According to the Office of National Buddhism there are 40,717 Wats (Buddhist temples) in Thailand of which 33,902 are in current use. Almost every one of them includes a Chedi (also known as a Stupa or pagoda), a building that in most cases is said to hold a relic of the Buddha. I had often fleetingly wondered about this claim; surely Buddha’s cremated remains could not possibly have produced enough material to fill all the Wats in all the Buddhist countries around the world, but as a practicing Buddhist I didn’t question the claim.
A few weeks ago, I found myself in Bangkok once again. Seeking something new to do in one of my favorite cities, I jumped at a suggestion of my friend, Larry Bosco, to visit Wat Prayurawongsawas, commonly known as Wat Prayoon, in an off-the-beaten-track location on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. The draw was not the Wat itself so much as a man-made mountain, situated in the middle of a pond at the front of the monastery, the design of which was inspired by a mound of melted candle wax that caught the eye of King Rama III. The mountain is surrounded by small pavilions that hold Buddha-images, dotted with caves and niches, and surmounted by a bronze pagoda, but most come to see the turtles that devout Buddhists release into the pond as an act of merit. Unfortunately, when we arrived Turtle Mountain was undergoing renovations and was closed to the public. The best we could do was peek between the iron bars of its enclosing fence.
Instead, I turned my attention to the numerous other buildings on site and discovered that a mountain modeled after melted wax was not the only unique aspect of this Wat. A long lane leading to the inner courtyard was bordered by a red iron fence constructed in the shape of ancient lances, swords and axes. Local legend says the fence was constructed with Continue reading