Visiting Wat Phou – A sacred temple

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After 12 days passing the winding mountainous road over 4,000 km upstream from Xieng Khouang to Vientiane capital, it was very strenuous and tiring with the bad sunshine of  this “Million Elephants” country, but when talking about the plan for tomorrow –  coming to Pakse, the capital of Champasak province, visiting the famous temple of Wat Phou, everyone was excited to prepare. Champasak, a large province located in southwest of Laos, is one of the largest granary of Laos and is also an attractive tourism destination with many famous scenic spots such as Wat Phou, Khone Phapeng (Vietnamese called it Khone) the largest, the most spectacular waterfall in Southeast Asia.

Wat Phou is known as  Mountainous Temple (‘Wat’ means temple, ‘Phou’ means mountain) is a relic, complex Khmer temple  in southern Laos. Wat Phou is located in the foot of Phu Cao sacred mountain (Elephant Mountain) in Champasak province, about 8 km from Pakse City and 6 km from the Mekong river, 670 km in the south from Vientiane capital. Surrounding this relics are 4.000 islands on the Mekong river, called Siphandone ( Siphan = 4.000, done = island). It also left many traces of ancient civilizations with many magnificent palaces by sandstone, these temples worship Theravada Buddhist . So Laotian regarded Mekong river, the flows through Pakse as a potential “sea”  with 9 mountains surrounding the old town.
According to historians and legends, they determined that the Wat Phou temple in Laos used to be the most ancient center of Hindu, worshipping Lord Shiva, was built from the fifth century to the seventh century. But the remaining structure dating far from the eleventh century to the thirteenth century. It also has a Crethapura, the first capital of Chan Lap Kingdom. The scientists explained that at that time, there has been a road linking Wat Phou to the capital Angkor , Cambodia, about 100 kilometers apart.
Wat Phou temple was initially built in mountain , later when Buddhism became the country’s religion, the at Wat Phou was repaired as a Buddhist temples worshipping. From the eleventh century, this sacred mountains with a stream behind the temple is the center of worship and meditation of the monks. The annual Spirit rites are held in the temple sedate foothills.

According to the legend, that once a year, at night King of Chendla passed craggy mountains, fell into the house, where guards kept, kill a sacrificial one to pray for the country to be average peace and prosperity. Later, Phia Kumantha, who built Wat Phou, continued maintaining the custom by herself killed a man and a woman to sacrifice Spirit. Later, sacrificing human lives custom was replaced by buffalo. Sacrificing ceremony at Wat Phou is also praying for rain of local people. Wat Phou Festival is also the Buddhist festival of the southern region in Laos, one of the biggest festival held continuously for 3 days on the occasion of the full moon lunar of March. During the holidays, people throughout Laos and neighboring provinces in Northeast Thailand are eager to come to the  ceremony here. Noong Vieng Lake (2 lakes of the city) in front temple is the center of festivities. It took out the regatta, elephant racing, bullfighting, music and dance performances and fireworks. Here, the rituals of Buddhism, Hinduism, and animist beliefs are held simultaneously.

Formerly, at the entrance of Wat Phou temple, a museum displayed more than 100 stone statues, many reliefs, decoration, sculptures carved in stone and stunningly sophisticated artifacts’ range dating from the fifth century to the eleventh century. The main gate and the front of Wat Phou are now only piles of rubble stone, but is still etched clearly mark the reliefs carved images of Hindu deities: God Shiva. Tourists can go through the gate by a wide road straight to the foot of the mountain, flanked by rows of cylindrical stone linga, the symbol of Shiva. Pavement flatted with boulder blocks. End of the road, there are two main temples which opposite each other, looking to the east, located on a high hill. The two temples which were badly damaged, is being restored and repaired, with the help of UNESCO. All buildings here are made of stone.

The temple is located halfway up the mountain. The road led to the upper house to pass the stone stairs, the two sides have vertical columns, full of the ancient tree. Rooftop of Temple is a building block built from large boulders solid connection, without using any adhesive yet, with the gap less than 3 mm, and the pattern carved exquisitely picky, especially the frieze is the God Apsara dancers, Tevada, elephant adoration,etc at the eastern entrance of the temple, is extremely beautiful. Behind the house is a deep cliff inward, on which the talented craftsmen has carved many very lively large and small statues .
Having seen firsthand the temple architecture, with large stone blocks weighing several tons, were shaped, carved patterns, Buddhas, gods to create a massive,  robust, temple, on the high mountain, tourists can see all the great effort, great wisdom of the ancients to create a great Wat Phou.
Wat Phou is an attractive destination for many tourists to “a million elephants”country . Many people come here to visit and explore. Also many people come here to pray, god ceremony. This ancient temple is not only the spectacular beauty of the unique architecture but also has extremely sacred elements of mystical spirituality.
Although it is not intact as ever, but this more than 1.000 years old Wat Phou still remains an attractive destination of tourists want to admire the beauty of the unique architecture, unique things in Laos and as  spiritual elements of sacred lands associated with the peaceful aspirations of human life. Therefore, Wat Phou was Heritage Committee of the UNESCO confirmed as a world cultural heritage in 2001.

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