The ancient religious and cultural ties between India and Thailand are now known worldwide; the two regions were connected by trade, sea routes, missionaries, and commerce. Several references to the region are found in the classical Sanskrit and Pali texts referring to it as Suvarnabhumi (the land of God) or Suvarnadvipa (the golden island). Suvarnabhumi also finds mention in Valmiki’s Ramayana (c.1000 BC.). The script of the Thai language is derived from the Southern Indian Pallava alphabet. There is a strong holy presence of Shaivism, Vaishnavism, and Buddhism in Thailand culture today. All these point to a healthy and cordial cultural and religious exchange between India and Thailand since ancient times.
Thailand adopted Indian religions, traditions, languages, and rites. Buddhism became one of the major religions in Thailand, embraced by approximately 93% of its population. Ceremonial Brahminical religion and tradition also found their way into Thailand’s life and culture; people began to go to temples and attend Brahminical rites and practices. Hindu temples flourished in Thailand.
Today we will talk about one such famous Hindu temple in Thailand- Sri Maha Mariamman, one of the principal Hindu temples located on Silom road in the centre of Bangkok. It is also known as Wat Khaek or Uma Devi temple, and the main deity is Goddess Mariamman or Mother Mari. Considered the epitome of power, she is an incarnation of the goddess Shakti. Goddess Mariamman has an essential place in Tamil culture in the rural population, especially for the farmers, as the goddess of rain and fertility. A trident-wielding young woman is a typical representation of her. This famous Hindu temple in Bangkok is a fine example of the Dravidian architectural style of temple building.
Ancient Indian temple architecture belongs to two genres: Nagara from the North and Dravida from the South. The Pallavas, who ruled the Indian parts of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and the northern region of Tamil Nadu, were considered the originators of the Dravidian style of architecture. Sri Maha Mariamman temple in Bangkok follows the Dravidian style of architecture born in the South Indian states.
Essential features of this brilliant style of architecture are:
- An enclosed compound wall surrounds the temple.
- Gopuram: This is a monumental tower at the entrance of the temple.
- Vimana: It is the structure over Garbhagriha. It is a stepped pyramid that rises geometrically without any curve.
- Garbhagriha: It is the sanctum sanctorum or the innermost sanctuary of the temple.
- Shikhara: Crowning element at the top of the temple in an octagonal copula shape.
- Dvarpalas: They are present at the temple entrance and are considered the temple’s guardians.
- Temple Tank: Usually found within the compound in the Dravidian style of architecture.
- Subsidiary shrines: Can be located within or beside the temple’s central tower.
So, the next time you visit this alluring temple, take a little time to take in the awe-aspiring grandeur of this thousand-year-old architecture. Enjoy your visit and let yourself be mesmerised by its aesthetical architectural beauty.
Dravidian Architecture Pick courtesy: Bajirao1007, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons