A GLOSSARY OF TERMS USED IN THE ARTS OF THAILAND
by Dorothy H. Fickle
National Museum Volunteers, Bangkok,
14 March 2009 5:15 pm
A • B • C • D • E • F • G • H • I • J • K • L• M • N • O • P • Q • R • S • T • U • V • W • X • Y • Z
Ādi-Buddha (S, P) อาทิพุทธ (T)
Ādi means “first”, “beginning”, “chief”. The Ādi-Buddha is a primordial, supreme Buddha evolved by the Vajrayāna sect of Mahāyāna Buddhism. This sect believes that the Ādi-Buddha created himself out of the original void; then through his meditation, he created the five jinas, who in turn created five great bodhisattvas. The latter created everything that is manifest in the visible world. The Ādi-Buddha is an abstract, inconceivable, undepictable being corresponding to ultimate reality; he is the true essence which underlies the world of illusion. He himself is formless but all forms in the universe are aspects of him. All beings share in this eternal essence. The goal of worship is the removal of the ignorance which blinds on to the buddhahood contained within himself and reunion with this universal soul. The idea of the Ādi-Buddha began in India early in the llth century, according to A. K. Warder. But the concept received its greatest development in Nepal and Tibet after Buddhism had vanished from India. Since the Ādi-Buddha is a formless spirit, he cannot be depicted in art. However, various sects have postulated different revealed forms of the Ādi-Buddha, primarily Vajradhara and Vajrasattva, both of whom appear in Khmer art. In addition, he has been equated with the Jina Vairocana and with the bodhisattvas Samantabhadra, Vajrapāni, or Maňjuśrī. In Java Vairocana is considered to be the Ādi-Buddha. These various revealed forms are usually depicted in princely garb or in yabyum with a shakti. See Mahāyāna, Vajrayāna, Vajradhara, Vajrasattva, Vairocana, Vajrapani, Maňjuśrī, yabyum, shakti, bodhisattva, jina, Buddha .
Agastya (S), Agastaya - อุคัสตยะ (T)
An Indian rishi or sage who appeared frequently in ancient literature. He was the author of several hymns of the Rig Veda, and an advisor to Rāma in the epic Rāmāyana. In South India he is revered as a teacher of science and literature and as the introducer of Hinduism into that area. He was popular in Java in connection with the worship of Shiva. See Bharata-Guru, Rig Veda.
Agni (S), อัคนี (T)
Agni means “fire” and is related to the Latin ignis. The god Agni is a personification of fire, lightning and the sun. In the Vedas, he was one of the three greatest gods, along with Vāyu or Indra and Surya. Agni presided over the earth, Vāyu, the wind god, or Indra over the air and Sūrya, the sun god, over the sky. Agni was the messenger who linked mankind with the gods; thus many of the Vedic hymns propitiate Agni to carry a message to the gods. The flames of the altar fire, which were really Agni, consumed the Vedic sacrifice, and the smoke and vapors wafted it to the gods. In later Hinduism his role as a protector of man was stressed; he became the lokapala of the southeast sector of the world. Agni also appeared as a deva in Lamaism. See Indra, Sūrya, Veda, lokapāla, deva, Lamaism.
Airāvata (S), Erāwan - เอราวัณ (T)
An elephant who was produced at the time of the churning of the sea by the demons and the gods. He is a symbol of the clouds and the mount of Indra. He accompanies Indra as the lokapāla of the east. He may have three or more heads. See Indra, lokapāla.
Amarāvati (S) อมราวดี (T)
A site in Southeast India which was a capital for the ancient Āndhra kingdom ruled by the Sātavāhanas from c. 230 B.C. to 225 A.D.; an important Buddhist center.
Amitābha (S), Amida (Japanese), อมิตาภะ (T)
A buddha who presides over the western paradise of Sukhāvatī. According to early Mahāyāna Buddhism there are many buddhas, each presiding over his own buddha-field. The specific identification of Amitābha occurred in about the 2nd c. A.D. He eventually replaced Shākyamuni Buddha in importance amongst the Buddhists in China and Japan. By calling upon him, one can be reborn in his paradise and thus ensure the attainment of buddhahood in one’s next rebirth. The Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara is an emanation of Amitābha and wears a figure of the latter in his headdress. In the 6th c. Vajrayāna Buddhism developed the concept of the five jinas; Amitābha was adopted as the jina who presides in the west. In art Amitābha is usually depicted in monastic garb in dhyānāsana and dhyānaniudrā. He has a revealed form called Amitāyus who is depicted dressed in princely regalia. See Mahāyāna, Vajrayāna, jina, āsana, mudrā, Buddha, Avalokiteśvara.
See Amitābha and jina.
amrita, amrta (S), อมฤต (T)
The elixir of immortality drunk by the gods, obtained by the churning of the sea by the gods and demons, often identified with soma. See soma.
Ānanda (S), อานนท์ (T)
The cousin of the Buddha, who served faithfully as the Buddha's personal attendant during the later years of his ministry and who recited his sermons at the First Buddhist Council shortly after the Buddha's death. In art he is often represented as a young monk along with the elderly Kāssapa. See Mahā Kāssapa.
Ānanta (S), Ānanta Nākarāt - อานันตนากราช (T)
This is a word meaning “endless”, “abound less”, “eternal”, “infinite”. It is used as a name for Vishnu, Shesha, Vāsuki, Krishna, Shiva, Rudra and other deities. See Shesha and Vāsuki.
angsa (S, P, T)
“Aniconic” means “no icon” or “no pictorial image”. Such symbols were used frequently in early Buddhist art to indicate the presence of the Buddha in a scene without employing an anthropomorphic image. Examples are footprints, an empty throne, a flame, or a wheel to represent the first sermon.
An upright ornament at the lower edge of a roof, projecting upward from the top of a cornice.
apsaras (S), อัปสร (T)
Apsaras means “going in the waters or between the waters of the clouds”. These are a class of female divinities originally associated with water but later deemed to live in the heavens, although they frequently visit the earth. They are celestial dancers, the wives of the gandhabbas and attendants to Kāma, the god of love. They have the ability to change their shapes at will, and often were employed by the gods to seduce ascetics. See gandhabba.
arahat or arahant (P), arhat or arhant (S), อรหันต์ (T)
The term used in Theravāda Buddhism for one who has attained the highest level of religious development and thus has achieved nibbāna. An arahat is not subject to rebirth. See Therāvada and nibbāna.
Ardhanāri or Ardhanārīśvara (S), อรรธนารี (T)
This term means ''half -woman" or "lord (iśvara) half -woman". It is a name applied to figures which represent both Shiva and his shakti Devī. Half the image is male; the other half is female. It represents the active aspect of Shiva. See shakti.
Aryan, Ariya (P), Ārya (S), Āriya - อริยะ or Āraya - อารยะ (T)
This word designates a group of people who migrated into India from Central Asia during the second millenium B.C., bringing their own language (Vedic Sanskrit), culture and religion, all of which are reflected in the Vedas. These people superimposed themselves over the indigenous people of India and thus the term came to be applied to the upper three of the four Indian classes. Gradually the expression came to mean noble, distinguished, of high birth, civilized. In an ethical sense it is applied to something which is in accord with the customs and ideals of the Aryan clans, hence right, good and ideal. The Buddhists adopted this latter connotation and applied the term to a Buddhist priest who tries to understand and live in accordance with the Four Noble Truths. See Veda and Four Noble Truths.
āsana (S, P), อศนะ (T)
This term is applied both to (1) the support of a god or group of gods, and to (2) the position of the legs of a god.
(1) As a support, some writers use the term to apply both to the throne of a seated image and to the pedestal upon which a deity stands or to the support, often a lotus, placed under the foot of a seated deity. Others use the term āsana only for thrones and use pītha for pedestals. These supports may be of various types:
padmāsana (S) or padmapītha - circular, in the form of an open lotus flower with reverted petals and a flat surface.
simhāsana (S) - a lion throne
kūrmāsana (S) - a tortoise throne
makarāsana (S) - a makara throne
bhadrapitha (S) - a rectangular pedestal used alone or in combination with one of the above.
vajrāsana (S) - a diamond throne, indicated by the presence on the throne of a vajra.
(2) The following types of āsana refer to the leg position of seated deities. Note that in some cases the same term is applied to both a support and a leg position. Included here are only those positions frequently encountered in Thai art.
dhyānāsana (S), padmāsana (S), vajrāsana (S), meaning respectively the meditation, lotus, or adamantine pose. The legs are bent and crossed so that both feet rest on the opposite thighs, soles upward and visible.
vīrasāna (S), the legs are folded with the right leg above the left, with soles upward. The right foot rests on the left thigh, the left foot is under the right thigh. This term is also applied to the posture wherein the knees are bent but only the ankles are crossed, frequently encountered in Amarāvati, Singhalese, and Dvāravatī art. Some writers, such as Dupont, apply the term paryankāsana to the type of posture described here. However Prince Suphadradis Diskul, A. B. Griswold, and A.K. Coomaraswaiuy prefer the terra vīrāsana.
pvalambapādāsana (S), the European position, with both legs hanging down. The legs may be separate or the ankles may be crossed.
lalitāsana (S), the position of ease and comfort, one leg pendent, the other flexed in a horizontal position, its foot resting on the opposite thigh.
mahārājalīlā (S), “royal ease”, both legs flexed, one vertical, the other horizontal, the feet touching.
Ashoka, Aśoka (S), อโศก (T)
An Indian emperor of the Maurya dynasty who ruled from approximately 272 - 232 B.C. He was the first to unify most of India under one empire. He adopted Buddhism during his reign although he remained tolerant of other religions. He contributed to the spread of Buddhism by sending Buddhist missionaries to many parts of Asia, including Ceylon and Southeast Asia. He tried to rule in accordance with the Buddhist dhamma, and left many rock edicts which embodied good Buddhist ethics. He has frequently been hailed as a chakravartin, a universal emperor. See dharma and chakravartin.
asura (S, P), อสูร (T)
According to Buddhism and later Hinduism an asura is a demigod, a demon, who represents the forces of darkness or evil and who is constantly at war with the gods or deva. The words themselves express this contrast for asura means “without light and deva means “light” or “a shining being”. In the Vedas the asura were considered to be good spirits, but later they acquired their present evil connotation. Existence as an asura is one of the undesirable states into which a Buddhist can be reborn. See samsāra and Veda.
Avalokiteśvara (S), อวโลกิเตศวร (T)
A name meaning “the Lord who looks down with compassion”, the most popular bodhisattva in Mahāyāna Buddhism. He is considered to be an emanation of the Jina Amitābha. Along with four other great bodhisattvas who were direct emanations from the five jinas, he was responsible for creating all the visible manifestations in the universe. He has the further responsibility to delay his own attainment of buddhahood until he has helped all mankind likewise to reach that goal. In Northern Buddhism he has been transformed into the feminine goddess of mercy called Kuan-yin in China and Kwannon in Japan. He has many forms, each with a different name. The most important in Southeast Asia are Lokeśvara and Padmanpāni. He is usually clothed in princely garb, and he wears in his headdress an image of the Jina Amitābha. His most frequent attributes in Khmer art are the rosary, book, flask, and lotus. On Shrīvijayan images, he often wears the Brahmanical cord worn by the three upper classes in India. See bodhisattva, Mahāyāna, jina, Amitābha, Lokeśvara, Padmapāni.
avatār, avatāra (S), อวตาร (T)
This word means “descent” and refers primarily to the descent of a deity from heaven to be incarnated on earth. The term is used most .frequently with respect to the ten incarnations of Vishnu. See Vishnu.
Ayodhyā (S), อโยธยา (T)
This word means “not to be conquered”, “irresistible”. It was the name of Rāma's capital in the Rāmāyana, located in present-day Oudh in India. See Rāmāyana.
Ayudhyā or Ayutthayā (T) - อยุธยา
The capital of Thailand and the name of the Thai kingdom from 1350-1767 A.D. The name is derived from the Indian Ayodhyā above. The art produced in Thailand during thoses centuries is classified as the Ayudhyā style.
bai rakā - ใบระกา (T)
An ornamental crest running along the barge boards on the gable ends of a roof. See barge board.
bai semā - ใบเสมา (T)
A stone slab placed upright in each of eight positions around a bot, at the four corners, and at the midpoint of each side. These may be placed singly or in pairs; pairs sometimes indicate that the temple has undergone a major renovation, at which time a second slab was added at each location. These bai semā are often in the shape of a bodhi leaf. They mark off the specially consecrated area of a wat where certain ceremonies may take place. See bot, wat, bodhi, lūk nimit.
bai srī - บายศรี (T)
A conical arrangement of flowers or leaves used during auspicious ceremonies. Its presence on a traditional Thai painting often indicates a wedding is taking place.
barge board, nākkhasadung - นาคสดุ้ง (T)
The trim for the two sloping edges of a gable-style roof. On Thai temples, the barge board is often in the form of a nāga decorated, with a bai rakā, the head of the nāga bent upward at the lower end of the barge board. See nāga, bai rakā, hāng hong.
bas-relief, phāpsalaknūntam - ภาพสลักนูนตำ(T)
Sculpture in low relief, with the figures projecting only slightly from the background.
bāt - บาตร (T), pātra (S), patta (P)
A monk's alms-bowl.
A space or division of a wall or a building between columns or pillars.
Abbreviation for Buddhist Era. The Theravāda tradition claims that the Buddha's parinibbāna occurred in the year 544 B.C. In Burma, Ceylon and India, that was the beginning of the Buddhist Era. In Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, the count begins at the time of the first anniversary of that event, 543 B.C. One must subtract 543 from a Thai B.E. date to convert it to A.D.
A large carved pendant suspended from the tie beam or arch of the porch of a Thai bot or wihān, usually saw-toothed in shape. This may occur singly or in groups of three or five. See bot and wihān.
Bencharong, เบญจรงค์ (T)
Bencharong means “five colors”. The term is applied to a type of enamelled porcelain which was made in China according to Thai specifications, for export to Thailand. This porcelain first appeared in the late Ayudhyā period and continued until the reign of King Chulalongkom (Rāma V), when European ware replaced the Bencharong in popularity. The best pieces were produced during the reign of Rāma II. The earliest examples featured a design composed of five colors against a sixth background color. Later fewer colors were sometimes used but the origins and processes of manufacture of the ware were similar and the name Bencharong continued to apply.
See āsana (1).
See Mahābhārata and Krishna.
This word means “attachment, devotion, fondness, trust, homage”. It is applied to a type of worship in which the devotee seeks union with his god through intense personal love.
The dispenser of divine wisdom, a form of Shiva popular in Java, represented as a corpulent, bearded ascetic with plaited hair, perhaps holding a jar, rosary or fly whisk. Alternatively such an image is sometimes called Agastya, the deified ascetic, whose worship was widespread in Java connected with Shaivism. See Agastya.
bhikkhu (P), bhiksu (S), phra or phra song – (T)
A religious mendicant; a fully-ordained Buddhist monk. See upasampadā.
bhikkhunī (P), bhiksunī (S)
Feminine forms of bhikkhu and bhiksu; nun. The order of nuns which formerly existed in Theravāda Buddhism died out many centuries ago. The white-clad, shaven-headed ladies seen in Thai monasteries are lay persons. See upāsaka and upsāikā.
