Wat Lok Molee is an attractive and often overlooked little temple that’s recently received a facelift, and while not being one of Chiang Mai‘s most well known temples is well worth including on any temple tour of the downtown area.
If we grade wats by the number of photos we take in them, then Wat Lok Molee is at least a 30 — pretty good by our standards — not so much for the main viharn, pictured above, which is a fairly classic design, but for some of the oddities and curios we came across scattered around the small, interestingly cluttered grounds.
When visiting any of the city’s temples (or anywhere else for that matter), it’s always worth poking around in the corners or peeking behind things since that’s where you often find the most interesting bits. (During our 30-minute visit we saw several foreign tourists whiz into the carpark, take a couple of shots of the main building, check out the principal Buddha and then shoot off five minutes later.)
For reference, here is the principal Buddha image in the spacious yet low-key, and pleasingly un-kitsch for a change, viharn.
Some interesting mosaics and reliefs adorn the hall’s walls — no gaudy murals in this one — showing the eight different Buddha positions of the week. The one below is Wednesday morning (the Buddhist calender has six days plus two Wednesdays, morning and night).
More intriguing still were the eclectic range of subsidiary statues and images to be found in various corners of the garden such as the Brahma below. (Well, it’s officially Brahma but manages to combine aspects of Shiva — the third eye — as well as holding attributes more commonly associated with Vishnu.)
And continuing the Hindu theme we also came across this fun Ganesha shrine in another corner.
Also fairly unusual, and we reckon pretty striking, was the shrine housing a sort of fusion image of the traditional Chinese goddess Guanyin or Kuan Yin with Lokesvara-type multi arms.
In fact though she is not normally depicted in this way she is often considered to be the female incarnation of the Bodhisattva Lokesvara or Avolokesvara, so that kind of makes sense.
The temple is thought to date to the 14th century though its origins are somewhat obscure. The viharn, which as we mentioned saw a major overhaul in recent times, and the large brick stupa were constructed in the early part of the 16th century by the Lanna king of the time, Phra Muang Kaew, and indeed the stupa now houses the ashes of both himself and his wife.
The above shows the upper part of the chedi while below is one of the Chinese-style guardian ceramic lions.
If you get bored looking at the religious buildings and images then alternative offerings include wooden elephant statues …
… or a random old Mercedes displayed next to the monk’s quarters.
Perhaps of more interest is the aluminium workshop at the rear of the temple, next to the massage area, where craftsmen painstakingly hammer away at slabs of metal for weeks on end. A craftsman informed me that the upright relief seen partially at the rear left took him a year to finish. The piece he was working on in the photo is for a new door to the main viharn.
As we mentioned there is a massage area where you can be pummelled, or try the rather good and cheap coffee shop …
… or watch the birdlife?
By Mark Ord.
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