Monday, December 7, 2015

Doi Suhtep & Wat Suan Dok in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Overlooking the Chiang Mai on its mountain throne, Doi Suthep temple is one of Northern Thailand’s most sacred shrines. Believed to have been founded in 1383 when the first pagoda was built, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep has expanded over time making the site more extravagant with many more holy shrines added. With breathtaking views of the valley and city below, the adventurous climb the 300 steps up to the temple, flanked on each side by a 'naga', a mythical serpent in Buddhist mythology. Built by King Gue-Na in 1383, the temple has Lanna- style chedi covered with engraved gilded plates flanked by four ornamental umbrellas, housing a large copper-plate Chedi that's covered in gold and contains holy relics of the Lord Buddha.

According to legend, a magical relic multiplied itself just before it was enshrined at Wat Suan Dok in Chiang Mai. A suitable place therefore had to be found to shelter the new relic. Unable to decide on the site, the king placed the relic in a portal shrine on the back of a white elephant and waited to see where the animal would take it. Eventually, the elephant walked up to the top of Doi Suthep mountain, trumpeted three times, turned around three times, knelt down, and died. This was interpreted as an omen, and King Nu Naone immediately ordered the construction of a temple at the site. Enclosed by a frescoed cloister, the upper terrace is home to a tightly-packed complex of small shrines, bells, golden umbrellas and Buddha statues. In the center of the upper terrace is the great chedi, a 16th-century expansion of the 14th-century original. The dazzling gold-plated temple is modeled on Wat Phra That Haripunjaya in Lamphun, formerly the greatest temple in the Chiang Mai region. 

Naga, the mythological Buddhist serpent, guards the steps that lead up to Doi Suthep 

The ornate pagoda entrance to Doi Suthep temple

The lower terrace of the temple is surrounded by large bells that are rung by pilgrims to bring good luck

Bronze sculpture of the white elephant that walked up to the top of Doi Suthep mountain, trumpeted three times, turned around three times, knelt down, and died — the temple was immediately built on the miraculously-chosen site

The only road to the temple was built through jungle in 1935 largely due to the efforts of a local monk

The golden chedi of Doi Suthep holds a relic of Buddha

Pilgrims praying to the Buddhas at Doi Suthep

A Buddhist monk sitting on the cool marble that surround the temple

A gallery of murals surround the golden chedi, depicting the life of Buddha

Buddha was born a prince a sheltered by his parents to protect him from the outside world

The earth diety twisted her hair of water, causing a flood that washed away Buddha's enemies

One of the shrines that surround the golden chedi on the upper terrace of Doi Suthep

Hundreds of little bronze bells hang from the gallery that surround the temple, 
which tinkle in the wind creating a chime as pilgrims wander the upper terrace

Small buddha image wrapped in embroidered cloak

View over Chiang Mai from Doi Suthep

A short ride from Doi Suthep is Wat Suan Dok, founded in 1370 AD, is well-known for its main golden chedi pagoda in the Sri Lankan style, and is said to contain a Buddha relic. Also known as the 'Flower Garden Temple', Wat Suan Dok sits amidst wide, open gardens. Built in the 14th-century during the reign of the Lanna Thai monarchy, attractions include an ubosot with a very impressive Chiang Saen Buddha and the royal cemetery of bright white shrines. 

Wat Suan Dok

The royal cemetery of past kings and queens

Small inscriptions on each shrine are dedications to particular monarchs

One of the ornate entry gates to Wat Suan Dok

The seated Wat Suan Dok Buddha

The standing Wat Suan Dok Buddha

A fruit and flower candlelit offering to the buddha

Wood and painted gold detail on the interior of the wat

Corner detail with front on view and two profiles