BUDDHA’S BOUNCERS: THAILAND’S MYTHICAL TEMPLE CREATURES

Thailand’s mythical creatures create a world of wonder in their presence in the intricate decors and sculptures in the wats that are spread all over Thailand. Have you ever wondered why they love lining their stairways with serpents or what these half-man-half-beast creatures scattered all over temple courtyards are about? We have profiled and ID-ed these mysterious creatures for you.

THE NAGA

Better than the usual guard dog, these serpent-like guardians of the temple usually line stairs that lead to the entrance, like the pair of golden three-headed Nagas guarding the stairs at Wat Srisoka in Chiang Mai. Symbolically, they are the guardians of Buddhism. These mythical creatures are also carved around doors, windows, and roofs in Thailand as a means of warding away evil spirits. Aside from their stone incarnations in temples, the locals believe that the Nagas actually live in the Mekong, breathing fireballs that can be seen rising from its uninhabited areas.

MAKARA

The first time you see it by the temple steps it makes you wonder what it is. It becomes even more intriguing when you see a 5-headed Naga coming out of its mouth. Part crocodile, part elephant, and part serpent, they also have the role of protecting temples from evil spirits and providing abundance to Thailand’s rice-growing regions. You can spot them at Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Suan Dok in Chiang Mai.

THE GARUDA

Yoga practitioners may be able to associate this mythical creature with the eagle pose, Garudasana. Half human, half bird, it has a man’s body with wings, bird legs, and a beak. Known to the Hindus as the King of Birds, the Garuda is the vehicle of the god, Vishnu, and the messenger between gods and humans. Golden Garudas can be found at Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok.

SOO HONG

Usually perched on roof ridges of temples, this ornate majestic creature is no ugly duckling. From its beak is a dangling bell. They say that when it is moved by the breeze, prayers reach heaven.

THE KINNARA AND KINNARI

Half-celestial, half-swan, you will see these creatures at the Grand Palace Wat Phra Kaew, and Wat Arun in Bangkok. According to Hindu beliefs, they can fly between the human and mystical realms with the mission of protecting humanity. When they were integrated into the Thai culture, however, Kinnara and Kinnari became symbols of love, music, and poetry. The portrayal of both can be also be seen in Thai dances.

THE APONSI

From afar, it looks like another Kinnari, but if you look at its bottom half, you will see that it has the legs and tail of a lion. Gilded versions of the Aponsi can be found at Wat Phrae Kaew.

KHOCHASI

This mythical creature, which is half lion and half elephant, is another guardian that keeps watch of sacred places. You can find one of them at Wat Pa Phu Kon in Udon Thani.

THE SINGHA

Very much represented on the labels of Thai beer bottles, you will no doubt be familiar with this creature. This lion-like figure is another one of Buddha’s bouncers. They are also seen as symbols of power, strength, courage, and leadership among Thai people.

THE YAKSHA

This grimacing giant statue with a brightly coloured face is probably Thailand’s version of the friendly giant. Although they are usually harmless, they can be mischievous, according to local belief. You would find them standing on guard and out of mischief at the entrance of Wat Phra Kaew and the Suvarnabhumi Airport.

GOTTA CATCH THEM ALL

If you are a fan of Pokémon Go, then how about catching all of the mythical creatures of Thailand in a picture? Share your favourite with us or earn bragging rights by sharing all of them. And, if we missed anything in the list, let us know.

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