Glossary of Temple Terms

By: dulron2008

There are hundreds of Thai Buddhist temples (Wat) in Bangkok. Several of these will vary in styles and sizes but will consist of the principles of Buddhist architecture. Many visitors may not be familiar with the structures inside a temple-compound. Therefore, this part will recommend you the concise meaning of Thai Buddhist temple terminology.

Wat - Other words are Thai Buddhist temple or monastery. In general, Wat is substitutes for the collection of several Buddhist structures within the courtyard and enclosed by walls with several gateways.

Anyway, in Thailand the chief religious architectures are Chedi, Ubosoth, Vihara, Prang, Mondop and Prasat. The other buildings that are not very essential - Kuti, Ho Trai, Sala and Ho Rakhang.

Bot or Ubosoth - Other words are Ordination Hall or Convocation Hall or Assembly Hall. Ubosoth are always used for Buddhist clergy performing ritual of the monastic community or other significant ritual ceremonies. Another meaning, Ubosoth is the heart of the monastery and would be a monk centre.

Besides, Ubosoth will always enshrine the Buddha statue. Ubosoth may generally have three doors, both at the front and one at the rear of Ubosoth. The exterior of Ubosoth will be observed by the six boundary stones (Bai Sema or Sema stones). There will only be one Ubosoth in the temple. Some temples may not give the public permission to enter Ubosoth. Only the monks can be permitted to perform ritual ceremonies.

Viharn or Vihara - The sermon hall or Buddhist Monastery is used for enshrining major Buddha statues. Actually, Vihara is a replica of Ubosoth. In Bangkok and the central of Thailand, most Vihara are usually smaller than Ubosoth.

Viharn always opened to everyone to meet and pray together. There are no Sema stones surrounding Vihara like Ubosoth. Maybe, there are several Vihara within the temple.

Sema (Bai Sema or Sema stone) - The marks of boundary are made of stone slabs and represent the sacred ground of the temple. They are usually in leaf-shaped stone, putting up right from the ground and always surrounded Ubosoth by eight boundary stones.

However, Sema in some temples had nicely been decorated.

Chofah - Chofah are the decoration as the horn-like finials (gable apex) on the roof ridges of temples. They represent the 'Garuda' head, the mythical bird.

Chedi - Other words are pagoda or stupa. Chedi is generally bell-shaped solid structure. In Thailand, Chedi is the most holy sacred religious structure in Thai temple because the underneath of the interior area of Chedi will always contain some relics of the Buddha and some are built to contain some relics of the magnificent revered Buddhist monks.

The prototype of Chedi originated in central India. In Thailand, we can see Chedi or Stupa of the classic type in several various forms. However, the round chedi that were often built in Bangkok and the central of Thailand. It has the same elements as the Indian prototype which was introduced from Sri Lanka - a high drum formed by many moldings of the same design, a bell-shaped dome, a square throne surmounted by a low circular colonnade supporting the high and slender Chatra (umbrella).

Prang - The Khmer-style religious architecture (Khmer prang), a vertical tall finger-like spire and usually elaborately carved. Later, this feature was later adopted by Thai important religious architecture. Usually, Prang has three niches and one entrance door toward a very steep staircase. The internal area sometimes contains Buddha statues.

In Bangkok, Prangs can be easily found in several Buddhist temples such as Wat Phra Kaew (The temple of Emerald Buddha), Wat Pho, Wat Arun, etc. However, Prangs can be conveniently seen in North-East region of Thailand, such as Phimai Prang, Phanomrung Prang, etc.

Sala - Generally, Sala is any open-sided pavilion. In a temple, these may be used for sermon and resting place to the public.

Like magnificent structures, some Sala were ornamented with glazed tiles and beautiful gilded decoration on the gables.

Ho Trai and Mondop - Other words are Ho Phra or the scripture hall or Buddhist library of the temple. Thai Mondop will be similar to Mandapa of Indian temples.

Mondop is usually a very small and highly decorated building. However, Mondop may be a quare-shape structure, entirely made of bricks. Their pyramidal upper part is formed by two or three layers of roofing or usually topped with a spire section (spire library). Anyway, some Mondop were made of wooden roofing, decorated with wooden carvings, gilded and enriched with multi-color glass mosaics.

Ho Trai or Mondop is the place to contain the Tipitaka (Teachings of Buddha or The Buddhist Scriptures), other important Buddhist religious sacred manuscripts, and some holy objects. Some Mondop may also serve as store room for holy opjects used in religious ceremonies.

Belfry or Bell Tower (Ho Rakhang) - In Thailand, the belfry generally has no special artistic attraction. Normally, belfry is shaped with four wooden or brick poles, and provided a high platform with steps on one or four sides. A pyramidal roof is built over the platform and the bell is suspended within.

Kuti - Normally, Thai temples have the residential section of monks (Sangghavas). Kuti is monks' living place and varied in several sizes and shapes with simply construction, and no any artistic features.

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