste and your choice of chicken, beef or pork.

Sankhampang Hot Springs :

You can proceed to a popular local destination, Sankhampang Hot Springs ( It’s about 45 minutes from the city and is run by the Tourism Authority of Thailand together with the Agricultural Cooperative and Sankhampang Village Cooperative.

The first thing that greets you here is the slight smell of rotten eggs. Yes, that’s right, there’s sulphur in the air. Then you will hear the sound of spouting water. The place has two small geysers. There’s a small well where you can boil eggs. And where do you get the eggs? At a nearby stall, of course. It takes 15 minutes of dipping in the hot water for the eggs to be ready.

There’s also a little stream running through the park where you can soak your feet or any other body part of choice. Of course, you can also take baths. There are individual rooms (separated by gender) just for that, and facilities for group baths as well, for a price. There’s even a big sulphur swimming pool if you’re game for it.

If you plan to spend the night, there are rooms and chalets available. You don’t have to worry about food because there is also a restaurant that serves pretty good food, and reasonably priced, too. The tom yam kung and the vegetable salad are scrumptious.

If the therapeutic effects of the mineral bath is not enough, you can always drop in at the booths that offer Thai massage.

River Ping Cruise :

Another calming activity is a night cruise on the River Ping, which runs through Chiangmai ( The operators pick you up from your hotel and take you to the docking bay. You pass through all the local markets to get to it. Food is served once the boat starts its journey.

Chiangmai Zoo :

You can also make a trip to Chiangmai Zoo ( just 15 minutes outside the city. The zoo, open from 8am-5pm daily, is internationally acclaimed. The locals are proud of the fact that they have pandas, one of the few outside China.

Visitors to the zoo can expect a varied terrain, for there are loads of slopes to walk on and lots of greens. If the heat gets to you, just pay a small fee and take the tram (like we did). And if you want an aerial view, why not take the monorail which offers just that and some great views of Chiangmai too.

There’s also the usual animal shows and animals. The Siberian tiger and the Humboldt penguins were the standouts. The penguins were charmers, playing with visitors by the window.



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