Virtual dose of history and culture

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The Buddha statue cave in Phu Phra Bat Historical Park, a mix of Dvaravati and Bayon styles. Photos © Department of Fine Arts

In the midst of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, we have been secluded at home for a few months and have seen travel restrictions as tourist attractions and entertainment venues remain closed.

Sometimes when I look out the window I imagine that it would be fun to have Doraemon’s Anywhere Door that can teleport globetrotters to multiple locations.

However, in reality, during this difficult time, I can enjoy virtual tours to interact with the outside world. Recently, the visual arts department launched a new website virtualhistoricalpark.finearts.go.th, which allows visitors to explore 12 historical parks across the country, such as Si Satchanalai Historical Park, Ayutthaya Historical Park, Sukhothai Historical Park and the Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park.

With advanced multimedia technology, it resembles an audio guide in Thai and English, including animated cartoons for children, video clips, photos, e-books, and charts so that people of all ages can easily learn about Thailand’s rich history and cultural heritage.

“Following preventive measures, historical sites and museums are temporarily closed to contain the Covid-19 outbreak. Hence, the Department of Fine Arts has used innovation and advanced information technology to provide easy access to knowledge and heritage for the public on an online platform if people want to stay at home, it is an effective service that can help them make money to save, “said Prateep Pengtago, director of the visual arts department.

Our virtual sightseeing tour begins in the northeast, where the Phu Phra Bat Historical Park is located, which features prehistoric paintings depicting wildlife, agriculture, and religious rites dating back over 2,500 to 3,000 years. Located 320m to 350m above sea level in Udon Thani, the park occupies 3,430 Rai and is home to 76 historical landmarks that reflect the influence of the Dvaravati and Khmer civilizations.

For example, the Buddha Images Cave – which was formed naturally by sandstone and its roof erosion – houses Buddha images and has become a spiritual place for Buddhist pilgrims. By scrolling up and down, visitors can see a statue of a seated Dvaravati-style Buddha statue under a wooden pediment adorned with floral and rosary motifs. There are also a number of six Buddha statues perched on a lotus and adorned with yellow robes and short loincloths, reminiscent of the 18th century Bayon style Khmer art.

Nearby, a ruined brick chedi rests in a stone courtyard and features unique Sukhothai and Lanna-style architecture. Here archaeologists discovered metal parts used in the manufacture of the upper roof structure, as well as crystal clear quartz, clay, and metal votive panels.

Inspired by the Phra That Phanom Stupa, Wat Phra Phutthabat Bua Bok was built by Phra Ajarn Srithat Suwanamajo between 1920 and 1936 to immortalize the Buddha’s footprint. Another highlight is the rock shelter at Huai Hin Rong, which features 2,500 year old multicolored paintings depicting geometry such as parallel curves, zigzags, straight lines, triangles, and a diamond.

There are also prehistoric murals on the walls of the Cattle Cave, depicting a mouse deer and humpback cattle running one behind the other, while the Human Cave shows archaic red paintings of seven people with sexes passing through male genital organs or long hair as well as the steps, legs and spread your arms.

In Buri Ram, visitors can continue their journey at Prasat Muang Tam in Buri Ram. According to archaeological research, this ancient Hindu sanctuary was built in honor of Shiva between the 16th and 17th centuries and was home to a large community of ancient pottery and green china buried underground. It was abandoned after the fall of Cambodia in the late 18th century before being rediscovered by a French explorer in 1901.

The site stands on a laterite base and houses five main Bayon-style pagodas, in which the statues of Krishna, Indra and Shiva with Uma Devi on the bull Nandi are kept. The walkway is flanked by 35 pillars known as Sao Nang Rieng, the tips of which are shaped like lotus buds. According to Hindu and Buddhist beliefs, the five-headed Naga Bridge was created to connect the earth and the sky, and its center is adorned with an eight-petroglyph petroglyph depicting eight Hindu gods.