Bodh Gayā (S), พุทธคายา (T)
The place near the town of Gayā in Bihar state of North India where the Buddha attained bodhi or enlightenment. See bodhi.
bodhi (S, P), bodhi - โพธิ (T) or bodhiyān - โพธิญาณ(T)
The perfect knowledge or enlightenment which enables one to become a buddha .
bodhisattva (S), bodhisatta (P), bodhisat – โพธิสัตว์ (T)
“One whose essence is perfect knowledge”, a being who has attained enlightenment (bodhi) but has postponed buddhahood until all beings can also achieve enlightment. In Mahāyāna Buddhism, many bodhisattvas are personifications of divine qualities such as compassion in the case of Avalokitevara or wisdom in the case of Maňjusrī. In both Theravāda and Mahāyāna Buddhism, the term is also applied to the earlier lives of the historical Buddha and to his youthful career as a prince. See bodhi, Buddha, Mahāyāna, Theravāda.
bodhi tree, bo tree
The sacred fig tree (ficus religiosa) under which the Buddha attained bodhi or enlightenment. Now the term is applied to any tree which is supposedly descended from the original tree at Bodh Gayā. When Buddhism was introduced into Ceylon, a sapling of the original tree was taken to that country; in turn saplings from the latter have been transplanted throughout the Theravāda countries of Southeast Asia. A bodhi tree is frequently found in the compound of a Thai wat. Tradition forbids its presence near private dwellings.
bot - โบสถ์ (T) or ubosot - อุโบสถ (T), uposatha (P), upavasatha (S)
Ubosot, upasatha and upavasatha refer to the fast days in the Buddhist calendar which fall on the first, eighth, fifteenth, and twenty-third days of the lunar month. These days in Thailand are also called wan phra ( ), holy days. Special observances are held in wats at this time, and the Thai have applied the word ubosot to the particular building where such ceremonies are held. Bot is an abbreviation for ubosot. This is the building marked off with bai semā and lūk nimit which has been specially consecrated for performing the most important ceremonies of the Sangha, including the wan phra observances, morning and evening chanting of the monks, ordinations, etc. The sermons for the public on the fast days may be held in the bot, wihān or a salā. See wat, bai semā, lūk nimit, Sangha, wihān and sāla.
Brāhmā (S), Prah Prohm (K), Phra Prohm - พระพรหม (T)
The creator in the Hindu trinity, linked with Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer. He has evolved from the Vedic Prajāpati, the lord and father of all creatures. Worshippers of Vishnu say that he springs from the navel of the sleeping Vishnu to begin each new round of creation. Shaivites claim that he was created by Rudra, an earlier form of Shiva. He usually has four heads and four arms, His most frequent attributes are the disc, ladle, scepter, string of beads, bow, water jug, fly whisk and/or the Veda. His shakti is Sarasvatī, the goddess of learning. In Buddhist art he is frequently pictured along with Indra as an attendant of the Buddha, especially in scenes of the Buddha's birth and his descent from Tavatimsa Heaven. In such scenes, especially in Dvāravatī art, he has only one head and two arms. After the Buddha's enlightenment, legend relates that a group of Brāhmās implored the Buddha to preach to humanity before his parinibbana.
Brahman (S, P)
This term is applied to the universal world spirit of Hindu philosophy, which is equated with the supreme good. It is primordial, absolute, eternal. From it all things emanate and to it all will return. Every being shares in this universal soul but is hindered from realizing that fact because of ignorance. It is closely related to the Mahāyāna concept of buddhahood. See Hinduism, Buddha, Mahāyāna.
Brāhman, Brāhman (S), Brāhmana (P), Phrāhm - พราหมณ์ (T)
The priestly class or a member of the priestly class in India, in recent centuries the highest of the four Indian classes.
The religion of pre-Buddhist India, reflected primarily in the Vedas, thus often referred to as the Vedic religion. This was brought to India by the Aryans during the second millenium B.C. See Vedas and Aryan.
This name has been used by Thai museum curators to label a type of creature which frequently appears on Dvāravatī bas-reliefs. The Buddha, either sitting or standing, is portrayed riding on this creature, accompanied by Brāhmā and Indra. These scenes are interpreted as representing the descent from Tavatimsa Heaven, but the meaning of the strange vehicle is not clear. It appears to be a composite animal combining features of the mounts of the three chief Hindu gods - the beak of Vishnu's garuda, the horns of Shiva's bull, and the wings of Brāhmā's hamsa. Dhanit Yupho in Brahma with Four Faces discusses how the name Brahmnaspati could mean “Lord of Brahmanism”, and thus is an appropriate name for a creature who is a combination of the three most important Brahmanical mounts. Such an interpretation suggests that the scene with the Buddha mounted on such a creature represents the ascendancy of Buddhism over Hinduism. However, Vishnu and Shiva are rarely included in scenes from the Life of the Buddha as their popularity in India postdates the development of the Buddhist legends. This interpretation is therefore highly speculative. Others have claimed that this creature may represent Panaspati, who emerged in Vedic (pre-Buddhist) times as the lord of the wilderness. Panaspati evolved into the kīrtimukha and kāla which are depicted as mask-like faces above doorways both in India and Southeast Asia. The creature on the Dvāravatī plaques does bear a general resemblance to the kīrtimukha and kala except for the addition of wings. The most recent guidebooks published by the National Museum in Thailand have adopted the term Panaspati rather than Brahmnaspati for this vehicle of the Buddha on the Dvāravatī plaques.
Buddha (S.P), พุทธ (T)
Buddha derives from the same root as bodhi, meaning “enlightenment” or “perfect knowledge”. A buddha is a perfectly enlightened being who has achieved the highest knowledge of the truth and thereby is freed from all further rebirth. In Theravāda Buddhism the term is reserved for the historic Buddha Gotama who lived in the 6th c. B.C. and to a series of Buddhas who have appeared on earth in previous eras or will come in the future. The early Mahāyānists postulated an infinite series of eternal buddhas, each presiding over his own buddha-field. In essence, they believed that there was one universal Buddha who could appear in innumerable manifestations both in the heavens and on earth. Gradually the concept of buddhahood evolved until the universal Buddha became equated with ultimate reality, similar to the Brahman or universal soul of Hindu philosophy. All beings were deemed to share in this buddhahood, and the goal of the individual became the removal of ignorance to enable him to recognize the buddhahood within himself. Still later, in Vajrayāna Buddhism, the universal Buddha became personified in a powerful figure called Mahāvairocana, and still later in the Ādi-Buddha, a primordial being from whom emanated everything in the universe. Under this last phase of Buddhism many kinds of buddhas evolved in addition to the Ādi-Buddha, including jinas, human or manushi buddhas, medicine buddhas, confession buddhas, and many-armed fierce Tantric buddhas. All of these were considered to be manifestations of the one universal world spirit or Buddha. See Theravāda, Mahāyāna, Vajrayāna, Tantric Buddhism, Brahman, Ādi-Buddha, jina, Vairocana.
cakka, cakra, cat
The top of a column, often ornamented.
chakra, cakka (P), cakra (S), cak - จักร (T)
A disc or wheel, which has been interpreted as a symbol of the sun or as a sign of psychic or occult power. It can likewise symbolize kamma and the eternal revolving of life, death and rebirth. In Buddhism it represents the Wheel of the Law (dhammacakka) which the Buddha set into motion when he preached his first sermon. Again it is the symbol of a chakravartin, a universal emperor, signifying righteous rule, a meaning derived both from Buddhism and sun mythology. A chakra serves as a weapon for several Hindu gods, including Vishnu and Indra. See kamma, dhammacakka, and chakravartin.
chakravartin, cakkavattin (P), cakravartin (S)
A ruler whose chariot ro11s everywhere without obstruction, a universal emperor, a world sovereign who rules over many kingdoms. Ancient Indians believed that such a ruler was divinely ordained. It was said that upon his investitute a golden wheel appeared in the heavens which would remain as long as he was ruling righteously. The early Buddhists, perhaps inspired by the example of the Buddhist emperor Ashoka, adopted the idea of the chakravartin and applied it to the Buddha himself, interpreted to be the spiritual ruler of the universe.
A type of pottery produced by the early Thai, featuring a dark brown glaze.
An ancient Indianized kingdom situated along the east coast of Indochina, corresponding to parts of modern Central and South Vietnam. It existed from approximately the 2nd to the 15th c. A.D. During the last half of that period, it was under constant pressure from its Vietnamese neighbor to the north, to whom it finally succumbed.
chandi, candi (S), tjandi (Indonesian, archaic), candi (Indonesian, present)
A commemorative monument in Java, built in imitation of Mount Meru.
Chandra, Candra (S), Can - จันทร์ (T)
The moon or moon god, sometimes equated with Soma. See soma.
Channa (P), Chandaka (S), Chhandaka (K), Channa - (T)
The name of Prince Siddhāttha's groom.
chatta (P), chattra (S), chat - ฉัตร (T)
An umbrella or canopy, symbol of dominion and of the heavens. A chatta crowns the mast of a Buddhist stūpa or chedī.
chedī or cedī - เจดีย์ (T)
This Thai word is a derivation from chetiya but is used in a more restricted sense. Chedī is applied only to religious monuments which contain one of the types of reminders of the Buddha enumerated herein under chetiya. In Thailand chedī and stūpa are often used interchangeably, especially by foreigners but a chedī refers particularly to a religious monument and stūpa may have other meanings. See chetiya and stūpa. Classes of chedī found in Thailand are the stūpa, stūpa - tower, stepped towers (prāsat hin and stepped pyramids), prang and the phra that. These are defined as individual entries in this glossary.
chetiya, cetiya (P), caitya (S)
This word means “a memorial” and originally designated a funeral mound. However it came to be applied to anything that serves to recall some deceased person. The term has been adopted by Buddhists to include the bodily relics of the Buddha, articles used by him, such as his robes and begging bowl, the sacred sites of his career, the bodhi tree under which he attained enlightenment, records of his words, pictures or images of his person, his footprints, monuments built to contain any of the above and replicas of any of these things. The word chetiya is also used as an adjective to describe a particular style of arch and window which appeared in early cave temples in India. See chedī .
chī or mae chī
See under upāsaka.
Chiengsaen - เชียงแสน (T)
A town of extreme North Thailand, an early capital of the Thai people. This name is used to designate the art style produced in North Thailand between the 12th and 19th c., which style is alternatively labelled as “Northern Thai”.
chofa - ช่อฟ้า (T)
The word for the finial at the end of the ridge of each of the multiple roofs of a bot or wihān in Central Thailand. The word means “bunch of sky” or “sky tassel”. It often appears to be a stylized bird, either a garuda or a hamsa. See garuda, hamsa, bot, wihān.
Chunda, Cunda (S, P), Cun - จุนท์ (T)
The blacksmith who served the Buddha his final meal before his parinibbāna.
Chundā, Cundā (S)
A Vajrayāna Buddhist goddess with bodhisattva rank, one of the Tārās, an emanation of Vajrasattva. See Vajrayāna, Tārā, Vajrasattva.
The “lost wax” process of casting bronze images. A fire-proof central core is first constructed, usually of clay. Next a wax model of the desired object is molded upon this core. Additional clay is applied outside the wax layer along with clamps and ducts. The object is then heated, the wax melts and flows out the ducts, and molten bronze is poured in to replace the wax.
An overlapping arrangement of stones, each course projecting beyond the one below, used in constructing roofs and arches.
An ornamental, horizontal molding that projects along the top of a wall, pillar, building, etc.
The name for a relic shrine or stūpa in Sri Lanka. The name derives from dhātugarbha (S, P) which means a relic chamber; dhātu means relic. See stūpa.
One of a group of female divinities of low rank of Vajrayāna Buddhism, which may have either a pacific or angry form. There is one group of five dākinīs which are connected with the five jinas, holding a wheel, thunderbolt, jewel, lotus, and double thunderbolt respectively. The texts also speak of a group of eight who were born of the union of Hevajra and his shakti Nairatmya. Each of these eight guards one of the eight directions. Each is depicted as performing a dance on the corpse of a Hindu god, who represents ignorance. Her right hand is uplifted and her right foot is raised and touches the inner side of her left leg below the knee, suggesting a frenzied dance. She has a third eye. Each has her own attributes. Dākinīs may be distinguished from the apsaras by the presence of the third eye, the angry expression and the dance on a corpse. In Lamaism some dākinīs are animal-headed. In Hinduism a dākinī is a female imp or fiend who waits upon Kālī and feeds upon human flesh. See Vajrayāna, jina, shakti, apsaras, Lamaism, Kālī, Hevajra.
deva (S, P), thewa - เทวะ (T), thewadā - เทวะดา (T) thep- เทพ (T), thepphaya - เทพย (T), thepphayajaw- เทพยเจ้า (T) thepphayadā- เทพยดา (T) male forms; devī (S, P), thephathidā- เทพธิดา (T), thewī- เทวี (T) female forms
Celestial beings who live in one of the six lower heavens of Buddhist cosmology, usually translated as “god” or “goddess”. A deva is subject to rebirth. The word derives from the Indo-European div, “to shine”. A deva is thus a bright shining force.
Devadatta (S, P), เทวทัต (T)
A jealous cousin of the Buddha who frequently plotted to harm him.
devarāja (S) , devarājā (P)
A title meaning “king of the gods” often applied to Indra and to the Buddha. In Java and Cambodia a cult of the devarāja developed which claimed that the king was an emanation of a god and would be reunited with that god upon death. The king built a temple at the center of his capital which was considered to be at the center of the cosmos. A worshipper of Vishnu or the Buddha installed an image of his chief deity in the center of this temple. A Shavite king erected a linga there. Such images were symbols of the power of the god which was embodied in the king. Often at death the king was entombed in the same temple to signify his reunion with the godhead. See Vishnu, Shiva, linga.
A goddess. See deva.
Devī (S, P)
The shakti of Shiva, who has many forms. Her mild forms include Umā (light), Guari (white), Pārvatī (daughter of the mountain), Satī (the virtuous one), Anapūrna (the bestower of much good), Haimāvatī (born of the Himalayas) , Jagamāta (mother of the world), and Bhāvani (the female creator). As a terrible character she may be Durgā (inaccessible), Kālī (black or time), Syāmā (black), Candī or Candikā (fierce), or Bhairavī (terrible). See shakti.
dhamma (P), dharma (S), tham - ธรรม (T)
This word has a number of meanings in both Hinduism and Buddhism which would require a detailed discussion of doctrine to fully explain. In general, the term means law, truth, reality, or righteousness. In Theravāda Buddhism, it refers to the teachings of the Buddha as contained in the Tipitaka, the Pāli scriptures. In Mahāyānism dhamma is equivalent to ultimate reality or buddhahood in its abstract sense. See Theravāda, Mahāyāna, Tipitaka, Buddha, Tiratana, Tisarana.
dhammacakka (P), dharmacakra (S), thamacak- ธรรมจักร (T)
The Wheel of the Law, a symbol for the Buddha's first sermon., when he set the wheel (cakka) into motion to start his teachings (dhamma) spinning throughout the world. In art this symbol is often accompanied by a pair of listening doer because the first sermon was preached in the Deer Park at Sarnath in North India. See dhamma, chakra.
dhammapāla (P), dharmapāla (S), ธรรมบาล (T)
A “guardian” or “defender” (pāla) of the “law” (dhamma). In Vajrayāna Buddhism, the dhammapālas have the duty of waging war against demons and enemies of the faith. There are eight plus one female. Kuvera has a dhammapāla form and is the only non-ferocious one. In Nepal and Tibet, they are frequently depicted with a shakti in yabyum. See Vajrayāna, Kuvera, shakti, yabyum.
