The Dragon Elephant Temple, Wat Khao Rup Chang, Songkhla, Thailand
high-definition creative commons photographs from the 1,000 Buddha Temple, Wat Khao Rup Chang, Songkhla, Thailand, showing the very fine Thai folk-style reliefs illustrating the Life of the Buddha in various unusual postures.
The Dragon Elephant Temple on the Thai-Malaysian border is a large complex, with many attractions, including Temples, Statues, relief works, murals and a cave system.
1,000 Buddha Temple
The main Temple in the complex is a large building designed after the Mahābodhi Temple in Bodhgaya, which has Thai folk-style reliefs on the outside walls for the first and second floors, and Chinese style on the third floor.
The Temple therefore presents a mixture of Indian, Chinese and Thai styles in it’s various compositional elements. At the back of the Temple are the cave complexes, which have a mixture of statues, and other elements.
There is also another album from this Temple showing the 84 life size statues of Guan Yin statues that are positioned around the main Temple.
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Thai Folk Reliefs on the First Level
The reliefs in Thai folk style are found on the first and second levels of the Temple. They feature many unusual postures, only some of which I managed to identify certainly. Apparently the founder of the Temple didn't like the style, and afterwards ordered the reliefs in Chinese style found on the third floor. Some of the reliefs have name boards, but around 1/3 do not.
Reliefs on the Second Level
Reliefs on the Third Level (Chinese Style)
The Dragon Elephant Temple History
The Dragon Elephant Temple is around 15km west of Padang Besar on the Thai-Malaysian border, in Songkhla. It was founded by one Chinese monk from Singapore who came to the limestone caves in this area in 1968 (BE 2511), and settled here, with the intention of founding a pure land on earth.
The monk lived in these remote caves for a couple of years, and as there were no houses around I was told he survived on roots and fruits. He became known as Ajahn Mengsum, and after some time a Temple came to be built around him.
He must have become quite famous because he was appointed as head of the Thai Sangha, Sadao District. He even seems to have got approval for the Temple to have a kind of double affiliation, to the Chinese and Thai Sanghas.
In the 1990s he began building a big Temple, the design of which is in imitation of the Mahābodhi temple in Bodhgaya. Ajahn Mengsum passed away some time after the main work was completed, around 2010, and the Temple is now in the capable hands of another Singaporean monk, Phra Athikan Ho Chee Chandako.
Ajahn Chandako also seems to have had a remarkable history, as after ordaining he had traveled widely to many countries, and met many different masters. He was in Taiwan when Ajahn Mengsum was seeking a successor, and was requested to come and help look after the Temple.
The complex is quite large, with many caves joined to one another, including the one that Ajahn Mengsum stayed in when he first arrived, though not all the caves are open. The main 1,000 Buddha Temple is a very large scale work, and it is hard to see how it could have been built so remotely.
The Temple is on three floors, and inside is decorated in Chinese style, and Chinese rites are performed every day, attracting people from Malaysia and Singapore, who must be the main supporters of the Temple.
Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu
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