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Temples


The most visible signs of Buddhism in Thailand are the 25.000 wats. In Bangkok alone there are almost 400. These typical Thai temples serve as a place for worshiping Buddha and his doctrine. Furthermore, they are monasteries, meditation  and sometimes, scientific centers as well (Wat Pho in Bangkok is associated with traditional medicine): More especially in the countryside, they replace the local school. A Wat comprises always of two buildings which house either valuables or simple and plain possessions .
The most important and holy building within the temple complex is the splendid rectangular bot, in which all the significant ceremonies take place such as the ordination of  monks.
It also houses the holy Buddha image opposite  the entrance.
Eight large rocks or bai sema, limit the holy area from the other buildings, a ninth one is always buried under the Bot.


The monks come together in the viharn for meditation and studies.
This meeting house is usually larger and taller than a Bot, but often similarly magnificently furnished. The roof, which is staggered one or several times is especially impressive; it is a colorful glazed tiled roof, decorated at the gable end with stylized mythological snakes or nagas.  The simple buildings, which only consist of a roof  held by pillars and a slightly raised platform, are called sala. People who come to the temple can relax here, protected from the sun and rain.
The accommodation for the monks, sangarama or kuti, are quite simple as well. They are usually constructed along the wall, which surrounds every Wat.
Many Wats are overlooked by tall, bell-shaped and tapering towers, called chedis or stupas. Originally, a Chedi was constructed to hold the relics of Buddha. A particularly powerful and impressive Chedi is Phra Pathom Chedi in Nakhon Pathom.
Naturally, the number of relics is limited; therefore, they have turned to building Chedis for keeping the ashes of highly respected and praised people as well.  There are more smaller Chedis in a Wat, containing the mortal remains of rich believers who donated part of their wealth to the monastery in order to acquire religious merits.
A Bodi tree will be found in every Wat because Buddha reached  enlightenment under this tree. It is regarded as holy and usually a yellow cloth is tied around the trunk. Besides the highly praised holy Buddha statue situated in the Bot, there are other Buddha images. These are mostly sculptures and rare pictures found in various locations at the Wat.
Often are hundreds of statues around the Chedi or bot. Usually gold plated images in bronze or stone are donated by believers and arranged in extensive rows.
Day by day, numerous believers come to the Wat to show respect to Buddha by kneeling down in front of their favorite statue and giving offerings. The most usual gift is a flower arrangement with a lotus blossom (Buddha’s favorite flower), a candle (symbolizes the light of realization), three incense sticks (they represent the “threefold jewel” Buddha, his teaching and the monkshood) and a very thin piece of gold foil, which is stuck on the Buddha statue. By now, some Buddha statues consist of a thick golden layer.
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