Posted on 10/06/2008

Photo taken on January  1, 2000

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Nakhon Phanom
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That Phanom temple complex

That Phanom temple complex
A collection of stories known as the That Phanom Shrine Chronicles tell that the first shrine was built shortly after the Buddha's demise. Archaeologists, however, date the earliest structures to between the sixth and tenth centuries AD, with the present form of the temple being established by the Lao kings of Vientiane in the fifteenth or sixteenth century. The centerpiece of the temple is a 57 meter tall That, or Lao style Chedi, decorated with 110 kilograms of gold. The Chedi is known as a popular ‘wish-fulfilling place’ and has a curious ritual whose origins are lost in time. Pilgrims will first purchase a small bird held captive in a finely woven bamboo cage. Carrying the caged bird with them while walking round the temple, the pilgrims will pray at various Buddha images and pre-Buddhist spirit-stones. This period of prayer may last from five minutes to more than an hour. Finally, the bird is freed to the skies in the hopes that its release will speed the pilgrim’s prayers to heaven. While pilgrims visit the shrine of That Phanom throughout the year, during the seven-day period of the annual festival held in late January or early February the temple complex is alive with the energy of many thousands.