Makara Mythology

All the Legends, Myths and Mysteries
 

Mystical Creature of Thailand

Monster Hybrid Creature

The Makara, according to some ancient Hindu Mythology, is seen as a marvellous sea-creature depicted as half-fish and half-animal. Its character is defined by the mount of Varuna, the Hindu god of wind and sky and Ganga, the deity associated with the Ganges River.

The word means a "monster" which is in the capacity of a hybrid creature and is neither one thing nor another. In astrology, you could attribute it to the sign of Capricorn, one of twelve Zodiac symbols.

In Thailand, these bizarre beasts get viewed as aquatic monsters made up as a part serpent, part crocodile and part elephant. You can identify them by their crocodile heads with open toothy jaws, elephant trunks and serpent-like scales. Here they symbolise rainfall and the source of all existence and fertility.

They are said to be water guardians living beneath rivers, lakes and seas as well as it becomes connected to the earth via the cosmos.


Makara Images carved in stone


Intricate stone images can be viewed rising along the temple balustrades, as the reliefs on temple lintels, adorning Prangs or on rooftops. Not only do these beasts provide immense protection against evil spirits, but it's also that these magnificent monsters become highly regarded as powerful symbols in support of Thailand's rice-cultivating regions.

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Wat Sri Sawai


Unique specimens can be viewed enclosed within the stone laterite walls of the fifteenth century Khmer temple of Wat Sri Sawai in the Sukhothai province of Thailand. The three-tower style structure with its central twenty-metre prang seen here was believed to have been originally constructed as a Hindu shrine.

Stone Carvings of the Hindu god Vishnu, the preserver of the universe and other Hindu divinities have been found on the site. Wat Mahathat, which is three hundred metres away, is another magical place where you can view these mystical creatures.  


Makara Images at Wat Sri Sawai


Further afield, there are some extraordinary examples of these mysterious Makara figures. According to the Mon Hariphunchai period, specimens often appear by themselves for decorative purposes. You'll be able to see a rare Lan Na example with head and body lining the roof of the sala at Wat Ton Kwen in the town of Hang Dong.

Another with the head only can be seen at Wat Kukut in Lamphun. Also known as Wat Chama Devi, it got named after the princess who first ruled Hariphunchai. Her son, King Mahandayok, built the temple in the early 8th century. The Chedis are incredible examples of Mon architecture. Hang Dong and Lamphun lie just a short distance south of Chiang Mai and well worth a visit.


Makara on the roof at Wat Ton Kwen


During the Lan Na period, the Makara is almost always merged with the body of the serpent-like creature known as the Naga. Features here would include small crocodile-like legs that sprout in front and behind the body while the tail section coil up much like that of a snake. Some even end as a type of rising flame.

Examples of these seemingly immortal beings you'll find flanking the stairwells of Buddhist temple monasteries. The balustrades are usually where these monster critters prefer to reside all the while acting as protective guardians.

They appear in all periods of classical northern style Thai art. You will see them on both sides of the stairwells, all of which have five heads with the largest one in the centre. They are justly imposing and impressive and could even be considered handsome.

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Makara Images at Wat Chedi Luang


Some of the most exquisite examples of Burmese and Thai Lan Na periods you'll find at Wat Chedi Luang, a Buddhist temple in the historic part of Chiang Mai. You'll find the heads of these rather ferocious snarling creatures sporting glorious crowns, all of which are attached to serpent-like torsos with intricately patterned scales. They appear to glide down from the balustrades.

Similar examples of the Makara you'll find at Wat Umong Maha Thera Chan, one of many Buddhist temples located within the old city moat of the same city. 

Another excellent example of these monstrous and magnificent creatures you'll be able to see at Wat Suan Dok, located just west of the old city walls on Suthep Road in Chiang Mai. One of the serpent-like creature found here has a head with a rather menacingly looking open mouth that sports a beautifully carved ornamented floral tendril complete with a serpent-like floral torso as seen below.

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Makara Images at Wat Suan Dok

You may also like these Thai Mythologies

Naga is a serpent-like protector of Buddha  

Garuda is a mythical birdlike creature in Hindu and Buddhist mythology.

Hongsa is often seen as a glittering five metre tall swan-like figure gracing the prow of a royal barge or perched high on the apex of temple roofs. 

Apsonsi appears in the form of a half-woman and half-lion 

Kinnari appears in the form of a half-woman and half-bird. 

Erawan is a three-headed mythical elephant of Hindu origin. The elephant statue seen in the photo is in the province of Samut Prakan just outside Bangkok. 

Yaksha appears in the form of a grimacing giant statue. 

Singha has a lion-like figure whose primary function is to guard temples.

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