An Indian skirt -like garment for men which is draped around the lower part of the body.
dhyāna (S), jhāna (P), ญาณ (T)
An advanced stage of concentration in which the meditator has relinquished all mental objects and feelings in favor of perfect equanimity, calm and balance. See meditation.
See āsana (2).
Dona (P), Drona (S), Thona Phrāhm - โทณพราหมณ์ (T)
A Brāhman sage who divided the relics of the Buddha among eight warring kings after his cremation.
dukkha (P), duhkha (S), thuk - ทุกข์ (T)
Suffering, unsatisfactoriness, misery: the first of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism. See Four Noble Truths
Durgā (S), ทุรกา (T)
A form of Devī, the shakti of Shiva. In this form she rides on a tiger and fights the buffalo demon Mahisha, a favorite theme in the art of both India and Java, See shakti, Devi, Mahishasuramardini.
dvārapāla (S,P), ทวารบาล (T)
A dvāra is a door; a dvārapāla is a door guardian. In Southeast Asia, the dvārapāla who guard the entrances to temples are often equipped with a club or mace.
Dvāravatī, (S), ทวารวดี (T)
A Mon kingdom which existed in Thailand from about the 6th or 7th c. A.D. to the llth c.; the name is also applied to the art produced during that period.
An ornament supporting or appearing to support the roof eaves. On temples in Central Thailand, the eave bracket is often in the shape of a nāga with tail uppermost at the edge of the roof and head bent back resting against the pillar of the building.
Eightfold Path, atthangika-magga (P), astangika-mārga (S), mak paet - มรรคแปด (T)
The Eightfold Path is the last of the Four Noble Truths of the Buddha's teaching; it outlines the steps one should follow in order to eliminate craving and suffering and thus attain nibbāna. These eight steps are right understanding, right thoughts, right speech, right actions, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. See Four Noble Truths and nibbāna.
A triangular decoration on the facade of a bot or wihān located at the point where the tie beam of a short column forms an angle with an adjacent taller column. Thus it is located on the external side of the tall column and above the tie beam of the parallel shorter column. See tie beam.
Four Encounters, Four Sights, or Four Signs
Four sights encountered by Prince Siddhāttha which made him aware of suffering and led to his decision to renounce the worldly life of the palace and become an ascetic. The Four Encounters in Theravāda Buddhism were an old man, a sick man, a dead man, and a monk. Some Mahāyāna Buddhists replace the sight of the monk with that of a woman in childbirth.
Four Noble Truths, cattāri ariya saccāni (P), catvāri ārya satyāni (S), ariyasa tsī - อริยสัจสี่ (T)
The basic teaching of the Buddha that (1) suffering (dukkha) exists; (2) craving is the cause of suffering; (3) suffering ceases with the quelling of craving; (4) craving can be quelled and suffering annihilated by following the Eightfold Path. See Eightfold Path.
The French term for pediment. See pediment.
Fūnan, ฟูนัน (T)
The kingdom which dominated the Mekong and Chao Phya valleys and Malay Peninsula from approximately the 2nd -6th c. A.D.
The recessed face of a pediment on the gable end of a building, triangular in shape, located between the two slanting roof eaves and the horizontal tie beam. This corresponds to the Western architectural term “tympanum” and differs from the Western use of “gable board”, which design ates a board hanging in the gable rather than the entire triangular face of the gable.
An “elephant-lion”. See khotchasī.
gandhabba (P), gandharva (S), คนธรรพ์ (T)
Male heavenly musicians, guardians of the soma, husbands of the apsaras. In India kinnaras are a sub-group of the gandhabbas. See soma, kinnara, apsaras.
Ganesha, Ganesa (S), คเณศ (T)
The elephant-headed god of knowledge and of the underworld, the guardian of doors, the remover of obstacles; the son of Shiva and Pārvatī. He was the chief of the troops of inferior deities who were attendant upon Shiva Once while defending Pārvatī's door, he refused entry to Shiva and the latter, angry, beheaded his son. Upon Pārvatī's entreaties, he saved Ganesha's life by giving him the head of the next creature he encountered, which happened to be an elephant. Ganesha has many forms; a favorite in Southeast Asia is his terrible form as god of the underworld, when he wears a necklace of skulls and drinks with his trunk from a skull cup. Ganesha's mount is the rat.
garland molding, malai luk kaew (T)
A repeated molding, convex with circular crosssection, occurring below the bell of a stūpa.
Garuda, garuda (S), garula (P), kruth (K,T), ครุฑ (T)
A giant mythical bird, the king of birds, enemy of the nāgas, the vehicle of Vishnu. In Cambodia he was often depicted with a human body but with the wings, legs and beak of a bird. He is a royal symbol in Thailand because the king is considered to be an incarnation of Vishnu.
ghantā, ghanta (S, P), grading - กระดิ่ง (T)
A handbell used in Trantric worship. See Tantric Buddhism.
gold leaf, thong khamplao - ทองคำเปลว (T)
Gold pounded to less than tissue paper thickness and divided into pieces approximately one inch square. These are applied to holy objects for decoration or to show honor.
Gotama (P, S), โคตม (T)
The clan name of the historic Buddha. The name Gautama, often encountered, means “relating to Gotama”.
A mountain lifted by Krishna to shelter the herdsmen and their cattle from a storm caused by Indra. See Krishna and Indra.
Prince Siddhāttha's departure from his palace at the age of twenty-nine to become an ascetic to seek the cause of human suffering.
Prince Siddhāttha's silent, secret leave-taking from his wife and newborn son and the relinquishing of his throne to lead the life of an ascetic.
An Indian dynasty centered in the Ganges valley, dominant c. A.D. 320-535; the name of the Indian art style of that period.
hamsa, hamsa (P, S), hansa (P, S), hong or hongse - หงส์ (T)
A goose, gander, or swan, the vehicle of Brahmā.
hāng hong or hāng hongse - หางหงส์ (T)
Hang means “tail” or “end”. Hong is “goose”. Hāng hong thus means the “goose at the end” or “tail of the goose”. This term is applied to the volute ornamenting the lower end of the barge board on Central Thai temple buildings. This actually is in the shape of a nāga head and has nothing to do with a hong or goose. See hamsa and barge board.
Hanumān (P, S), หนุมาน (T)
A monkey general who assisted Rāma in the struggle with Rāvana in the Rāmāyana. He was the son of the wind god Vāyu; he could fly and could dive to the bottom of the sea.
Harihara (S), หริหระ (T)
Hari is a name for Vishnu; Hara refers to Shiva. Harihara is thus a deity who is a combination of these two gods, the result of an attempt popular in Cambodia to effect a synthesis of these two branches of Hinduism. Harihara wears Vishnu's tiara on one side and Shiva's plaited locks on the other and holds the main attributes of both gods. He was not popular in India.
The railing surmounting the dome of an Indian stūpa.
A giant mythical bird said to be as big as a house. It possesses the head of a rātchasī, the trunk and tusks of an elephant, and the cock's comb of a khotchasī. See rātchasī and khotchasī.
hera - เหรา (T)
A mythical monster often depicted at the end of an arch in Thailand. It is distinguishable from a makara primarily in that its teeth meet its nostrils, whereas a makara has a long trunk. It has the body of a nāga. Like a makara, it often spews forth from its open mouth another creature, flowers, or a flame-like motif. See nagā and makara.
Hevajra (S), เหวัชระ (T)
A tutelary or protective deity in Tantric Buddhism with the rank of a buddha. He has eight heads, sixteen arms, and two or four legs. In Tibet he is usually depicted in yabyum with his shakti, but in Cambodia and Thailand he appears alone, in dancing posturet with his left foot crushing a. demon and his right leg bent with the foot touching the left leg above the knee. He wears ornaments and has a third eye. On mandalas he sometimes occupies the center as a representative of Vajrasattva. See Tantric Buddhism, yabyum, shakti, mandala, Vajrasattva, dākini.
Himaphān (P, T), Himavat (S), หิมพานต์ (T)
The Himaphān forest often mentioned in Buddhist literature and depicted in traditional Thai painting is a mythical forest located in the Himālayas below the heavens of the gods. It is inhabited by both real and imaginary animals.
Hīnayanā (S), หินยาน (T)
Yana means “way”, “means”, or “career”; Hīnayanā means “the lesser way”. This was a derogatory term applied to one branch of Buddhism by another which called itself the Mahāyāna, the “greater way”. Yāna pertains to the teaching that can transport one to the highest goal, Mahāyāna, which is nibbāna for the Hīnayānists and union with the universal Buddha for the Mahāyānists. The Hīnayāna is closer to the original teachings of the Buddha. At one time there were many sects in the Hīnayāna branch of Buddhism, but today only one remains, the Theravāda practised today in Ceylon and throughout mainland Southeast Asia. See Mahāyāna, Theravāda.
The prevailing religion of modern India, derived from ancient Brahmanism. Individual Hindus may be devotees of Devī (the “goddess"), Shiva or Vishnu, but all share a common faith in a universal spirit called Brahman. See Brahman, Brahmanism, Devī, Shiva, Vishnu.
ho klong - หอกลอง (T) (both o’s pronounced like ou in cough.)
The drum tower of a Thai monastery,
hong or hongse
ho rakhang - หอระฆัง (T) (o pronounced like ou in cough)
The bell tower of a Thai monastery.
ho trai - หอไตร (T) or ho phra traipidok - หอพระไตรปิฎก (T) (o pronounced like ou in cough)
The library of a Thai monastery, its name derived from the Tipitaka which it houses. See Tipitaka.
hti (Burmese), com hae (T)
A decorative element in the shape of a lacy umbrella which often crowns the mast of a Buddhist stūpa in Burma and North Thailand. It is a form of the chatta, an emblem of royalty or divinity. See chatta.
This word pertains to the illustration of a subject by means of drawings or figures. In religious art, each deity has his own iconography, which means that the artist must include certain definite features when he portrays that deity. These features include details of anatomy, dress, posture, hand position, and attributes, all of which were closely prescribed by ancient Indian canons. The knowledgeable observer can instantly recognize the deity being depicted by the presence of these stereotyped features.
Inaw or Enau - อิเหนา (T)
A myth and classical dance drama which originated in Java and was introduced into Thailand near the end of the Ayudhyā period. It was rewritten during the reigns of Rāma I and II. The latter version is still popular in Thailand.
Indra (S, P), Prah En (K), Phra Indǿ พระอินทร์ (T); also called Sakka (P), Sakra (S)
In Vedic times Indra was one of the most important gods. He was the king of the gods, the ruler of Tavatimsa Heaven, an area on the summit of Mount Meru where lived the thirty-three gods who were most directly concerned with man's welfare, along with their one hundred thousand retainers. He ruled the firmament and the atmosphere, thus controlling the weather, and wielded the thunderbolt. He retained his position in Buddhist times and thus frequently enters the legends of the Life of the Buddha. He is often depicted along with Brāhmā as an attendant of the Buddha. In ancient Cambodia he was popular as the god of the sky. He is usually depicted as richly clad and bejewelled, wearing a high tiara or turban. He may carry a thunderbolt, a disc, an elephant goad, and an axe with which he cleaves mountains to make rivers flow. His mount is the elephant Airāvata or Erāwan, In mere recent times his status has suffered in comparison with Vishnu and Shiva. He is the lokapāla of the east in Hindu cosmology. See Veda, Meru, Brāhmā, lokapāla.
Jambupati (S, P), Chomphūbadī- ชมพูบดี (T)
A mythical Indian emperor who was too vain to listen to the Buddha's teachings. The Buddha thereupon changed himself into an even more magnificent emperor with a more dazzling palace and invited Jambupati to come to visit him. The experience humbled Jambupati sufficiently to make him receptive to the Buddha's teachings. Southeast Asians say that their Buddha images which wear crowns and royal regalia represent the Buddha when he was preaching to King Jambupati. This story is apparently a Southeast Asian addition to the legend of the Buddha; it does not appear in Buddhist literature in India or Ceylon.
jatā (S, P) or jatāmukuta (S), jatāmongkut - ชฎามงกุฎ (T)
Jata is a noun designating the tangled hair worn by an ascetic. A mukuta is a tiara, diadem, or crown. A jatāmukuta is thus a crown of matted hair, and refers to the hair of Shiva or other ascetics. See kirītamukuta
Jātaka (S, P), ชาดก (T)
This word means “birth story”. The Jātakas are a collection of approximately 547 tales of previous lives of the Buddha. The stories of the last ten lives preceding the Buddha's birth as Prince Siddhāttha are the most popular in Thailand. Collectively these ten are called the Tosachāt or Totsachāt ( ทศชาติ, ทดสะชาด ), meaning ten (tosa or totsa - ทศ ) births (chat - ชาต). Each of these represents one virtue which the future Buddha practiced to perfection before he was ready to attain enlightenment. The last birth is the most popular of all, called the Mahāchāt, the Great Birth, when the bodhisatta was born as the Prince Vessantara, who demonstrated total selfless giving.
See kamphaeng kaeo.
This term means “conqueror”, “victorious one”. It was a name often applied to the historic Buddha. In Vajrayāna Buddhism, the idea evolved that five jinas collectively constitute the body of the universe. These jinas are buddhas who are constantly meditating but who have each created a great bodhisattva who in turn has created everything else in the universe. The earliest of these jinas to appear in Buddhist literature was Amitābha, c. 2nd c. A.D. The group of five was formulated in about the 6th c. A.D. Early in the llth c, appeared the concept of the Ādi-Buddha, a primordial being who supposed created the five jinas.
Each jina is assigned a specific location in Buddhist cosmology, and is positioned accordingly on mandalas. Each also has a specific mudra, although in theory all are supposed to be eternally meditating. They wear monastic garb, although the Tantric Buddhists recognized a revealed form of each jina who wore princely ornaments. Amitāyus is the revealed form of Amitābha, for example.
The five jinas with their directions and mudrās are as follows:
Vairocana, center, dharmacakramudrā
Akshobhya, east, bhumisparsamudrā
Patnasambhave, south, left hand on lap holding jewel; right in varamudrā
Amitābha, west, dhyānamudrā
Amoghasiddhi, north, left hand in lap holding a double thunderbolt or sword, right in abhayamudra
Western writers have traditionally used the expression dhyāni-buddha for these five beings, but Buddhologists today believe this was tased on faulty Sanskrit. Both the Buddhist scriptures and the oral traditions of Tibet used the term jina for this concept.
See Vajrayāna, Tantric Buddhism, Ādi Buddha, Amibtābha, Buddha, bodhisattva, mandala, mudrā.
Kailāsa (S) ไกรลาศ (T)
A mountain in the Himālayas, the abode of Shiva and Pārvatī and of Kuvera. See Shiva and Kuvera.
kāla, กาล (T)
The Khmer, Indonesian, and Thai term for Indian kīrtimukha. See kīrtimukha.
kāla (m.) (S), kālī (f.) (S)
These terms connote time and energy, the wheel of birth, death and rebirth and the creation, maintenance, and destruction of the universe. These have been personified as Mahākāla, a form of Shiva, and Kālī or Mahākālī, a form of his consort Devī, both representing the terrifying, destructive aspects of time. Mahākāla is a protective deity and a dharmapāla in Lamaism also. In ancient java Shiva as Mahākāla served as dvārapāla. See Kālī, dhammapāla, dvarapāla.
kalasa (S), kalasa (P), กลศ (T)
A waterpot, pitcher or jar, believed to hold the amrita, the Water of Life. This is a frequent attribute of Padmapāni, Kuan-yin, Maitreya and Kuvera. This term is sometimes applied also to the pinnacle crowning a stūpa.
