In the Belly of the Beast: The Dragon Temple of Thailand
A mysterious architectural splendour rests about 40 km away from Bangkok, hidden from the eyes of tourists who throng the city. Wat Samphran, or The Dragon Temple, is a little-known cylindrical spectre residing in the Nakhon Pathom district of Thailand.
Bringing in the best confluence of Chinese and Thai architecture, yellow-framed windows adorn the now faded, pink-hued main building. What steals one’s eyes, however, is the rustic green dragon hugging it, with elaborate scales inviting one to instantly explore the shrine. Culture and folklore guide the aura of the temple, which is said to have been built in 5 years.
Unearthing the origins of the temple is a tricky affair, which have been largely skipped from historical narratives. Questions revolving around who built the complex structure, when and why remain unanswered even today. However, the entity was founded by Bhavana Buddho and was registered in 1985. Noted carefully, the elements heavily draw upon Buddha’s life. For instance, there are 16 storeys indicating 16 levels of heavens as depicted in Buddhism. An additional storey has sculptures and art reflecting gratitude and compassion, which have immense importance in the belief. The building is also 80 metres high, which marks the age when Buddha died. An enormous building, it is said to host the daily activities of the monks. The details imbibed in the architecture are impressive: pointed claws of the dragon clutch the main building tightly.
You can fancy walking inside the dragon’s belly and touching its beard. Ascending the tunnel like structure can be slightly dizzying due to the circular pathway, but there are long table fans to bring about air circulation. The grey walls seem to be chipping off, and the winding stairs inside the tunnel have weakened over the years. So, with crumbling interiors allowing for limited exploring, certain parts of the temple-building are not open to visitors. The Dragon’s head looks fierce painted in metallic red and gold, with popping eyes, making it look every bit alive. A view from the top can let you breathe in the sprawling surroundings: a lush green garden paints the background for the temple. The ground is also home to a golden-bronze statue of Buddha, as well as a white elephant. In essence, it’s an unusual temple which makes for a fun, yet a spiritual thing to explore.
Tying a red prayer ribbon with your name written on it can especially can be a soul-stirring episode. If you’re an avid explorer, make sure you visit the shrine on your trip to Bangkok!
All images in this article are courtesy of B Howards, Denla Amata, Lyn Ho, and Travel Guest.
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