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Sao Inthakhin: City Pillar to be venerated for one week

June 10, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Held annually to invoke blessing of peace, happiness and prosperity, the veneration of the auspicious “Sao Inthakhin” or city pillar is done for one week in the seventh lunar month in May at Wat Chedi Luang in Chiang Mai. An endless stream of people from all walks of life come to make merit by offering flowers, candles and joss sticks on special placed bowls in the temple’s front yard. Food stalls abound outside and inside the temple.

First of all, there is the important Buddha image of “Phra Buddha Fon Saen Ha” to get sprinkled with lustral water. From there, the people walk to the building of Sao Inthakhin, where only men can enter. In front of the main entrance there is a row of old men to play classical instruments. Actually, the city pillar was constructed, when King Mangrai founded the city of Chiang Mai in 1296. But during that time the city pillar was located at the geographical center of the city, where today is Wat Sadue Muang near the Three Kings Monument. It later fell in disrepair. Only when King Kawila rebuilt the city in 1796, the Inthakhin pillar was transferred to Wat Chedi Luang.

Today the shrine called “Vihan Jaturamuk” is opened only for the Sao Inthakhin Festival and the pillar cannot be seen at any other time of the year. Women cannot enter the shrine, but at least they can see the sacred pillar from the entrance portals. The original pillar made of wood cannot be seen, as there is a quadrangular base around it and the “Gandhararat Buddha” statue placed on top. The inner walls are all covered with religious paintings.

Furthermore, there are three big “Yang” trees inside Wat Chedi Luang. They were planted during King Kawila’s reign. One of them stands between the Sao Inthakhin shrine and one of the “Khumphan” houses adjacent to the compound of the Mettasuksa School with its height of some 40m, the second is in the middle part of Wat Chedi Luang, while the third one is on the west side. In addition, there is another “Khumphan” house on the other side in front of the temple near Wat Phantao. The two ogres or “Yak” were erected to watch over the city pillar.

The old pagoda of Wat Chedi Luang was built during the reign of King Saenmuangma (1386-1401), later to be enlarged by King Tilokarat to 80m in height in 1479-81 in order to house the Emerald Buddha brought from Lampang. An earthquake damaged the pagoda in 1546. Inside the monastery compound there are two minor pagodas in front of the 50m long Vihan Luang, whose last reconstruction was done in 1929 with the bronze Buddha image of “Phra Attharasa” and his disciples Sariputta and Moggallana on his side. On the west side of the old pagoda is the impressive Reclining Buddha statue looking east. Also, there is the big well of Boh Poeng, which is some 10m deep on the south side and on the north side of the old pagoda was the Hau Dham Library, which was later dismantled to build a new one nearby totally in teakwood.

There are still many more sites to see at Wat Chedi Luang such as the pavilions of the future Buddha and some newer mausoleums as well as special residences of monks. During the time of the Sao Inthakhin Festival, there is the stage near the entrance for the performances and dances of classical Lan Na Thai style. So really don’t miss to visit Wat Chedi Luang during the Sao Inthakhin Festival and discover some more hidden secrets of Chiang Mai.

Written by : Reinhard Hohler, Chiang Mai

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