Kālī or Mahākālī (S) กาลี (T)
A terrifying form of Devī, the consort of Shiva; the earth mother, with black skin and a hideous tusked face, smeared with blood. Her ornaments include snakes, skulls, and the figures of children. Once she killed a demon who had been granted the special power of having a new demon spring forth from every drop of his blood that touched the ground, so Kālī drank his blood as it gushed forth. That experience gave her a powerful thirst for blood; thus her worship traditionally involved sacrificial killing. She has four arms and holds a weapon and the head of the demon dripping blood. In India she ranks with Shiva and Vishnu as a popular object of worship. See kāla.
kāma (S, P), kām or kāmā - กาม or กามา (T)
In Hinduism, kāma means love, desire or pleasure and the object of love, desire and pleasure. This has been personified as Kāma, the god of love. In Buddhism, kāma refers to objects of the senses and visible phenomena.
kamma (P), karma (S), kam or kamma - กรรม (T)
This word basically means “action” or “doing”. The idea of kamma is linked closely to samsāra or transmigration. Both Hindus and Buddhists accept the idea of an endless chain of rebirths based upon cause and effect. One is reborn in a condition commensurate with the law of kamma; one's new birth is dependent upon the cumulative effect of one's actions in past lives. One's condition in this life is thus predetermined. Hindus are inclined to be fatalistic with regard to their ability to effect any change of their condition in samsāra or the Wheel of Life. But Buddhism stresses that the individual through his own volition can perform good or bad action (kamma) which can improve or lower his condition in future rebirths. Both religions emphasize the necessity to escape (moksha) from the laws of kamma or the chain of cause and effect. Each school of Hinduism has its own method of achieving this release, whether it be yoga, ascetism, spiritual study, bhakti, etc. The Buddhist nibbāna is a form of moksha, an escape from the effects of kamma. Because the root of action or kamma is thirst or desire for action, all types of craving, desire or thirst must be eliminated and then kamma will cease. When kamma ceases, rebirth ceases, and one attains nibbāna. See samsāra.
kamphaeng kaeo - กำแพงแก้ว (T)
A “Jewelled Wall”, a decorated wall built in a temple or palace to set off a specially sacred area. The buildings within the Jewelled Wall are devoted to ritual or sacred purposes; residences and rest houses lie outside this wall.
Kanthaka (P), Kanthaka (S), กัณฐกะ (T)
The horse belonging to Prince Siddhāttha which was born on the same day as the prince and died shortly after the Great Departure. See Great Departure.
Kapilavatthu (P), Kapilavastu (S), Kapilaphat - กบิลพัสดุ (T)
The birthplace of the Buddha in ancient India, now in southern Nepal. This was the capital of the Gotama clan of the Shākyas, where Prince Siddhāttha's father Suddhodana ruled as chieftain.
A mythical creature who combines the features of a bird and a man. It lives in the clouds and has a voice so beautiful that other birds stop to admire it. The Buddha's voice was compared to the singing of the kārawek.
khana – คณะ (T), gana (P, S)
A term meaning “group” or “section”, used to designate a group of kutis in a Thai monastery. See kuti.
Khmer, Khom - ขอม (T) (o like ou in cough)
A noun and adjective pertaining to the ancient inhabitants of Cambodia, who established a powerful kingdom and ruled over much of Indochina from the 7th-14th c. A.D.
khotchasī - คชสีห์ or khotchasing - คชสิงห์ (T), gajasimha (P, S)
Khot ( คช ) and gaja mean “elephant”. Khot is merely the Thai way of pronouncing the same letters which are pronounced as gaja in Sanskrit and Pāli. Sing and simha mean “lion”. The combined term refers to a mythical animal which has a lion's body and an elephant's trunk. In early Thailand it was believed to be an elephant that was as fierce as a lion. Then it began to be represented as a lion but with a short trunk and tusks instead of fangs. Still later, it was drawn with the head of an elephant but it was given a cock's comb which stood straight up in a triangle. This distinguished it from an elephant, whose tuft of hair fell over its forehead, and from a lion, whose mane fell back over the crown.
kinnara (P), kimnara (S), kenor (K), kinnon กินนร (T) - male forms; kinnari (P,T) kimnari (S), kenarey (K), (T) - female forms
The Sanskrit word kimnara means “what sort of (kim) man (nara)?” The term originally designated a mythical being who had a human body and the head of a horse or vice versa. In later times, the kinnara became a combination of bird and man, with a human bust and head and the wings and feet of a bird. This is its interpretation in Thailand. In India the kinnara was a subgroup of the gandhabbas, heavenly musicians. But in Thailand they are included among the mythical creatures of the Himaphān forest. See Himaphān.
A mukuta is a tiara, diadem or crown: a kirīta is a bejewelled tiara, diadem or crown. Kirītamukuta is the terra commonly used for the crown worn by Vishnu and Surya, whereas jatāmukuta is the term for Shiva's crown of matted locks.
kīrtimukha (S), kīrtimuk - กีรติมุข (T)
Kīrti means “fame” or “glory”; mukha means “face”. Kīrtimukha is thus the “face of glory”. This is the terra popular in India for the mask -like creature appearing above temple doorways. The same creature is called a kāla in Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand, or sometimes Panaspati in Indonesia. There are various myths as to the origin of the kīrtimukha, most of which show some connection to Shiva. This creature- now serves as a protector of shrines for both Hindus and Buddhists. It is often combined with a pair of makara (the kālamakara motif) which also serve as guardians. The kīrtimukha is usually represented as merely a face with two horns, round bulbous eyes, a human or lion's nose, wide mouth with teeth, and may or may not have a lower jaw. It is iconographically similar to Rahu except the latter usually has arms and hands and holds a moon in its mouth. See Panaspati, makara, Rāhu.
kranok - กระหนก or kanok - กนก (T)
A tripartite flame design in Thailand.
krāp - กราบ (T)
To pay obeisance to a respected parson or object by putting both hands together to the forehead, kneeling, and bending forward until the hands rest on the floor. Compare with wai.
Krishna, Krsna (S), กฤษณะ (T)
Krishna’s first appeared in the Indian epic, the Mahābhārata, where he served as a charioteer for Arjuna, one of the Pāndava brothers. In the pages of that epic, Krishna delivered the Bhagavad Gītā, religious poem of great significance, in which he revealed himself to be a form of the Supreme Being. His cult flourished in medieval India and he was accepted as the eighth avatār of Vishnu. Legends about his life multiplied. Especially popular in ancient Cambodia was the tale o£ his lifting Mount Govardhana into the air to shelter the herdsmen from a storm caused by Indra. See Mahābhārata, avatār.
kru - กรุ (T)
A cavity inside a stūpa, usually filled with relics or images of the Buddha or treasures such as gold objects and other precious things presented to the Buddha.
Kshatriya, ksatriya (S), kasat - กษัตริย์ (T) or กษัตร (T)
A member of the warrior or ruling class in India, the second of India's four classes. The Brāhmans are now considered to be higher, although originally the Kshatriyas had the leading position. The Buddha was born as a member of this class. The Kshatriyas had the duty of protecting and governing the society. The Thai word kasat now means “king”.
See Avalokitesvara and Prajnāpāramitā.
kudu (S), กุทุ (T)
A blind ornamental arch used in architectural decoration, often containing a figure of the Buddha, a human head or a plant motif. Its shape is derived from the chetiya arch found on the facade of early cave temples in India.
kundala (S), กุณฑล (T)
A turtle. See Vishnu.
See asana (1)
Kushinagara, Kusinagara (S), Kusinārā - กุสินารา (T)
The place where the Buddha died and where his remains were cremated and divided among eight kings, located in what is now Northern Bihar in India.
kuti - กุฏิ (T), kuti (P)
The monks’ living quarters in a monastery. These are usually small wooden or masonry structures arranged in groups of four around a central courtyard or platform where eating and other communal activities take place. The group of four kutis is called a khana. This same Thai word pronounced kut can mean a cell, a grave, or a dovecote.
Kuvera or Kubera (S), กุเวร (T)
Kuvera appeared in Vedic times as the chief of the yakshas, semi-divine beings who lived in the shadows and darkness. In Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism he became the god of wealth and the lokapāla of the north, still retaining his position as chief of the yakshas. He once lived in Sri Lanka, but his palace there was seized by Rāvana, who according to some sources was his half-brother. Vishvakarma, the architect of the gods, then built him a new palace on Mt. Kailāsa in the Himālayas, although some say his abode is on Mt. Meru. He is waited upon by yakshas and kinnaras and guards the wealth of the world. In Mahāyana Buddhism he is sometimes called Jambala. In that religion he has a dharmapāla form also. In both Northern Buddhism and in Java he is depicted as a corpulent dwarf, crowned and bejewelled like a king, seated in the posture of royal ease (lalitāsana), usually carrying a lemon or pomegranate in one hand and a mongoose spitting jewels in the other. Under his pendent foot or elsewhere on his pedestal are usually some moneybags, symbolizing his role as the god of wealth. See yaksha, lokapāla, Rāvana, Vishvakarma, Kailāsa, Meru, kinnara, dharmapāla, āsana.
lacquer, lai rot nam - ลายรดน้ำ (T)
In Southeast Asia lacquer is an oleo-resin substance manufactured as a result of the puncturing of certain species of trees by a small hemipterous insect, thereby combining a secretion from its body with the sap of the tree. In China, lacquer is derived from the sap of a lac tree (Rhus vernicifera), a poisonous sumac indigenous to China. In both cases the sap is strained and cooked slowly to remove impurities and excess moisture. It can then be colored; in Thailand black lacquer is used most frequently. This substance is extremely durable; it is impervious to water, weather, insects and time. It can be used in a variety of ways, as paint, as an inlay, or as a medium for incision or carving. In the latter case as many as a hundred layers may be applied, each having to be dried and buffed before the application of the next. In Thailand lacquer is used most often with gold leaf in architectural decoration and to adorn chests and bookcases used for religious texts. Several coats of black lacquer are first applied. Then the design is sketched on, a special yellow paint is applied to portions of the design that are to remain black, and gold leaf is attached to the entire surface. After drying, the object is washed. The gold leaf adheres to the areas where it was applied directly to the lacquer, but the yellow paint and the gold leaf attached to it washes off. The gold design thus appears on the black background. The Thai term for lacquer work, lai rot nam, means “a design washed with water” reflecting this manufacturing process.
lakshana, laksana (S), lakkhana (P), laksana - ลักษณะ (T) or lakkhana - ลักขะหนะ (T)
This word means a “trait” or “characteristic”. It is applied especially to the thirty-two supernatural marks plus secondary marks which distinguish the body of a mahāpurusa, a great man, including the Buddha. Such marks are the ushnisha, ūrnā, elongated earlobes, arms that reach to the knees, a chin like a mango, etc.
Lakshmana, Laksmana (S), Lakshama - ลักษมณ์ (T) or Phra Lak - พระลัก (T)
A brother of Rāma in the epic Rāmāyana who shared his exile and assisted in the battle with Rāvana.
Lakshmī, Laksmī (S), Laksamī - ลักษมี (T)
The consort of Vishnu; the goddess of beauty and good fortune. She was reincarnated along with Vishnu each time the latter appeared on earth as one of his avatārs. For example, she was born as Sītā, the wife of Rāma, and as Rukminī, the principal wife of Krishna. She was one of the products of the churning of the sea by the demons and gods. Because she emerged from the waters holding a lotus, the lotus is one of her attributes and she often has a lotus pedestal or throne. In this role she is Padmā, meaning lotus, and is equated with the earth mother, responsible for the life-giving forces of the universe. In ancient India she often appeared seated between two elephants who sprinkled her with water, signifying her role as earth mother. In Thailand such scenes are usually interpreted as representing the birth of the Buddha, the seated figure being Mahā Māyā, the mother of the Buddha. Mahā Māyā is sometimes considered to be the Theravāda Buddhist equivalent of the Hindu Padmā, although Buddhist artists frequently assign Thorani the role of earth mother. Mahāyāna Buddhists often think of Prajñapāramitā or Kuan-yin as the earth mother. Lakshmī is also known as Shrī (Srī - S), reflecting her role as the goddess of good fortune. In Java, Srī has become the goddess of rice and is the center of a cult quite independent of Vishnu. There she is the frequent subject of folk sculpture. See Krishna, Vishnu, Mahā Māyā, Thorani, Prajñāpāramitā, Kuan-yin.
See āsana (2)
A Sanskrit text which relates the traditional legend of the Life of the Buddha. This was originally the work of the Hīnayāna Sarvāstivada sect but was appropriated and elaborated by the Mahāyānists.
The version of Tantric Buddhism practised in Tibet and Mongolia. See Tantric Buddhism.
Lānnā Thai - ลานนาไทย (T)
A kingdom of North Thailand centered at Chieng Mai, which flourished from the 13th - 16th c. A.D.
A deposit of red or brown clay or earth produced by the decomposition of rocks, It results from the removal of most of the mineral from the rock and the substitution of other mineral matter held in solution by rain water which has saturated the rock. Laterite is soft when first unearthed but becomes hard when exposed to air. It is a frequent building material in Thailand and Cambodia.
lingā (P), linga (S), ling - ลิงค์ (T)
A phallic emblem, a representation of the male organ of generation, a symbol of Shiva and his role in creation. It is called a mukha linga when a face is added to its surface. The linga is often worshipped in conjunction with a yoni. See yoni.
lintel, thap lang - ทับหลัง (T)
A crossbeam resting on two upright posts. On a Khmer temple the lintel is above the door or window opening, directly below the pediment. See pediment,
lokapāla (S, P), โลกบาล (T)
This word means "world protector". In Hindu mythology, there are eight lokapāla presiding over the eight directions, as follows: (1) Indra, east; (2) Agni, southeast; (3) Yama, south; (4) Sūrya or Nirriti, southwest; (5) Varuna, west: (6) Vāyu, northwest; (7) Kuvera, north; (8) Soma, Prithivī or Shiva, northeast. Each of these possesses an elephant who is also called a lokapāla. In Buddhism there may be four, eight, ten or fourteen lokapāla varying according to sect. Only Kuvera appears on both the Hindu and Buddhist lists. Four lokapāla enter frequently into the legend of the Life of the Buddha. During Mahā Māyā's dream of the white elephant, the lokapāla carried her couch to the forest. When Prince Siddhāttha left his palace the lokapāla each held one of the horse's hoofs to deaden the hoofbeats. After his enlightenment the lokapāla brought him four bowls which he combined into one for his own use. See Indra, Agni, Yama, Sūrya, Kuvera, soma, Shiva, Mahā Māyā, Siddhāttha, Great Departure.
