the ethereal allure of wat chaiwatthanaram

Compromised by the severe flooding which affected Thailand last year, the temple of Wat Chaiwatthanaram remains closed to the public but the grounds are open and the complex is easily visible behind a surround of caution tape. Constructed in 1630 by King Prasat Thong as a memorial to his mother, the composition of the temple layout is interesting in that it reflects the Buddhist cosmology: the large Prang that stands in the centre symbolizes Mount Meru, the central axis of the universe, surrounded by concentric rings of seven cosmic oceans and seven mountains. At the four corners of the universe are the four continents (the four smaller Prangs) where human beings live. Despite, or possibly because of, the limited access, I found Wat Chaiwatthanaram to be the most striking of all the temples in Ayutthaya. The grass, untrammeled, has grown in dense and lustrous. This luminescent lake of green makes an ethereal contrast to the red bricks of the Khmer-style structures, creating just the right mood for contemplating life, the universe, and everything.

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