Pashupatinath Temple

Pashupatinath Temple is a 5th century temple on the banks of the Bagmati River. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva and a major pilgrimage destination.

The most important part of the compound is on the other side of the river from where we started. (Tourists are not allowed in the main temple.) Here, there are numerous shrines to deceased sadhus (holy men). As this is a Shiva temple, each shrine contains a lingam.

On Saturdays, this part of the temple grounds are filled with people exercising and meeting friends.

Also monkeys.

There were cremations going on across the river. Especially during the worst of the pandemic, the funeral pyres were burning all day and night.

Banteay Srei

The next temple we visited was Banteay Srei, also known as the Pink Temple for the color of the sandstone with which it is built. Banteay Srei was consecrated to the Hindu god Shiva in the 10th century and fell out of use some 300 years later. It was rediscovered in 1914, and nine years later—fun fact—André Malraux stole four devata statues from the site, a stunt for which he was arrested. News of the event sparked increased interest in the site, and the authorities began clearing it the following year. Given how old it is, the carvings are in remarkable condition.

First, the outer walls and the walls of the third enclosure (there are three sets of walls in total), along with detail from the pediments.

After that, the interior of the temple grounds, including two small libraries and a sanctuary. None of the building interiors were accessible to the public, so we just walked around and looked. And looked. And looked. As physically small as the site is, there still was not enough time to absorb it all.

We can’t go without showing this happy fellow: the kala, who (according to one interpretation) is a manifestation of Shiva, representing time as the devourer of all things.

The Sanctuary of Truth

Who am I to argue?

Last stop of the day: the Sanctuary of Truth. The Sanctuary of Truth is a wooden temple that features carvings representative of ancient Hindu and Buddhist teachings. “The concept of truth and value of life has been crystallized and shown to the public through the works of arts and architectural sculpture that reflects the philosophy of living,” says the brochure. The temple contains an enormous number of figures including representations of the four elements; the Hindu godhead of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva; Bodhisattvas from Mahayana Buddhism, and various celestial beings.

The project’s owners began working in 1981, and construction is scheduled to run until 2050. (In fact, visitors have to wear hard hats on site.) The sanctuary’s website says, “This work indicates that humans are only dust in the universe and will ultimately become one with it. Physical beings deteriorate, ravaged by the time, But truth and goodness are immortal.” Well, if all physical beings are going to deteriorate, they’re certainly putting a lot of effort into this one for nothing, but in the meantime, let’s look around:

On our way out, we walked through the workshop. Once the logs are sawed down, all of these carvings really are done by hand.

Tourism 101: Wat Pathum Wanaram

Central Bangkok is densely populated with shopping malls, hotels and office buildings, and during the day the sound of traffic is everywhere. Nevertheless, in the middle of the Siam Paragon, Siam Square and CentralWorld malls, you can find the relative quiet of the Wat Pathum Wanaram temple. Built in 1857 and shielded (somewhat) by high walls, the temple complex includes a main prayer hall; a stupa; an ordination hall, where the holiest of prayers ceremonies are conducted; a memorial hall; and a library and monks’ quarters.

The main prayer hall, standing between the stupa and (across the street) CentralWorld mall; building detail; the interior of the prayer hall; detail of the glass, gold leaf and enamel decoration.
The ordination hall, the stupa and the main hall, with SiamParagon mall as a backdrop; the interior of the ordination hall; the stupa spire; a multi headed snake stands guard outside the main prayer hall.

Surprisingly, the internet doesn’t have much else to say about the temple, but given how many amazing temples there are in Bangkok, this may be par for the course.

more antiquities: the temple of alea athena

one of the more interesting things (to me) about the ruins in greece is the way that you find them in quietest of places.  when you think of greek ruins, the acropolis might be the first thing to spring to mind, but there are many small archaelogical gems tucked away in villages or in the middle of an olive grove someplace.

for today’s example, we have the temple of alea athena in tegea. it’s not clear when the temple was built, but it burned down in 395 or 394 bc and was rebuilt in 350 bc.  the new temple was notable for its superstructure, made entirely from marble – a first for the peloponnese – and its triple row of columns. the greek historian pausanias writes:

the modern temple is far superior to all other temples in the peloponnesus on many grounds, especially for its size. its first row of pillars is doric, and the next to it corinthian; also, outside the temple, stand pillars of the ionic order.

it was also noted as a place for people seeking sanctuary from prosecution.  nonetheless, to see the temple today and in its current setting, you wouldn’t know the reputation it had in its time.

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next: still more antiquities