Lokesvara (S), โลเกศวร (T)
A name meaning “lord” (isvara) “of the world” tfgyy (loka). He is a form of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara who was the center of a popular cult in ancient Cambodia. The Bayon temples, for example, were dedicated to him, his face appearing on its towers surveying the world in every direction. He also frequently appeared in Khmer inscriptions and on bas-reliefs and votive tablets in a trinity along with Prajnaparamita and the Buddha. In Khmer sculpture, his usual attributes are the rosary, book, flask and lotus. A figure of the Jina Amitābha appears on his headdress. Occasionally he wears a Brahmanical cord or an antelope skin. See Avalokitesvara, Prajñāpāramitā, Amitābha, jina.
Lopburī - ลพบุรี (T)
A city in central Thailand which existed as early as Dvāravatī times and served as a provincial capital under Khmer suzerainty from the llth -14th c. A.D. This name is applied to the art produced in Central Thailand during this Khmer period. Lawo or Lavo ( ละโว้ ) is an ancient name for Lopburī.
luk nimit> - ลูกนิมิตร (T)
A large round stone about the size of a cannon ball buried in the ground and serving as the boundary marker for the consecrated area used for a bot. Altogether there are nine of these stones, one beneath the center of the bot, one at each corner and one at the center of each side. The positions of the last eight are marked above the ground by bai semā. See bot and bai semā.
Lumbinī (S), Lumpinī - ลุมพินี (T)
The park near Kapilavatthu where Prince Siddhāttha was born; a park in Bangkok named after the above.
See under upāsaka
Mahābhārata (S) มหาภารต (T)
An epic poem of ancient India which describes a vast civil war in which most of the North Indian city-states participated. It is an encyclopedic mixture of ancient Hindu tales and legends and later additions, including the devotional masterpiece, the Bhagavad Gītā and the epic Rāmāyana. Tales from the Mahābhārata were frequently depicted on bas-reliefs in Java and Cambodia as well as serving as a theme for drama. See Rāmāyana.
A form of Shiva popular in Java, meaning “the great god”. He usually wears a tiger's skin about his loins, has a crescent in his headdress, wears a sacred thread in the shape of a snake, and carries a fly whisk, a rosary and a bottle.
See under kāla, kālī.
Maha Kassapa(P), Mahā Kāsyapa (S), พระมหากัสสป (T)
The monk who succeeded the Buddha as leader of the Sangha. He is often depicted as an elderly monk accompanied by the youthful Ānanda. This was also the surname of three brothers who were leaders of large groups of ascetics and who were included among the Buddha's early converts. See Ānanda and Sangha.
Mahā Māyā (S, P)
A name meaning “great illusion”. In Hinduism this is one of the names for Devī, the shakti of Shiva, implying that she personifies the illusory visible world he has created through his līlā or cosmic dance. It is also the name for the mother of the Buddha, and in this context may also imply the idea of illusion. According to Mahāyānists, the birth of the Buddha as the son of Mahā Māyā was purely illusory, as the human Buddha was merely a reflection of the eternal Buddha. In Theravāda Buddhism Mahā Māyā has assumed to some extent the role of earth mother, transferred from the Hindu Kālī or Lakshmī-Padmā.
In Vajrayāna Buddhism there is another Mahāmāyā who serves as a male protective deity.
See Devī, Lakshmī, shakti, Shiva, Mahāyāna, Vajrayāna.
Mahā Prajapati (S)
The sister of Mahā Māyā and aunt of Prince Siddhāttha, who became the latter’s foster mother when Mahā Māyā died seven days after the prince's birth. An alternate name is Gautami. Mahā Māyā and Mahā Prajāpati were both wives of Suddhodana.
mahāpurusa (S), mahāpurisa (P)
A great man, a hero, a man destined to become a ruler or a world savior, the possessor of the thirty-two lakshanas. See lakshana.
See āsana (2).
See under Theravāda.
Mahāyāna (S), มหายาน (T)
A name meaning the “great way”, “great method” or “great career”; a major branch of Buddhism which separated from the Hīnayāna in about the 2nd c. A.D. It originated among certain Hīnayāna sects in the Āndhra regions of South India and from there spread into North India. During the Kushan period, c. 2nd-3rd c. A.D., it advanced through Northwest India and Central Asia and then eastward along trade routes into China. It is often called Northern Buddhism because it is today practised in Nepal, Tibet, Mongolia, China, Korea, Japan, and North Vietnam. At intervals it was practised in India, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaya and Indonesia, but except for the ethnic Chinese has now disappeared from these countries.
The goal for the Mahāyānist is to attain buddhahood, which he interprets as being equivalent to the Hinayanist goal of nibbāna. Buddhahood is a universal reality which underlies everything in the universe; all visible phenomena are illusory manifestations of this ultimate reality. This is a philosophical concept closely related to the Hindu idea of the Brahman or universal soul. The devotee attempts to rid himself of the ignorance which prevents him from recognizing the buddhahood contained within himself. The role of the bodhisattva is important in this faith, a being who has reached enlightenment but has postponed absorption into the universal Buddha until he can help all mankind reach enlightenment and thus buddhahood. The Vajrayāna and Tantrism are later developments of the Mahāyāna. See Hīnayāna, Vajrayāna, Tantric Buddhism, Brahman, Buddha, bodhisattva.
Mahishasuramardini, Mahisāsuramardini (S)
This compound name designates a depiction of the goddess Durgā, the shakti of Shiva, fighting a buffalo demon named Mahisha. Durgā represents the forces of light and good and the demon represents darkness and evil. See asura, shakti, Durgā.
Maitreya (S), Arimeteyya (P), Srī Āraya Metrai - ศรีอารยเมตไตร (T)
Maitreya is now a bodhisattva residing in Tushita heaven. In the future he will come to earth as a Buddha to preach the doctrine and renew the faith. In this respect he is revered in both the Teravāda and Mahāyāna faiths. The latter hold him in additional esteem as he is considered to be closely connected with the founding of Mahāyānism; seers of that faith are supposed to have made a journey to Tushita Heaven to be instructed by him. Sometimes he is depicted as a bodhisattva ruling from his throne in heaven, dressed in princely regalia. He wears a stūpa in his headdress and often carries a vase and a wheel. At other times he represents the future Buddha in a series with past Buddhas, in which case he wears monastic garb. In the Chinese temples of Bangkok, Maitreya is represented as a corpulent monk with a big belly, seated near the entrance.
makara (S, P, T), มกร (T)
A large sea animal which frequently appears in architectural decoration, particularly in pairs at the lower edges of an arch, at the foot of a stairway, or on the crossbars of a throne. These are often combined as a motif with the kāla, which appears at the head of the arch. Often the makara spouts forth another creature or a plant motif from its open mouth. It has been variously depicted. In ancient India, it usually had the body and tail of a fish, but the Southeast Asian version displays a reptilian body. Within Southeast Asia there is considerable variation in the treatment of the head. In Java this often is like that of a crocodile with a tremendous jaw and snout elongated into a trunk. In Champa it had a lion's head with fangs and a trunk and sometimes it had the head and forelegs of an antelope. The Thai makara is easily confused, with a nāga. However a makara has only one head and its snout is elongated; the nāga’s face is more angular and he may have several heads forming a hood. In addition the Thai makara may have forelegs but the nāga never does. See kāla, nāga, hera.
See āsana (1).
mālā (S, P, T), มาลา (T)
A necklace; a garland, wreath, or chaplet.
malai luk kaew
See garland molding.
mandala (S, P), monthon - มณฑล (T)
This word means “circle”; it is the term for a magic diagram representing
(1) the gods of the Buddhist pantheon who are active in the universe or
(2) the cosmos. It consists of a circle subdivided into circles or squares, in each of which a Buddhist symbol or divinity is displayed. This is a device used as an object of meditation in Vajrayāna Buddhism. See Vajrayāna.
Manjusrī (S), มัญชุศรี (T)
A bodhisattva in Mahāyāna Buddhism who personifies wisdom. His symbol is a book. See Mahāyāna, bodhisattva.
Māra (S, P), มาร(T)
One of the demons of the sense-world and death, a personification of sensual pleasure. The Māras played the role of tempter in the legend of the Life of the Buddha.
A fish. See Vishnu.
māyā (S, P, T), มายา (T)
A word commonly used in both Hinduism and Mahāyāna Buddhism meaning “illusion”, referring to the idea that everything visible in the universe is really only illusory, a manifestation of the universal world spirit, the godhead, or the universal Buddha. See Brahman, Buddha, Hinduism, Mahāyāna, Mahā Mayā.
meditation, bhāvana (S, P)
The practice of mental development, reflection, contemplation. Samādhi (S) or samatha is a type of meditation which existed before Buddhism. It leads to tranquility through the development of mental concentration. Dhyāna (intense abstract meditation) is the last stage of samādhi. Vipassana (P) or vipasyana (S) is a second type of meditation peculiar to Buddhism, leading to insight, wisdom and nibbāna. Both Buddhism and Indian yoga devote much attention to the stages and methods of meditation.
merit, punna or punya (P), punya (S), bun - บุญ (T)
Merit is good kamma accumulated in the process of doing good for oneself and others. There are ten ways of making merit; giving, moral conduct, meditation, reverence, service, dedication of one's own merit to others, rejoicing in other's merit making, listening to dhamma, teaching dhamma, and establishing one's views in accordance with dhamma. See dhamma and kamma.
Meru (S, P, T), เมรุ (T); also Sumeru (S, P, T) or Sumen - สุเมรุ (T)
A fabulous mountain at the center of the earth, the location of Indra's heaven. Multi-storied religious buildings in both Hinduism and Buddhism are often imitations of Mt. Meru. The Thai word เมรุ pronounced men has come to mean a crematorium because the Phramen ( พระเมรุ ) Grounds in Bangkok in front of the Grand Palace is the place where cremations take place for members of the royal family. This place received the name Meru (Phramen) because the body to be cremated is placed on an elaborate artificial mountain erected for the occasion, which imitates Mt. Meru.
Middle Way, majjhimā patipadā (P), madhyamā pratipad (S)
A pathway of human conduct which lies between all extremes, advocated by Buddhism.
Miracle of Savatthī (P), Srāvastī (S), Sārawatthī - สารวัตภี (T)
A series of miracles performed at Savatthi by the Buddha, including the simultaneous appearance of a number of emanations of himself in a variety of postures and the creation of a mango tree ripe with fruit to replace one cut down by his opponents.
Moggallāna (P), Maudgalyāyana (S), Phra Moggallā - พระโมคคัลาน์ (T)
One of the Buddha's foremost disciples, often shown as an attendant of the Buddha along with Sāriputta,
See samsāra and kamma.
mondop - มณฑป (T), mandapa (S, P)
In India this term designated a pavilion, an open hall, a temporary shed erected on festival occasions, a tent or a temple. In Thailand it is the term for a particular form of square building with a pyramidal superstructure. It may house a holy object such as the Footprint of the Lord Buddha at Saraburi, or it may enshrine a set of the Tipitaka as at Wat Phra Kaeo in Bangkok. See Phra Buddhabat and Tipitaka.
Muchalinda, Mucalinda (P), Muchalinda Nākarāt - มุจลินทรนาคราช (T)
The nāga king who sheltered the Buddha while he was meditating during a storm shortly after his enlightenment. The Thai label as nak prok (an image of the Buddha seated on a nāga, meaning “sheltered by a nāga”.
mudrā (P, S), pāng - ปาง (T)
Mudrā refers to the position of the hands, each position indicating some action or power. Mudrā is the common term in Buddhist iconography; hasta (S) is more common in Hindu iconography. The hasta are closely linked to stereotyped gestures in dance and drama. In Theravāda Buddhist art, the principle mudras are as follows:
abhayamudrā - a gesture of reassurance or dispelling fear. In India this could be executed with either hand, which was held upwardpalm outward, fingers extended and together. In Thailand in the 19th c. a differentiation occurred in this type of gesture as follows:
Left hand raised; rejecting the sandalwood image,
pāng hām phra kaenja – ปางห้ามพระแก่นจันทร์ (T). On a mural in the Buddhaisawan Chapel, Bangkok National Museum, the left hand raised means forbidding the relatives to dispute.
Right hand raised; According to Prince Suphadradis Diskul and Somporn Yupho, this is the usual gesture meaning forbidding the relatives to dispute, pāng hām yāt - ปางห้ามญาติ (T) This may also mean subduing the wild elephant.
Both hands raised; calming the ocean, pāng hām samut- ปางห้ามสมุทร (T) or dispelling fear, pāng prathān aphay - ปางประทานอภัย (T)
anjalimudrā - praying or adoration, hands together before the chest, all fingers extended upward. This is usually executed by a figure worshipping the Buddha
bhūmisparsamudrā or Māravijayamudrā pāng mārawichai - ปางมารวิชัย (T)
subduing Mara or calling the earth to witness the right of the Buddha to attain enlightenment, right arm pendent, palm inward, touching the earth over the right knee, left hand in lap, palm upward.
dharmacakramudrā, pāng pathom thesanā - ปางปฐมเทศนา (T)- preaching the first sermon or setting the Wheel of the Law in motion. With each hand the forefinger touches the thumb to form a circle, the circles of the two hands interlocking or at least touching, symbolizing the chain of cause and effect. The left hand is held palm inward indicating the truths which the Buddha has discovered from within. The right hand is held palm outward indicating the transmission of these truths to others
dhyānamudrā or samādhimudrā, pāng samāthi - ปางสมาธิ (T) - meditation, the hands resting in the lap, the right above the left with all fingers extended, palms upward.
varamudrā or varadamudrā, pāng prathānphon - ปางประทานพร (T) - the gesture of charity or bestowing favors, arm pendent, fingers extended downward, palm outward.
vitarkamudrā - teaching, arm bent and all fingers upward except either the index or ring finger, which touches the tip of the thumb, palm outward. In Thailand, this gesture executed with both hands is called descending from Tavatimsa Heaven, pāng sadet long cāk dāwadeung - ปางเสด็จลงจากดาวดึงส์ (T)
nāga (S, P), nāk - นาค (T) - male forms; nāgī, nāginī (S, P) - female forms
In Sanskrit this word could be used both for snake and elephant. But in Hindu and Buddhist mythology it pertains to a semidivine being who is normally a serpent but can assume a human form at will, retaining a cobra’s hood and a serpent's tail. These creatures live beneath the earth or in watery places, including wells and clouds. They guard the hidden wealth of the earth and can affect a region’s prosperity through their control of the rains. Several dynasties in South India and Cambodia have claimed descent from the union of an ancestor with a nāginī. The nāgas may once have been an historical race of dark primitive people, who perhaps obtained their name by worshipping serpents. A Nāga tribe still lives in Assam, for example.
The natural enemy of the nāga is the garuda, and the struggle between the two is a frequent theme in art. The god Vishnu sleeps on the nāga Shesha. A nāga king, Muchalinda, once sheltered the meditating Buddha during a storm. The Thai call a candidate for the priesthood a nāk, because according to legend, a nāga in human form once succeeded in becoming a monk, but revealed his true identity while asleep. He had to leave the Sangha, but the Buddha promised that each young man destined for the priesthood would be called a nāga between the time his head was shaved and his ordination.
The name for the bull who serves as Shiva’s mount.
“Lord” (isvara) of Nandi, a form of Shiva popular as a dvārapāla in Java. He stands holding a lotus bud and jar with his trident by his side. He may be accompanied by Nandi.
Narasingha, Narasimha (S), Narasingh - นรสิงห์ (T)
Nara means “man”; singha means “lion”. A “man-lion”, the fourth avatār of Vishnu with a man's body and a lion's head. He is depicted with terrifying red eyes and a thick bristling mane. See Vishnu.
