April 23, 2016

Lao Temples - Built by Generosity, Beautiful to Behold

In a country where communist austerity is common and displays of wealth were once considered bad taste, the Lao temple was one area where all out beautification of buildings were done.

They are built from the donations of the surrounding community.  You can sometimes find the names of donors written or painted on different parts of the temple.  It should be mentioned as well that donations aren't just local but sometimes come from abroad as well.  Additionally, while certain aspects of the construction are paid such as the materials, most of the work is done by volunteers.

Lao temples are full of artistic detail.  For those who have an interest in architecture and design, take a closer look at a temple the next time you visit. Here are some details to get you started...

  • The swooping multi-layed roofs.
  • The tips of the roofs are usually in the shape of flame-like nak (naga).
  • The hand railing along the stairs at the entrance are often in the shapes of the nak.
  • The paintings on the walls are from the Buddhist Jataka Tales.
  • Plant and flower designs permeate the artwork often with lotuses and vines.
  • The temple area are sometimes decorated with statues of additional beings, animals and deities from Buddhist literature.
  • The smaller tats that you see along the walled perimeter are funeral monuments to the deceased.  They often have the cremated remains interned inside them.
  • The temple grounds consist of the main temple building (vat) where only the monks enter to pray; the sala where sermons and lay-followers congregate; the kuti which is where the monks reside and sleep; and finally the drum tower which contains the large drum and gong.
  • The colors.  Red, gold, and green are often seen however it's not unheard of for some temples to take different artistic routes.
  • The numbers of each items (number of layers on the roof, number of statues, number of windows).  They all have significance.

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