Next, imagine standing in front of the Phimai Historical Park in Nakhon Ratchasima admiring the splendor of the largest Khmer-style stone sanctuary in Thailand. This ancient city is surrounded by moats and ramparts with a hospital and pavilions for travelers built during the reign of King Jayavarman VII. Prasat Hin Phimai shows the world-class craftsmanship of the mid-16th century and how it was an important gateway from the Mun River basin to Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

A sanctuary complex made of white sandstone was built in the middle of the green inner courtyard and has a chamber on a lotus-shaped base, a reliquary room and a Hindu shrine. Guardian deities, representing the four cardinal points north, south, east and west, keep watch on each side of the roofs, while Naga heads are placed at the corners.

Located to the southeast of the sanctuary, Prang Brahmathat was built from laterite in the 18th century, with white sandstone being used in some parts to reinforce the structures. Inside are two large sandstone statues of King Jayavarman VII and a kneeling woman believed to be Phra Nang Chai Raja Thewi, the wife of King Jayavarman VII. They are now on display at the Phimai National Museum.

Located in the southwest, the Red Stone Temple with four porticos was built in the 17th century and a carved sandstone lintel on the northern archway commemorates the Mahabharata Epic and the story of Khrisna hunting wild boar.

To the south, Phra Nakhon Khiri in Phetchaburi was built by King Mongkut as a royal palace in 1859 before King Chulalongkorn turned it into a summer residence in 1883.

Standing on a hill, it houses the Wetchayan Wichian Prasat Throne Hall with prang-like end pieces adorned with stucco on three-tier base platforms. Inside the building there is now a bronze sculpture of King Mongkut in western costume, which he wore when greeting diplomats.

Next to it is the Santhakarn Sathan Throne Hall in the courtyard. This royal villa has two small bedrooms, nine rooms as well as a theater for khon Mask dances and other cultural performances. In the reign of King Chulalongkorn, it was used to greet kings such as Princess Sudaratana Ratcha Prayoon, Duke John Albert of Mecklenburg, and Princess Jong Chitthanom Ditsakul.

Right next door is the Pramot Mahai Sawan Throne Hall, which looks like a Chinese-style limousine. The two-story building, conceived as a living museum, has two living rooms, a bedroom and a dressing room with a showcase with historical furniture and antiques from the royal treasuries.

The Chatchawan Wiang Chai Astrodome was modeled after a lighthouse. This dome, with a spiral staircase and a circular terrace with green glazed marble balusters, was formed from curved glasses with hanging lights to help sea traders and fishermen navigate to Baan Laem Bay at night. It is also the best vantage point to watch the sun set over the ocean and see breathtaking panoramic views of Phetchaburi.

There is also the Phra That Jom Petch stupa, which was rebuilt by King Mongkut to keep Buddha relics. This Lanka-style stupa has a spherical hollow chamber and two levels of wraparound terraces overlooking Phetchaburi.

In the tranquil town of Kanchanaburi, the Muang Singh Historical Park takes visitors back to the prehistoric era and the days when the Khmer culture spread to Thailand. This historic site is home to an ancient tomb where the skeletons of four prehistoric people were buried with ceramics, bronze ware, iron tools, bronze tools, shell bracelet, bronze bracelet, stone beads, and glass beads.

Keep browsing and you will find Prasat Muang Singh, which was built from laterite to serve as the main Hindu shrine. Behind the entrance is a cruciform pavilion where people can relax or prepare offerings, while the next terrace is lined with four basins where pilgrims place incense sticks so the smoke can purify their mind and body before they sanctify the sacred Enter place. In the center of the sanctuary stands a statue of the god Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, while the library contains scriptures and sacred artifacts.

The virtual tour can end in the Artefact Gallery. It presents an exhibition of architectural elements discovered in Prasat Muang Singh, such as terracotta stucco and roof tiles, as well as replicas of sculptures by Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara and Prajnaparamita.



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