Nārayāna (3), Phra Nārai - พระนารายณ์ (T)
An epithet for Vishnu, Rāma, or Krishna, which originated in ancient India and is commonly used in Thailand.
Nāta equals “dance”; rājah equals “lord”. “Lord of the dance”, a name for Shiva. Through his cosmic dance he creates and destroys the universe.
ngyak - เงือก (T), Nang Ngyak – นังเงือก (T)
Ngyak is the term for the mermaids who figure frequently in Southeast Asian legends. Nang Ngyak or Miss Mermaid is the name of a specific ngyak.
nibbāna (P), nirvāna (S), nipphān - นิพพาน (T)
The literal meaning of this term is “blowing out”, “extinction”. In Buddhism the term is used to refer to a state of release from earthly bonds, sufferings and delusion, an escape from the necessity for future rebirth or samsāra. It is a state of being which is indescribable, not identical to nothingness or annihilation. It is the condition one attains upon enlightenment while still living on earth; the Buddha reached nibbāna under the bodhi tree. Parinibbāna is the perfect or complete nibbāna attained at the time of death. See samsāra.
The lotus flower, symbol of creativity and fertility, symbol of purity.
A name for the Hindu goddess Lakshmī, stressing her role as earth mother, symbolized by the lotus (padma). See Lakshmī.
“He who holds the lotus”, a form of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, emphasizing his creative powers. A lotus blossom is one of his attributes. Sometimes Padmapāni has an irradiating from with many tiny figures covering much of his body, reflecting the texts which relate how thousands of beings, divinities, demigods, rishis, Buddhas, etc. emanate from the pores of his skin, indicative ofhis role as a creator. According to Vajrayāna Buddhism, the five jinas remain remose from the universe but created the great bodhisattvas who fulfill the function of creation.
See āsana (1) and (2).
A sacred tower composed of several stories, derived from the Buddhist stūpa. This name is used primarily in China, Korea and Japan; its use is rare in Southeast Asia. See chedī and stūpa.
palanquin or palankeen
A covered couch enclosed by shutters or curtains carried by poles which rest on the shoulder of four or six men, of Indian origin.
Pāla-Sena (S), ปาละ-เสนะ (T)
Pāla and Sena were the names of dynasties in the Bihar-Bengal area of North India, 8th-12th c. A.D. The joint name, Pāla-Sena, may designate an art style of that period.
Pāli (P, S), ปาลี (T)
One of the Prākrit languages of ancient India, derived from Vedic Sanskrit; a Middle Indo-Aryan language. This was the language chosen by the Teravāda sect of Buddhism for writing its scriptures and is still the sacred language for this branch of Buddhism. See Prākrit.
Pallava (S), ปัลลวะ (T)
A kingdom of Southeast India which flourished between the 4th - 9th c. A.D. centered at Kānī (Now Conjeeveram).
Panaspati, Vanaspati, Banaspati
Lord of the wilderness or of vegetation, originally a devouring form of Agni but later considered to be a form of Shiva, possibly identical to the kīrtimukha. As Panaspati, Shiva offers protection against the dangers and demons of the forest when one has strayed far from the protection of the village or household gods. The kīrtimukha has the function of shielding a temple from the demons. See Brahmnaspati and kīrtimukha.
panyā or pannā(P), prajňā (S)
Wisdom; intuitive knowledge.
Pārvatī (S), ปรวตี (T)
A name for Devī, the consort of Shiva. Pārvatī means “daughter of the mountain”. See Devī.
See āsana (2).
Pashupati, Pasupati (S)
A form of Shiva as the lord of the beasts, which is separate from Panaspati, lord of the wilderness. Pasu means “cattle” whereas panas or vana means “forest”. Pasupati possibly derived from the horned god of the Indus Valley seals, who sits cross-legged surrounded by animals. In South India Shiva in this form has four arms; one hand is in an attitude of blessing, a second is open as if offering a boon, a third holds an axe, and a small deer springs from the fourth. See Panaspati.
pātra (S), patta (P)
A support or āsana used in architecture and sculpture. The two basic types in Thailand are the lotus pedestal and the lion pedestal. See āsana (1)
pediment, fronton (French)
A low pitched gable above porticoes, doors or windows, often consisting of two parts, an arch and a tympanum. On a Khmer monument the pediment is above the lintel. See lintel and gable board.
phra - พระ (T), vara (P)
A title meaning “Excellent”, “Eminent”, “Venerable One”, used before the name of a member of the nobility, a monk, a Buddha image, or any highly venerated object, as a sign of respect.
Phra Buddhabāt or Phra Phutthabāt - พระพุทธบาท (T)
A footprint of the Buddha; specifically the Buddha's Footprint at Saraburi in Thailand.
phra song or phra
phra that (T)
(1) This may be a synonym for chetiya as a term designating a portion of the bodily remains of the Buddha.
(2) It may designate any chedī which contains bodily relics of the Buddha.
(3) It is the term for a particular class of chedī in North Thailand which is used as a funerary monument. The square base conceals a cubical cell (kru) which contains ancestral ashes. Above the base is a round stupa element, which is either a bell raised high by three prominent garland moldings or a pinched and elongated form of bell. See chetiya, chedī, ; stūpa, garland molding.
A half-pillar or column partially projecting from a wall, not free standing.
See āsana (1).
The lower square base of a column or pedestal; a projecting part of a wall immediately above the ground.
pradakshina, pradaksinā (S), padakkhinā (P), ประทักษิณ (T)
The process of circumambulating a revered object in a clockwise direction, keeping the object on one's right.
pradakshina patha, pradaksinā patha (S), padakkhina patha (P)
A circumambulatory platform of walkway. See pradakshina.
Prajñāpāramitā (S), Panyāpāramitā (P), ปรัชญาปรมิตา (T)
The highest feminine personification in Mahāyāna Buddhism, a deification of the wisdom (panyā or prajňā) that leads to nirvāna. This wisdom is the highest of the virtues (pāramitā) that a bodhisattva must perfect to attain buddhahood. Prajñāpāramita thus means “the supreme virtue of wisdom”. She represents the end of all earthly desires and the essence of buddhahood. She has the rank of a bodhisattva in the Mahāyāna pantheon. She usually sits on a lotus throne and holds a lotus and a book, the symbol of wisdom, which she shares with Mañjusrī. She was popular in Pāla India, Nepal and Tibet, and in Southeast Asia during the Mahāyānist period. In these countries she became somewhat of a mother goddess figure, symbolized by the lotus. She appeared more rarely in China and Japan, possible because the mother goddess role was usurped there by Kuan-yin, a form of Avalokitesvara. In ancient Cambodia she was depicted in a variety of ways, standing and sittings two-armed or many-armed usually crowned and wearing jewelry. Nepal and Tibet have shakti forms of this goddess where she sits in yabyum with Vajradhara, a form of the Ādi-Buddha. See Mahāyāna, bodhisattva, Maňjusrī, Avalokitesvara, shakti, yabyum, Vajradhara, Ādi-Buddha, Buddha.
Prākrit, Prākrta (S)
Various spoken languages of ancient India, derived from Sanskrit but much simpler in both sound and grammar. Pāli is one Prākrit.
See āsana (2).
prāng - ปรางค์ (T)
A class of Thai chedī whose form is derived from the Khmer sanctuary tower and the prāsāt hin. The tiers of the prāng flow together as they rise over the cubical cell, producing a smoother, more curved outline than that of the prāsāt hin. See prāsāt hin under prāsāt.
prāsāt - ปราสาท (T) prāsāda (S)
In India, prāsāda designated both a palace and a type of temple structure, shaped like a terraced pyramid, characteristic of South Indian architecture. In Thailand the word is also applied to both secular and religious architecture. During the Khmer period, the prāsāt hin, “stone palace”, was popular. An example is the main sanctuary at Phimai, in Northeast Thailand. This type of building is similar to its South Indian predecessor; it is square with four porch-like antechambers, above which rises a tower of many levels, each clearly differentiated in the South Indian manner, not yet curved into the smooth outline of the later prāng. Such a storied pyramidal structure is usually considered to be a replica of Mt. Meru, which sits in the middle of the universe represented in microcosm by the square sanctuary with its antechambers in the four directions. Later in Thailand the antechambers of the prāsāt were enlarged to become complete projecting wings, each with its own roof. The storied spire, which had been the roof of the main sanctuary of the early prāsāt hin, now has become merely a decorative element at the intersection of these four roofs. This spire can retain the clearly-defined levels of the prāsāt hin roof, as can be seen on several of the prāsāts or palaces at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, including the Dusit Mahāprāsat Throne Hall and the Chakri Mahā Prāsāt. This type of spire is sometimes called a mondop spire. The Royal Pantheon building at Wat Phra Kaeo with its four projecting wings is also a prāsāt, but its spire is shaped like a prāng.
In ancient Cambodia and in Thailand, the king is considered to be a god. It is thus only logical that the one word, prāsāt, should be used both for a royal residence and a royal sanctuary.
See Khmer, prāng, Meru, mondop, devarāja.
preta (S, K), petā (P), pret - เปรต (T)
An insatiably hungry ghost living beneath the earth, often portrayed as a potbellied spirit with a needle-hole for a mouth. In Buddhism, this is one of the six forms of life into which one can be reborn. See samsāra.
puňña, punya, punya
Purānas (S), ปุรานะ (T)
“Ancient Stories”, Hindu collections of legends and religious instruction, based on older traditions but not composed in their present form until at least the Gupta period. There are eight Great Purānas” and a number of secondary ones.
A demon depicted as having only a head and hands, often holding a moon in his mouth. According to one story, he once stole a sip of amrita, the nectar of the gods, which so enraged Vishnu that he beheaded him. But the sip of amrita had already touched his mouth, sufficient to render his head immortal. He became a star in the firmament, where he eternally chases the moon in order to get another sip of amrita. The moon is the cup which contains this elixir of immortality. When he catches the moon, he swallows it, thereby causing an eclipse. But because he has no body, the moon soon reappears through his severed throat, ending the eclipse, and he must resume the chase. In some Southeast Asian countries the people set up a din with noisemakers during an eclipse to frighten Rahu so he will restore the moon. See amrita.
Rāhula (S), ราหูล (T)
The son of the Buddha, who was newly born when Prince Siddhāttha left the palace and six years old when the Buddha returned to Kapilavatthu after his enlightenment. He became the first novice (sāmanera) in the Buddhist Sangha.
rakshasa or rakshasas, rāksasa (S), rakkhasa (P)
A class of demons sometimes equated with yakshas or asuras, generally considered to be harmful to humans. Rāvana, the ten-headed demon of the Rāmāyana, was chief of the rakshasas. Images have been found in Java which feature bulging eyes, a flattened nose, and fierce fangs, and are dressed in warrior's attire and a loincloth. Stone rakshasas in Java are armed with a club and guard the entrance to sanctuaries. Some small bronze ones formerly decorated the handles of bells in that country. See Rāmāyana, Rāvana.
Rāma, (S), Phra Rām - พระราม (T)
The hero of the Indian epic, the Rāmāyana, the archetype of the perfect ruler. He later became recognized as the seventh avatār of the god Vishnu. See Vishnu.
Rāmakien - รามเกียรติ์ (T)
The Thai variation of the Indian epic, the Rāmāyana. Versions were written by Kings Rāma I, Rāma II, Rāma IV and Rāma VI; the most popular being the one composed by King Rāma II. See Rāmāyana .
“The Adventures of Rama”, an Indian epic poem of great antiquity, put into written form by Vālmīki in c. 5th c. B.C. Its origin is probably older than sections of the Mahābhārata because the latter contains an episode from the story of Rāma. The Rāmāyana is a popular source of art, dance and drama through South and Southeast Asia and is still enacted today. See Rāmakien and Mahābhārata.
rātchasī - ราชสีห์ (T), reachea-sey (K)
A legendary creature whose parents were bears, but who grew as great and strong as a lion and is generally considered to be a lion. He became the king of the beasts. A rātchasī skin is a symbol of royal authority. In North Thailand his image is placed outside Buddhist temples to protect the monks and villagers from danger, sickness, etc.
Rāvana, Rāvana (S), Totsakan or Tosakan - ทศกัณฐ์ (T)
The ten-headed chief of the rakshasas of Sri Lanka (Ceylon) who abducted Sita in the Rāmāyana, precipitating a war with the hero Rāma. The Thai tosa or totsa ทศ (T), means “ten”. See Rāmāyana.
An architectural term meaning having recessed angles.
Rig Veda , Rg Veda (S), ฤคเวท (T)
The earliest and best known of the Vedas. See Veda.
rishi, rsi (S), ฤษี (T)
A legendary sage who composed the Vedic hymns; a saint or ascetic in general.
sacca, satya, sat
See Four Noble Truths.
Sakka, Sakra (S), สักกะ (T)
A Buddhist name for Indra. See Indra.
sāla, sāla (S), sālā - ศาลา (T)
An open pavilion, usually rectangular with an overhanging roof and no side walls. In a Buddhist monastery, a sāla is a place for rest or for lay activities.
sāmanera (P), srāmanera (S), sāmanen - สามเณร (T) or nen - เณร (T)
In ancient India this term applied to any ascetic, mendicant or religious wanderer. In that sense, it pertained to all Buddhist monks including the Buddha himself. Later the term was applied only to a novice in the order, a disciple who had been admitted to the first stage of monkhood. In Thailand these are usually youths under the age of twenty. A sāmanera must practise only ten precepts as contrasted with 227 for the bhikkhu. Once he is twenty and if he is sufficiently prepared, a sāmanera may be ordained as a bhikkhu, but both as a sāmanera and as a bhikkhu, he is free to leave the Sangha at any time. See bhikkhu and upasampadā.
sampot (K), phānung - ผ้านุ่ง (T)
A garment resembling the Indian dhoti, draped around the hips, knotted in front, with the ends passing between the legs and attached to a belt behind; the typical garment of male deities in Khmer art.
samrit - สัมฤทธิ์ (T)
Bronze with a high copper content plus some silver or gold and traces of other metals, an alloy highly favored by Khmer artisans.
samsāra (S, P)
Transmigration, the ceaseless round of life, birth, growing old, suffering, dying and rebirth. Because this endless chain of existence involves immense suffering, the goal of both Hindus and
Buddhists is to find escape (moksha) from it. For the Theravāda Buddhist, such escape is found in nibbāna.
To the Buddhists there are six states of existence into which a being can be reborn. On earth one can become a man or an animal. Below the earth live the preta and the inhabitants of hell. Above the earth are the gods (deva) and asura.
The terms “rebirth”, “transmigration” and “reincarnation” all imply the continuity of an individual soul from life to life, an idea which does not accurately reflect either Hindu or Buddhist philosophy. An individual life resembles a cup of water which merges with the all-encompassing sea when the individual dies. But his kamma, his craving, his will-to-live, continue and will be dipped up in another cup to begin a new life. One's goal is to end kamma by extinguishing craving and thus find permanent release from samsāra. If all beings could find such release, the world of phenomena, of transmigration, of samsāra, of illusion (māyā) would end. See kamma, māyā.
A rock formed by the consolidation of sand cemented with silica, lime, gypsum or clay.
