Monday, August 26, 2013

The Importance of Temples in Thai Society

The Importance of Temples in Thai Society

Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram
Wat Phra Kaew - Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram
Wat Phra Kaew
Emerald Buddha inner ordination hall
Phra That Doi Suthep Chiang Mai, Thailand
Wat Suan Tan, Nan, Thailand
Two viharns and a chedi at Wat Phra That Chang Kham, Nan, Thailand

     There are 433 temples in the Bangkok-Thonburi area, which is Thailand's capital. This is proof of the supreme importance of Buddhism and temples in Thai society. The temples in Bangkok-Thonburi are usually quite old, dating from the Ayutthaya and early Rattanakosin Periods.
     Formerly, temples were important to Thai society in several ways, such as a school where religious knowledge, reading and writing were taught. At certain temples, various arts and crafts, self-defense, and other subjects were also taught. Parents who wanted their children to obtain learning or enter government service sent them to study at temple schools.
     Even the king sent his sons to study with learned monks. Temples have been places of education for Thai people since the Sukhothai Period. In the reign of King Rama VII of Rattanakosin Period in 1932 the government passed the first national education plan which made the government directly responsible for education. Temples therefore lost their role of educating the public.
     Besides education, temples were also an important source of the arts and the training of artisans. The most outstanding artistic objects are usually to be found at temples, such as murals, bas-reliefs, chapels, vihara, samudkhoi, Tripitaka bookcases and so on. The artisans who created these works of art were usually the monks themselves. Some famous monk-artists in the Rattanakosin Period include Khrua In Khong, who introduced Western techniques in murals of phra ubosot and phra vihara; and Acharn Nak, who painted the murals in the Trai tower of Wat Rakhangkositaram.
    Certain temples in Bangkok-Thonburi contain ancient architectures and antiques that are famous throughout the country and the world, such as Wat Phrasrirattana Sassadaram, the phra prang of Wat Arun, the ubsot (chapel) of Wat Benjamabopit, and the metal prasat of Wat Rajanaddaram.
     Additionally, temples were also the birthplace of Thai customs and traditions and the focal point of each community. Nowadays temples are mainly places of religious learning and for performing religious rites, such as offering Kathina robes, offering picked-up robes, avian thian (candle-light) ceremony, ordinations and cremations.


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