Mythical Creatures can be found everywhere around Thailand but in many cases, foreigners to the country simply walk right past them in their sheer excitement as they gingerly make their way through the vast crowds at all the most popular places. Hopefully, you are not one of them. Below is a list of all the most important ones.
It may be of tremendous interest to you to pause for a while before entering any of the Thai temples to observe these beautifully crafted creatures. Many of the exceptionally fine examples found here, represent fearsome beasts which act as temple guardians. Most of these beings originate from the legendary Himaphan forest, a kind of Buddhist Shangri-La somewhere in the Himalayan mountains.
The Naga is a serpent-like protector of Buddha and often acts as a guardian against bad or even evil spirits. They almost always flank the walls of temples or the staircases that leads up to them. Many can be seen carved on roofs, doors, gables and windows. In some cases, they are multi-headed as seen in the photo above.
is a large mythical bird-like creature that appears in both Hindu and
Buddhist mythology. Its rather surreal but curious shape is usually seen as a half-man and half-bird. The story of Garuda's origins, accomplishments and exploits
are told in the first book of the great epic Mahabharata. Examples of these ferocious figureheads can be seen on the brow
of the gun barge at the
Royal Barge Museum
in Bangkok as well as other fine specimens at various temple complexes around the country.
The Kinnari appears in the form of a half-woman and half-bird. You will find some of these mythological figurines in small coves on the second level of the central prang at Wat Arun located beside the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok.
The Hongsa is a swan-like figure of which, a fine example can be viewed at the Royal Barge Museum in Nonthaburi in Bangkok. Not only is there a Hongsa figure perched proudly on the brow of the king's barge, but these mythical creatures can also be seen perched on the apexes of temple roofs in various other parts of the kingdom.
The Yaksha takes the shape of a grimacing giant statue often sporting brightly coloured faces. These spectacularly crafted figures tower above the entrances to a great many of the temple compounds in Thailand, of which some superb examples can be seen at the Grand Palace Complex and at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok.
The Makara is an aquatic monster made up of part crocodile, part elephant and part serpent. Symbolising rainfall, many temples depict these creatures on balustrades.
The Erawan is a three-headed elephant of which one of biblical proportions can be found in the almost fifty metre tall Erawan Museum in the town of Samut Prakan south of Bangkok. Other fine examples of these mythical creatures can be seen at the Sanctuary of Truth in Pattaya. Another example can be viewed on the central tower of Wat Arun in Bangkok and also in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand.
The Singha takes on the appearance of a lion-like figure whose primary function is to guard temples. Larger ones grace temple entrances while other smaller ones sit atop gateposts. The marble temple at Wat Benchamabophit in Bangkok has a number of these giant mythical creatures gracing the compound.
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