Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Wat Arun's Central Prang

Dominating the river view of Wat Arun is its central prang. Up close, the sight is equally impressive. Towering 81 meters (266 feet), this 19th century structure is decorated with colorful pieces of broken Chinese porcelain. The flower is a common motif, with petals emerging from the surface, formed from portions of shallow bowls. A creative form of recycling, the pieces were offloaded from Chinese trading ships where they were used as ballast. The central prang represents Mount Meru, the dwelling place of the gods in Hindu-Buddhist cosmology. On top of the prang is a thunderbolt, the weapon of the god Indra. Monkey-like figures with their arms bent upwards appeared to be supporting the portion above them. Some of the faces almost reminded me of gargoyles present on Gothic churches.

The central prang has three symbolic levels. The base represents Traiphum, all realms of existence in the Buddhist universe. The middle portion stands for the Tavatimsa, where all desires are gratified. The top section symbolizes Devaphum, six heavens within seven realms of happiness. Even the stairs themselves and journey up the stairs contains symbolic meaning. Narrow and rather high, the stairs represent the difficulties people face when trying to attain a higher level of existence. The stairs were of different heights, keeping me keenly aware of what I was doing. Once up on the narrow terrace I had a great view of the Old City and Chinatown. This contrasted with the view to the right, composed mostly of modern skyscrapers and concrete structures. On the river one could watch the ferries and colorful boats-for-hire zipping along.

1 comment:

Bibi said...

This is soooo beautiful. Would love to see in person. Now I'm stimulated to do some mosaics....