Sangha (P, S) or Samgha (P, S)
“A community of equal persons”; now used to designate the community of Buddhist monks. It is one of the Triple Gems or Three Refuges, two expressions which refer to the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, three important objects of devotion for all Buddhists. See Tiratana and Tisarana.
sankha (P), sankha (S), sang - สังข์ (T)
A conch shell.
Sanskrit, Samskrta (S), สังสกฤต (T)
A language of ancient India. The oldest known form, Vedic Sanskrit, is probably closer than any other known language to the parent Indo-European tongue. Classical Sanskrit is a simpler version of the Vedic. A vulgarized form became the language of Mahāyāna Buddhism. See Aryan.
sārai - สาหร่าย (T)
An ornamental band running down the sides of the columns on the porch of a bot or wihān.
Sarasvatī (S), Srāvastī (S), Saraswadī - สวัสวดี (T)
In Hinduism, the goddess of learning and the consort of Brāhmā. Her mount is the peacock. In Mahāyāna Buddhism she is the goddess of teaching, music and poetry and the consort of Maňjusrī.
Sāriputta (P), Sariputra (S), สารีบุตร (T)
One of the Buddha's foremost disciples, often paired with Moggallāna as an attendant to the Buddha.
Sārnāth (S) สารนาถ (T)
The Buddha preached his first sermon in the deer park of this town in North India.
The wrap-around skirt worn by females in Southeast Asia, including the goddesses in Khmer art.
See Miracle of Sāvatthī.
Sawankalok - สวรรคโลก (T)
The name of a town in North Central Thailand, formerly a capital of the Sukhothai Kingdom. This name has been applied to a type of pottery produced there during the Sukhothai period featuring both monochrome and painted ware.
Shailendra, Sailendra (S)
A name meaning “Lord of the Mountain”, the name for a dynasty which ruled over Central Java from the 8th - 9th c. A.D. and over Shrīvijaya from about the 8th - 13th c. A.D.
shakti, sakti (S)
The active, energetic aspect of a god, personified as his consort. In both Hindu and Buddhist Tantrism, worship of a god together with his shakti signified the dual aspects of one eternal divinity. In art the male and female were frequently depicted in yabyum. Shaktism was important in Nepal and Tibet but never in Southeast Asia. See Tantric Buddhism and yabyum.
Shākya, Sākka (P), Sākya (S), ศากยะ (T)
The tribe or clan into which the Buddha Gotama was born,
Shākyamuni, Sākkamuni (P), Sakyamuni (S), ศากยมุนี (T)
"The Sage of the Shākya Clan", one of the Buddha's titles. See Shākya.
Shesha, Sesa (S)
The king of serpents (nāgas), a symbol of the cosmic waters or the wealth-giving sea, who may have one thousand heads and who serves as the couch and canopy of the sleeping Vishnu. Sometimes he is called Ānanta, meaning “endless”, “boundless”, “eternal” or “infinite”. Some say he is identical with Vāsuki, the serpent who served as a rope when the gods and demons churned the sea. Others say these two serpents are quite distinct. See Ānanta and Vāsuki.
Shiva, Siva (S), Siwa - ศิวะ (T)
One of the major gods of Hinduism, descended from the Vedic Rudra. In the Hindu trinity he is the Destroyer, accompanying Brāhmā the Creator and Vishnu the Preserver. He is an ascetic, with naked body and hair in a matted topknot (jatāmukuta) or streaming loose. He often wears a Brahmanic cord from the left'shoulder to the right hip, sometimes in the form of a serpent. Frequently he wears a necklace of skulls or serpents. His headdress may be adorned with a crescent moon, a skull or a human mask, which is the kīrtimukha. He has a third eye and may have three horizontal stripes on his forehead. His attributes vary with his different forms; most frequent is the trident. His mount is the bull Nandi and his shakti is Devī. Often he is worshipped in the form of a linga, a symbol of his role as the god of fertility. He has both mild and terrible forms. In Cambodia mild forms are most typical; the skulls and crescent are absent. In ancient Java, several forms of Shiva were popular, including Bharata-Guru, Mahākāla, Nandīsvara and Mahādeva. See the individual entries in this glossary. Indian forms of Shiva discussed herein are Nātarājah, Panaspati and Pashupati.
Shrī, Srī (S)
Shrīvijaya, Srīvijaya (S)
A kingdom of the 8th - 13th c. A.D. which ruled over Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula, including much of present-day South Thailand. Thai art historians label as Shrīvijayan the art found in South Thailand and also Mahāyānist art discovered anywhere in Thailand which cannot be labelled as Khmer or Lopburi.
Siddhāttha (P), Siddhārtha (S), สิทธารถ (T)
The given name for the prince who became the Buddha, the son of Suddhodana of the Shākya clan. He was called by this name until he left home at the age of twenty-nine to become an ascetic.
sīla (P), sīla (S)
Moral conduct, virtue.
See āsana (1).
singha, simha (S), singh - สิงห์ (T)
The wife of the hero Rāma in the epic, the Rāmāyana, considered to be an incarnation of Lakshmī, the wife of Vishnu.
Skanda (S), Kārttikeya (S), Subrahmanya (S), Kumāra (S)
The god of war, leader of Shiva's troops, usually considered to be the son of Shiva and Pārvatī. He often has six heads and six arms and carries a double thunderbolt, a sword and a trident. He rides on a peacock, although in Champa his mount was a rhinoceros. In South India he is known as Subrahmanya. As a son of Shiva, he is also called Kumāra, meaning prince.
soma (S), โสม (T)
The juice of a milky climbing plant (asclepias acida), which is extracted and fermented, then drunk by Brahmans and gods. It is often identified with the amrita, the elixir of immortality. Soma has been deified as a primeval, all-powerful god who can heal all diseases and bestow riches. Both amrita and soma, used interchangeably, have been identified with the moon.See amrita, Rāhu.
See Miracle of Sāvatthī.
A form of stepped tower whose outline is that of cubes of decreasing size one above another, a popular form of architecture in Ovnravati times. An example is Wat Kukut in Lamphun in North Thailand, which has niches at each level for Buddha images. This type of tower contains no stūpa-element. See stepped tower and stūpa.
A class of chedī which imitates Mt. Meru, featuring an upward sweep of stepped tiers. This class in Thailand includes the stepped pyramid and the prāsāt hin. See stepped pyramid, prāsāt, and Meru.
stucco, pūn pan - ปูนปั้น (T)
A type of plaster used as a mortar between bricks, as a coating for wall surfaces and as a medium for architectural ornamentation and sculpture. In ancient Southeast Asia stucco was made of a mixture of lime, sugarcane syrup, sand and animal hide.See terra cotta.
stūpa (S), thūpa (P), stūp - สถูป (T), tope (form-used by 19th c. Europeans in India)
This word originally meant a “topknot”, then a “peak”, and finally a “mound”. As far back as prehistoric times, burial mounds for princes were called stūpas. The term was adopted by early Buddhists for the mounds built over the earthly remains of the historical Buddha and other holy men. Gradually the meaning of the term expanded to include any Buddhist religious memorial monument built to house chetiya of the Buddha. In Thailand the term stūpa is often used interchangeably with chedī in accordance with this last definition.
The Thai have additional specific uses of the word stūpa. It may refer to only the portion of a chedī which is shaped like a mound, a dome, a bulb, or a bell, the so-called stūpa element of the monument. Or it may refer to a particular style of chedī in which the stūpa element is a very Conspicuous part of the monument, a style derived from the Ceylonese dagoba which was important in Thailand in the Sukhothai period. See chetiya, chedī, dagoba.
stūpa - tower
A particular style of chedī which appeared in Thailand in the Sukhothai period, featuring a lotus-bud-shaped stūpa element and a stepped-tower base, both of which were given equal emphasis. See chedī and stūpa.
Suddhodana (P), Suddhodana (S), สุทโธทนะ (T)
The father of Gotama Buddha, a chieftain of the Shākya clan of North India, with his capital at Kapilavatthu.
Sujātā (P, S), สุชาดา (T)
The young woman who gave Gotama a meal to break his fast just before he attained enlightenment.
Sukhothai - สุโขทัย (T), Sukhodaya (P)
A name which means arising (udaya) out of happiness (sukkha); a Thai city and kingdom of the 13th and 14th c. A.D. centered in North Central Thailand; the art style produced during that period.
Sukhothai Ware or Sukhodaya Ware
A type of pottery featuring a thin, yellowish grey glaze and a hard, porcellaneous body, produced during the Sukhothai period. See Sawankalok.
Sūrya (S), สุริยะ (T) or Phra Āthit - พระอาทิตย์ (T)
The god of the sun, often depicted riding in a chariot drawn by seven horses. In India and Southeast Asia he frequently wears a tunic and boots, suggesting an origin in Persia or Central Asia.
sutta (P), sūtra (S)
Originally meant “thread”, but came to mean “text”, “teaching”, “discourse”. The Buddha's teachings or suttas were gathered together as the second book of the Theravāda Buddhist Tipitaka. See Tipitaka.
A “bird with a stick” who serves as a temple guardian (dvārapāla) in Thailand.
tantra (S) ตันตระ(T)
A type of sacred text in Vajrayāna Buddhism which gives directions for worshipping individual deities. See Vajrayāna and Tantric Buddhism.
Tantric Buddhism, Tantrism or Tantrayana, Sāsanā Phuttha Baep Tantra - ศาสนาพุทธแบบตันตระ (T)
An advanced stage of Vajrayāna Buddhism, important in Northeast India after the 8th c. during the Pāla-Sena period, and surviving in Nepal, Tibet and Mongolia. It flourished briefly in Indonesia and the Khmer empire in ancient times. This school tremendously expanded the Buddhist pantheon, including the creation of horrible and multi-limbed, multi-headed deities. Emphasis was placed on esoteric worship practises to enable a devotee to effect union with his god. Worship of the shakti or female energy of the god became important. See Vajrayāna Buddhism, shakti.
Tārā (S), ตารา or ดารา (T)
There are five goddesses named Tārā in Vajrayāna Buddhism, corresponding to the five jinas. Each has a different color, and is the consort of one of the five great bodhisattvas who were created by the jinas. The Taras have the rank of a bodhisattva in the Buddhist hierarchy. They have many forms. In Java and Shrīvijaya they were depicted sumptuously clad and crowned, seated on a lotus throne under an umbrella, holding a lotus.
Tathāgata (S, P)
The “Thus-gone”, the “One Who Has Gone Beyond”, the “One Thus Arrived”, an epithet used by the Buddha to refer to himself or to Buddhas of the past.
Tavatimsa, Dāwadeung - ดาวดึงส์ (T)
The name of the heaven over which Indra presides. After his enlightenment the Buddha spent one rainy season in this heaven preaching to his mother, who had died and was reborn there seven days after his birth. The Thai interpret their standing Buddha images with two hands in vitarkamudrā as representing his descent from Tavatimsa Heaven after preaching to his mother. See Indra.
terra cotta, din paw - ดินเผา (T)
A hard, usually unglazed earthenware, brownish-orange in color, used for architectural decoration, statuettes and pottery.
thep, thepphaya, thepphayajaw, thephathidā
thepanom เทพพนม (T)
The figure of a deva or devī in a worshipping posture (añjalimudrā). See mudrā.
The name for the rows of deva, garuda and yaksha in postures of adoration, often painted on the walls of a Thai bot or wihān.
Theravāda (P), Sthaviravāda (S), phutthasāsana baep therawāt – พุทธศาสนาแบบเถรวาท (T)
Thera (P) and sthavira (S) mean “elders”; vada means “words” or “school”. Thus Theravāda and Sthaviravāda equals “The School or Teaching of the Elders”. This Hīnayāna sect resulted from the first schrsm of the Buddhists, which occurred in the 4th c. B.C. The Buddhist Sangha was divided into two sects at that time, the Sthaviravāda and the Mahāsamgha or Mahāsamghika, which means the “Great Council” or “Great Community”, a name given to it because it represented the majority of monks at that time. The latter group and its offshoots later developed the idea of a transcendent Buddha which eventually led to Mahāyānism. The Sthaviravādins (Therāvadins) represented a more conservative faction which clung more closely to the original teachings of the Buddha. This sect was important in ancient times in West India, and from there spread to Ceylon and to Southeast Asia. It is the only Hīnayāna sect which thrives today. Its texts were written in the Pāli language; these are the texts used today by the Buddhists of Ceylon and Southeast Asia. Thus it is the Pāli name for the sect, Theravāda, which is most frequently used today. See Hīnayāna and Mahāyāna.
thewa, thewadā, thewī
See gold leaf.
Thorani - ธรณี (T), Prah Thorni (K), Sthāvarā (S)
The Earth Mother who appeared as a witness to the Buddha's great accumulation of merit during his battle with Māra just before his enlightenment. At that time she wrung water out of her hair sufficient to drown Māra's hordes of demons. In art she is depicted as a beautiful young woman wringing out her hair.
ticīvara (P), tricīvara (S), traicīwon - ไตรจีวร (T)
The set of three robes prescribed for a monk. These three are:
(1) antaravāsaka (S), sabong - สบง (T) - a skirt-like undergarment, often worn with a pleat up the front and secured with a belt.
(2) uttarāsanga (S) or cīvara (S, P), cīvorn - จีวอน (T) - the outer robe consisting of a single piece of yellow cloth wrapped around the body.
(3) sanghātī (P, S) - a robe similar to the cīvara or uttarāsanga. In North India, as reflected in Gandharan art, it was worn as a third garment over the uttarāsanga. In a hot country like Thailand, it is carried neatly folded over the left shoulder. Some art historians use the word sanghātī to refer to the outer robe the Buddha is actually wearing. However, if it is the garment directly above the antaravāsaka, it should more properly be called the uttarāsanga or cīvara.
Later a fourth garment was added which is rarely depicted in art:
(4) angsa (S, P, T), อังสะ (T) - an off-one-shoulder undershirt worn under the cīvara.
A horizontal beam connecting the lower ends of two opposite principal rafters, forming the base of a roof truss. On the front and back facades of a Thai bot or wihān, a tie beam connecting two pillars bounds the lower edge of the gable board.
Tipitaka (P), Tripitaka (S), Traipitok - ไตรปิฎก (T)
"Three Baskets", a name for the three baskets of palm-leaf manuscripts which contain the three sections of the Theravāda Pāli scriptures. The three Pitakas are: (1) the Vinaya, the disciplinary rules for the monkhood; (2) the Suttas (P) or Sūtras (S), the discourses of the Buddha; and (3) the Abhidhamma (P) or Abhidharma (S), metaphysical treatises based on the Suttas. The Vinayapitaka and the Suttapitaka are older than the Abhidhammapitaka. All were recited orally until about the first c. B.C. when they were written down. The oldest extant version was written in Ceylon in Pāli in the 5th c. A.D. The Thai Traipitok is a translation from the Pāli.
Tiratana (P), Triratna (S), Trairat - ไตรรัตน์ (T)
“The TripleGems”, the name applied to the three basic objects of devotion for Buddhists of all schools: the Dhamma, the Sangha, and the historical Buddha. In Buddhist architectural decoration the three prongs of a trident may represent the Triple Gems. See Tisarana.
Tisarana (P), Trisarana (S), Traisarana - ไตรสรณ (T)
“The Three Refuges”, identical to the Tiratana or Triple Gems. Tisarana is the term used during a monk's ordination and on other ceremonial occasions, such as on wan phra, to imply that he is taking refuge in or devoting his life to the Dhamma, the Sangha and the Buddha in an attempt to transcend life in this world and attain nibbāna. See Tiratana and wan phra under bot.
