Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Songkran at Wat Sothon

Wat Sothon (Wat Sothon Wararam Worawihan) is located in the center of Chachoengsao Province by the Bang Pakong River, approximately 2km south from Sala Mang (city hall). Reportedly the largest white marble temple in the world, it was originally built during the late Ayutthaya period in around 1765. The present ordination hall has recently been refurbished and the white Italian Carrara marble looks absolutely stunning in the bright Thai sunshine.

The temple is the home of "Luang Pho Buddha Sothon", the most important Buddha image of the province. According to legend, ‘Luang Pho Buddha Sothon' magically floated up the Bang Pakong River before being enshrined in the temple. This sacred Buddha is renowned for having divine powers that can heal the sick and bring about an abundant harvest.

The 1.48 meter-high image of Buddha is seated cross-legged in the posture of meditation. What makes the Buddha image particularly unique is that the statues lap is 1.65m wide, which in the view of many Thais, makes ‘Luang Pho Buddha Sothon' extremely attractive and graceful.

The sculpture is actually made from bronze, but the monks who originally received it were afraid that it might be stolen, so they covered the shiny, gleaming surface with stucco (cement plaster). To this day, the image remains covered in stucco and this is the finish that you will see, but here and there you will also see patches of gold, where worshippers have shown their homage by applying gold leaf to the statue.

Most visitors to the temple come to worship in the single story building, which is located on the right of the main hall. Here you will find local people paying their respects, ‘making merit' by giving donations and giving thanks by paying the Temple Dancers to perform a dance for them. The official ceremony to pay homage to ‘Luang Pho Buddha Sothon' is held three times a year: during the Chinese New Year (around late January or February), in the 5th Thai lunar month (around April), and in the 12th Thai lunar month (around late November).

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