Thursday, October 1, 2009

Wat Phra That Phanom (วัดพระธาตุพนม)

Wat Phra That Phanom (วัดพระธาตุพนม) is a sacred chedi, located in a small village with the same name on the border of the Mekong River, in the southern part of Nakhon Phanom Province, northeastern Thailand or

better known as Isaan. The temple is around a kilometer from the banks of the mighty Mekong River located on a small sacred hill called Phu Kamphra.

According to legends the That Phanom chedi contains Lord Buddha's breast bone (Urangkha That). With this relic, the Phra That Phanom chedi is one of the most important Theravada Buddhist structures in the upper Isaan region and much revered by Isaan and Lao people alike.

In the tradition of Theravada Buddhism of Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand it is commonly believed that Lord Buddha made a journey throughout the whole region to visit sacred and holy sites of earlier Buddha beings and also to support the emerging Buddhist monastic tradition in Southeast Asia. This travel were made by Lord Buddha shortly before his demise. However, no historical evidence profs that such a journey ever took place.

A collection of old manuscripts better known as the Phra That Phanom Chronicles tell that the first shrine was erected shortly after Lord Buddha's death. Scientist and Archaeologists date the earliest structures between the sixth and tenth centuries. While the present form of Wat Phra That Phanom was established by the Lao kings of Vientiane in the fifteenth and sixteenth century.

The main structure of the holy pagoda is constructed on a square bases which is 12 metres wide. The spire is pure gold and weigths 110 kg. The center piece of the pagoda itself is 57m high That. In August 11, 1975 at 7 pm, in a stormy and very rainy night, the chedi collapsed and fell down. Because of its imense importance, funds were raised and the chedi was rebuilt under the supervison of the Fine Arts Department and the support of his Majesty the King of Thailand.

Every year a week long festival is held to honor Wat Phra That Phanom.

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