Photographs from Wat Pho

The third big collection of photographs from the Bangkok trip comes from Wat Pho. I had wanted to visit the temple ever since I found out that there were murals of bhikkhunis there. It is very difficult indeed to find murals of bhikkhunis anywhere, as, like women in general, they are left out from the records in most cases.

Unfortunately for me though, I didn’t get sufficient information on the murals while I was there, it was not until the day before I left that I was very kindly given a very large and expensive book covering the murals by Ajahn Thiab, the Dean of the Graduate School at Mahachulalonghorn U., who was an admirer of my textual work.

When I got back to Malaysia and read the book I realised how much I had missed: the murals in the Reclining Buddha Hall, where most of the photographs come from, cover the lives of the 13 foremost bhikkhuni disciples of the Buddha, and the four main ones (Mahapajapati, Khema, Upalavanna and Patacara) I had somehow missed (they are in a rather inaccessible position).

There were also murals of the 10 foremost male lay disciples and the 10 foremost female disciples. Only later did I find out that in the main viharn there were murals of the foremost monks, and I only got a few photographs from there, and have been unable to identify them.

After reading the book, I realised there was much else in that temple that I had missed also, like reliefs of the Ramakhein. This, by the way, is not an uncommon event: I had to return to Borobudur and to Angkor to be able to complete the work there as I had missed many things on the first visits.

I am rather fortunate as Ajahn Thiab has invited me to stay at Wat Pho should I ever wish to return, and the thing I was most missing was inside knowledge and help while I was there, so I may take him up on that when I can find a good reason to go again, or maybe on my way through to another country like Laos, which I also have plans to visit.

Meanwhile, despite the fact that I didn’t photogrpah all that I might have while I was there, the collection as it stands is still one of the best from the trip, and I have got quite a lot of material, and have been able to piece it together and identify quite a lot of it working with the book I now have.

The whole collection of 96 photographs, together with more information about Wat Pho can be found on the Wat Pho page of my Photo Dharma website.

Note that the artists had no first-hand knowledge of bhikkhunis, and drew what are basically monks with bosoms, not realising that bhikkhunis have a special blouse (samvacchika) that they must wear in addition to the three robes.


Update: these albums were later updated and organised into three separate albums:

Buildings, Statues and Drawings (136 photographs)

Murals of the Great Disciples (112 photographs)

Ramakien Reliefs (166 photographs)


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