Tosachāt or Totsachāt
Tosakan or Totsakan
traibhūmi or traiphūm - ไตรภูมิ (T); trailōk - ไตรโลก (T), triloka (S)
These words all mean “three worlds”, referring to the three worlds of Buddhist cosmology: heaven, earth and hell.
tribhanga (S), triphang - ตรีภังค์ (T)
A posture in dancing, sculpture and painting in which the body defines three bends, such as at the hips, waist and neck.
Trilokavijaya (S), Trailokyavijaya (T)
Triloka means “three worlds”; vijaya means “conqueror”. “Conqueror of the Three Worlds”, the name of a terrible divinity in Tantric Buddhism, sometimes assigned bodhisattva rank or alternatively recognized as a form of the Supreme Buddha. He is depicted with four faces which express amorous fury, anger, disgust and heroism, and with eight hands holding a bell, thunderbolt, sword, hood, arrow, discus, bow and noose. He may wear a garland of little images of the Buddha. See Tantric Buddhism.
Trimūrti (S), ตรีมูรติ (T)
This means “three aspects”; it is the term for the Hindu trinity – Brāhmā, Shiva and Vishnu, who in reality are all aspects of one universal godhead. The term is also applied to an image which represents three aspects of the god, such as the Shiva Trimūrti at Elephanta in India.
Tushita, Tusita (S), Dusit - ดุสิต (T)
The third highest of the sensual heavens of Buddhism, two heavens, above the level of Tavatimsa. In Gotama Buddha's last existence before he was born as Prince Siddhāttha, he resided in Tushita Heaven. Maitreya, the future Buddha, presently sojourns there.
See gable board.
A name meaning “light” or “the gracious one"\”, used for a mild form of Devī, the consort of Shiva.
upāsaka (S, P), or pakhāw - ประขาว (T) or chi pakhāw – ชีปะขาว (T) - male forms
upāsika (P, S), chi or mae chi - แม่ชี (T) - female forms
These terms refer to Buddhist lay men and women who shave their heads like the monks but dress in white. They vow to abide by certain precepts, live in a monastery, and perform useful services there. The male upāsaka is rare but the female upasika or chi is a common sight in Thailand. The latter are often called "nuns" but that is a misnomer as they are not fully ordained. The order of nuns (bhikkhunī) founded by the Buddha died out centuries ago.
upasampadā (P, S), kānbuat - การบวช (T) - nouns; upasombot - อุปสมบท (T) buat บวช - or buat phra - บวชพระ (T) - verbs.
These words all relate to the ceremony of ordination to become a bhikkhu or sāmanera. See bhikkhu and sāmanera.
ūrnā (S), อูรณะ (T)
The whorl of hair, mole or jewel on the brow of the Buddha which represents a third eye of intuitive wisdom; one of the extraordinary lakshanas of the Buddha.
ushnisha, usnīsa (S), อุษณีษะ (T)
In Buddhist iconography, this term refers to the protuberance on the head of the Buddha, emblematic of his supernatural knowledge, possibly a survival of the hair knot worn by Shākyamuni as a prince. The term is also applied to the coping of the railing around a Buddhist monument. In Hindu iconography this word means the crown of the head.
Uthong - อู่ทอง (T)
A town in West Thailand which flourished in Fūnan and Dvāravatī times. A prince from Uthong founded the city of Ayudhya in 1350 A.D. This name is applied to the art style produced in the central plains of Thailand between the 12th and 15th c.
The vehicle or mount of a god.
A name meaning “su”" or “illumination”; one of the five jinas of Vajrayana Buddhism, whose position is in the center of the cosmos and thus also of a mandala. He is usually depicted in dharmacakramudra. The universal Buddha postulated by the Vajrayāna was sometimes personified as Mahāvairocana, “Great Illumination”, whose identity with the Jina Vairocana is not clear. Various sects have different ideas about the role played by members of the Buddhist pantheon. In East Asia and in ancient Java, Vairocana has been equated with the Ādi-Buddha. See jina, Vajrayāna, mandala, mudrā, Ādi-Buddha.
vajra (S, P), วัชระ (T)
This can mean either a thunderbolt or the diamond, both indestructible substances. It is wielded as a weapon by several gods, including Indra. It has become the principal symbol of Vajrayāna Buddhism, representing the absolute truth which has the power to destroy everything illusory or evil. This ultimate reality is nondual, unchangeable, and is identical to buddha-hood. See Buddha, Vajrayāna, Mahāyana.
Vajradhara (S, P), วัชราธร (T)
A representation of the Ādi-Buddha in Vajrayāna Buddhism, the name meaning “the wielder of the thunderbolt or diamond”. He is usually depicted as crowned and wearing princely ornaments. In Nepal and Tibet he often appears in yabyum with his female counterpart, Prajñāpāramitā. In Khmer sculpture he appeared singly, seated in vīrasana, carrying a vajra and a bell in his two hands, which are loosely crossed before his chest. He can be distinguished from images of Vajrasattva, another representation of the Ādi-Buddha, primarily in that the latter has his left hand on his hip. See Ādi-Buddha, Vajrayāna, yabyum, āsana, vajra, Vajrasattva, Prajñāpāramitā.
Vajrapani (S), วัชรปาณี (T)
“The bearer of the thunderbolt”, a bodhisattva in Vajrayāna Buddhism, an emanation of the Jina Akshobhya, perhaps derived from the Brahmanical Indra. He is a guardian of the Buddha and an enemy of the demons. He carries a vajra or less frequently holds two lotuses which support a vajra and a bell. See bodhisattva, jina, Indra, vajra.
See asana (1) and (2).
Vajrasattva (S), วัชรสัตว์ (T)
“The one whose essence is the diamond or thunderbolt”, a representation of the Ādi-Buddha of Vajrayāna Buddhism. His role is similar to that of Vajradhara. The various sects differ in their interpretation of these deities. Some say that Vajrasattva is a sixth jina or the priest of the other five. In Khmer art he sits in vīrāsana, holding a vajra before his chest and a bell against his left hip. See Vajrayāna, Vajradhara, vajra, āsana, Ādi-Buddha, jina.
“The way of the thunderbolt”, a development in Mahāyāna Buddhism which began about the 4th c. A.D. and reached its full development by the 8th c. A.D., important in Northeast India just before the coming of the Moslems led to the destruction of Indian Buddhism. From India, especially in its advanced Tantric form, it moved to Nepal, Tibet and Eastern Asia. The Vajrayāna transformed and personified the universal world spirit visualized by the earlier Mahāyāna into a great world ruler called Mahāvairocana. This group also stressed worship practices that would enable the devotee to attain union with this great universal spirit. An alternate name for this branch of Buddhism is the Mantrayāna, “the method of the mantra”, which emphasizes the importance of worship. A mantra is a mystical incantation. Other worship devices were dhāranīs (mystical formulas), mandalas (magical diagrams), mudrās (ritual gestures) and yoga (union). In the later Tantric stages even the sexual act was employed as a symbol of and aid to union with the divine. See Mahāyāna, Tantric Buddhism, Vairocana, mandala, yoga.
vassa (P), varsā (S), phansā - หรรษา (T)
In Pāli and Sanskrit, this word means the rains, the rainy season, or the monsoon. In Buddhism, it designates the period of withdrawal by the monks into monasteries during the annual three months' rainy season. This retreat begins the first day of the waning moon of the eighth lunar month, a day called in Thailand khao phansā, or “entering the retreat”. Many young people in Theravāda Buddhist countries become temporary monks during this period. Westerners often call these three months the Buddhist Lent, but it is not a period of fasting in the Christian sense. The phansā is followed by a one-month period called kathin (T), kathina (P), when layfolk present supplies and robes to the monks. The word kathin originally referred to a stretcher used by the monks for measuring the cloth presented to them. Later the word was applied to the set of three robes offered to a monk after phansā. See ticīvara.
A king of the nāgas who was used as a rope when the sea was churned by the gods and demons. Some texts treat Vāsuki and Shesha as identical; others say they are brothers. Both are sometimes called Ānanta, the endless one, symbolic of the infinity of time. See Ānanta, Shesha, nāga.
Veda (S), พระเวท (T)
One of four collections of hymns which reveal the earliest form of Brahmanism. The chief gods in the Vedas were Agni, Indra and Sūrya. These hymns probably originated with the Aryans even before their arrival in India in the second millennium B.C. The oldest and best known is the Rig Veda. See Aryan.
Vessantara (P, T), Visvantara (S)
The name for the Bodhisattva in his last earthly existence before he became a Buddha. He was a prince who practised perfect charity. The story of Vessantara is the last in the Tosachāt, the ten Jātaka tales which tell about his last ten lives on earth. This particular story is called the Mahāchāt, the “great birth”. See Jātaka.
vimāna (P, S)
In Sanskrit this term meant a car or chariot of the gods, a self -moving serial car. In Pāli literature it came to mean an aerial palace.
vipassana (P), vipasyana (S)
See asana (2).
Vishnu, Visnu (S), วิษณุ (T), also Phra Narai - พระนารายน์ (T)
One of the foremost gods of Hinduism, worshipped as the supreme god by many. (Others assign supremacy to Shiva or Devī.) In the trinity which he shares with Brāhmā and Shiva, Vishnu is the Preserver. His devotees make him responsible for creation of the manifested world. When he inhales, he sleeps on the serpent Shesha on the cosmic sea, into which all the world is absorbed. When he exhales, he recreates the universe. Often he has come to earth himself as an avatār or “descent” to intervene in the affairs of mortals. There have been times such avatārs already and a future on still waits. In these descents, Vishnu has assumed the following forms:
(1) Matsya (S), a fish who rescued mankind from a flood.
(2) Kūrma (S), a tortoise who served as the base for the churning of the sea by the demons and gods, thus recovering a number of lost treasures, including the amrita, the goddess Lakshmī, and the elephant Airāvata. The nāga Vāsuki served as a churning rope, pulled on one side by the gods and on the other by the demons.
(3) Varāha, a boar who went to the bottom of the sea to recover the earth, dragged there by a demon.
(4) Narasingha or Narasimha (S), a “man-lion”, who defeated ademon king.
(5) Vāmana, a dwarf, who won back the three worlds for the gods from the demons. The latter promised that he could possess the area he could cover with three steps. He covered the earth with one step, the heavens with a second, and the hells with a third. Another version of the story claims that he refrained from taking the third step, thus leaving the hells to the demons.
(6) Parashurāma, Parasurama (S), “Rama with the Axe”, who delivered the Brāhmans from the rule of the Kahatriyas.
(7) Rāma or Rāmachandra, the hero of the Rāmāyana, who destroyed the demon king Ravana.
(8) Krishna, Krsna (S), an extremely popular deity in his own right, who evolved separately and was later absorbed into the Vishnu myth. See Krishna.
(9) The Buddha, who, according to the Vishnu legend, appeared on earth to encourage the demons and wicked men to reject the true religion, Brahmanism, and thus hasten their own destruction.
(10) Kalki (S) or Kalkin (S), a white horse who is to appear in the future bearing a
sword-wielding Vishnu who will slay the wicked and restore purity to the world.
Each of these avatārs has its own iconography. When Vishnu is represented as the great god himself, he usually has four arms and wields a cakra and a conch with his upper arms. He may also bear a club, a lotus, a bow or a sword. His mount is the garuda.
The Thai claim that their king is a personification of Vishnu (Phra Nārai), a godking concept which is a legacy from the Khmer empire. See devarāja.
Vishvakarma, Visvakarma (S), Vissakamma (P), Wiswakam - (T)
This name means “omnificent” or “the creator of all things”. Originally it was applied to any powerful god, such as Indra or Sūrya. Gradually he became accepted as a god with his own identity, a personification of creative power. the architect of the universe. He created all the gods, their weapons and their palaces, and is the lord of the arts and handicrafts. He usually sits with one knee raised, wielding the tools of his craft.
wai - ไหว้ (T)
A verb meaning to greet someone or to pay respect to someone or something by bringing the palms together before the face. Compare with krāp.
wat - วัด (T)
The Thai term for a Buddhist monastery, encompassing a variety of buildings erected for religious, educational, community and residential purposes.
Wheel of the Law
wihān - วิหาร (T), vihāra (S, P)
Originally vihāra referred to a place of abode for monks. This was its meaning in the rock cut caves of India, as distinguished from the chetiya hall where religious services were held. Gradually vihāra was extended in meaning to include the idea of a meeting place for monks. In Thailand a wihān is a building in which religious services are held both for monks and for lay people; it may or may not house a Buddha image. Architecturally it is identical with the bot, but the latter has been specially consecrated as a place for performing the most important ceremonies. The bot is marked off with bai semā to mark this special area; these are absent from the wihān. See bot, bai semā, lūk nimit, chetiya.
withayathon (T), vidyādhara (S)
Both the Thai and Sanskrit forms of this word mean “a bearer of knowledge”. These are a class of demigods, supernatural beings who possess magical powers to work spells and fly through the air. In Hinduism, they are believed to dwell in the Himālaya as attendants of Shiva. In Buddhism they are hermits or sages who have attained supernatural powers as a result of intense meditation. Inside Thai bots and wihāns, withayathon are often painted high on the walls directly below the ceiling, seeming to peer over a jagged wall down into the interior of the building.
Yab is a word for a male god; yum refers to his skakti or female counterpart. In iconography, yabyum means a depiction of a male god in embrace with his shakti, symbolic of the union of active and passive elements in the process of creating and maintaining the world. This form was important in Tantric worship, especially in Nepal and Tibet, but was unknown in Southeast Asia. See shakti and Tantric Buddhism.
yaksha, yakkha (P), yaksa (S), yeak (K), yak - ยักษ์ (T) - male forms; yakshī, yaksi (S) , yaksinī - ยักษินี (T) - female forms
As far back as prehistoric times in India, the yaksha were benevolent, nonhuman nature spirits. Later they became attendants of Kuvera, guarding the wealth buried under the earth. In the Rāmāyana they were demon giants who inhabited the isle of Lanka, the antagonists of the hero Rāma. (Alternatively these demons of the Rāmāyana are labelled as rakshasas). In Cambodia the yaksha were practically synonomous with asuras, ranking between man and the gods, depicted as ferocious but simple-witted ogres, with red eyes, fangs, and a leering grin. See Kuvera, Rāmāyana, asura, rakshasas .
The Brahmanical god of the underworld who judges the dead and determines their fate, the lokapāla of the south. He was popular in Cambodia. At Angkor Vat he was depicted with multiple arms carrying clubs, mounted on a bull.
Yasodharā (S), ยโสธรา (T); also called Gopā (S)
The wife of the Buddha, whom he married at the age of sixteen and abandoned when he became an ascetic at twenty-nine. She eventually became a nun in the Sangha.
This word derives from a root meaning “to yoke together” or “to unite”. In religion it may refer to practises which attempt to unite a devotee with his god and also to the act of placing oneself under the yoke or discipline of some system or teacher. Both Hinduism and Buddhism have evolved systems of yoga, each of which has its own prescribed method.
yogī, (m.), yogīnī (f.) (S)
A person who practises yoga.
“A womb”, a representation of the female sex organ used in combination with a linga as an object of worship. It is usually in the form of a square pedestal with the top hollowed out and a trough on one side to permit the running off of lustral waters. The linga is set into the yoni.