A temple in Thailand is called a wat and in this country you will find many of these sacred buildings. They are often calm and tranquil places, decorated with gold carvings, ornate tiles and beautiful paintings. Almost every town or village in Thailand will have at least one wat, which means there are thousands throughout the country.
The word wat actually means “school”, because for many centuries the temple was the only place where formal education would take place. Some of these structures are still used as schools, as well as being sacred places of prayer and worship.
If you are planning to visit a wat during your travels in Thailand, there are a few tips that you should keep in mind.
What Will You See When You Visit a Wat?
The typical style of Buddhist wat will contain a few specific structures that have their own meaning and significance. The Bot is the holy prayer room and it is usually only open to monks, so you will likely not be able to see it. It is a beautifully decorated room containing eight cornerstones that are designed to ward off evil.
Another part of the wat is the Viharn, which is where the main image of Buddha is. This is usually the busiest area and within the Viharn you will see many people kneeling in front of Buddha or making offerings. This part of the wat is usually open to the public. Make sure that you take off your shoes and do not point your feet toward the Buddha sculpture, as the feet are considered an offensive part of the body so this is a very disrespectful gesture.
The wat will also have a Stupa or Chedi, which is a tall structure that is usually bell-shaped and is where the relics of the Buddha are held. The wat might also have a Prang, which is a tall and narrow spire that comes from the Ayutthayan and Khmer tradition.
You might also see a Mondop, which is an open square building with a pyramidal roof that is used to worship religious texts and objects. As well, there might be a Sala which is an open-sided pavilion used as a meeting place and a spot for relaxation.
When visiting the wat, see if you can identify each of these different types of buildings. Also, keep your eye out for Chofah – which are half-bird, half-man decorations on the end of the temple roofs that represent a mythical creature called Garuda.
More Wat Tips
- Go in the early morning, when there will be fewer crowds and a lovely calm ambiance.
- Always cover your shoulders and legs when visiting the temple, or you might cause offence or even be denied entry.
- Women should not touch monks, so make sure that you keep your distance.
- Get a local guide who can explain the history and the small details of the wat.
Have you visited a wat in Thailand? Share your experiences with us in the comments below.
photo credit:Global Goose