Buddhist Temple Structure, Architecture, Elements
Multiple roof tiers are an important element of the Thai temple. The use of ornamented multiple tiers is reserved for roofs on temples, palaces, and important public buildings. Two or three tiers are most often used, but some royal temples have four. The use of multiple roof tiers is more aesthetic than functional. Because temple halls are large, their roof areas are massive.To lighten up the roof’s appearance, the lowest tier is the largest, with a smaller middle layer and the smallest roof on top. Multiple breaks in each roof lighten it further – a double-tiered roof might have 2-4 breaks in each tier.
Most decorations are attached to the bargeboard, the long, thin panel on the edge of the roof at the gable ends.The decorative structure is called the lamyong. The lamyong is sculpted in an undulating, serpentine nag sadung shape evoking the nāga. Its blade-like projection called bai raka suggest both naga fins and the feathers of Garuda. Its lower finial is called a hang hong, which usually takes the form of a naga’s head turned up and facing away from the roof.
A Wat is a temple complex, consisting of several buildings like a stupa, a viharn, a bot and other structures, enclosed by a wall. A stupa, viharn and bot are erected first. After that, depending on financial means and the number of monks, other structures like a sala, a scripture hall and living quarters for the monks may be build
Bot or Ubosot (Ordination Hall)
The Bot or Phra Ubosot is the main prayer room and one of the most important structures of the wat. This is the building where monks get ordained. It is also used for other important temple rituals. The bot is a rectangular shaped building with the main entrance facing East. Across from the main entrance sits a glided sitting Buddha image on a richly decorated pedestal. Usually, the walls are decorated with murals of the Ramakien, the Thai version of the Indian epic Ramayana or of the Jataka, the stories that tell about the previous lives of the Buddha.
Viharn (Assembly hall)
A viharn or wiharn will often look like the ubosot, except that it is not surrounded by sema stones.
The story of why chinthes guard the entrances of pagodas and temples is given as such from the Mahavamsa. A princess had a son through her marriage to a lion, but later abandoned the lion who then became enraged and set out on a road of terror throughout the lands. The son then went out to slay this terrorizing lion. The son came back home to his mother stating he slew the lion and then found out that he killed his own father. The son later constructed a statue of the lion as a guardian of a temple to atone for his sin.
The Naga is a large mythological snake, often depicted with multiple heads. Naga snakes are often found protecting Buddhist temples, their bodies extending over the balustrades of the stairs that lead to the temple. The most famous Naga is Mucalinda.