The picture above is a common temple decoration in Thailand. The large green dragon creature is called a Makara, and the serpents coming out of his mouth are the Naga. It’s really quite amazing how religious mythology travels around Asia, borrowing and reinventing. The makara and the naga are both Hindu originally but like many items from Hindu mythology can be seen making guest appearances in Buddhist practices in other countries. It’s always a humbling experience standing at the steps of a temple looking up at the beasts. It is also a very empowering feeling standing at the top of a temple looking down on the twisting body of such a creature.
We found this temple in ChonBuri behind the reception hall for wedding we attended. It’s interesting how the Buddhist population has so many statues of other gods. There are so many different variations that none of the Thai’s even seem to know who all of the gods are. I think it really shows the Hindu roots of Buddhism. It reminds me a bit of how Christianity just absorbed the traditions of regions they would conquer. The way religions spread and assimilate is a very fascinating subject in my opinion. The statue was beautifully lit though and the candles added to the majestic feel of it.
In India I was lucky enough to get a chance to take a boat tour of the Ganges during sunrise. It was breathtakingly beautiful. The river wasn’t clean or pristine but I was surprised at the fact that that it didn’t seem as bad as I had assumed with all the talk of pollution.
The tour went past a few of the major bath areas as well as one of the cremation sites. For the Hindu religion the Ganges is the very holy river. Some believe bathing in the water will clear your karma, allowing you start anew. Others believe that if you are cremated and put into the water you will have a direct path to Moksha, a stage where they become one with the creator Brahma allowing them to be released from the rebirth cycle. I had never seen a dead body before so going past the boats of bodies waiting for cremation was very chilling for me. The bodies were covered with cloth, but the outline of a human was clear. It was a very sharp contrast to the young children playing as they bathe a mere 100 yards away. The power of the Ganges in the Hindu culture became clear to me in that moment.
And yes that is a monkey sitting on the ledge.