June 25, 2012

Lao Temple: Mural and Burial Stupas

Most of the temples we saw in the Buddhist nation of Laos were noticeably less ornate and decorated than the many I've seen in Thailand. I found them serene and appealing.

The first photo shows you the intricately carved door of a small unassuming neighborhood temple we walked by in Vientiane, the nation's capital. I failed to find out its name (and googling came up empty).

I also regret cutting off the bottom of the door in this photo; my focus back then in 2002 was clearly on the wonderful mural (better seen enlarged) painted directly onto dry stucco. I've learned since that this mural most likely depicts scenes from the ancient Jakata Tales that Buddhist monks tell to develop the moral values of their listeners.

Vientiane, 2002 

Near the temple were a cluster of typical burial stupas. We saw many of these in Laos; around temples, in nature along the road we traveled, and in the gardens of private homes. And yet I was not able to discover any information at all about them.

Upon death, Lao people are generally cremated following Buddhist rituals, and so these would not be graves for bodies in coffins the way we often bury our dead in the West. I conclude, until I learn otherwise, that these funerary stupas are memorials erected for loved ones.


The only view of the entire temple building I photographed was this one from the back.


I am linking with the blogging communities at Monday Mural and Taphophile Tragics.

32 comments:

Mumsy¸.¤ª“˜¨ said...

The mural is stunning and colorful! It is a gorgeous temple, and I hope all is well with you..

Andy said...

Amazing detail in the mural.

Denise said...

Magnificent photos, especially of the mural. Absolutely gorgeous!

Nefertiti said...

se que c est beau !

Kate said...

There's tremendous variety in temples!

Chrissy Brand said...

Some fascinating facts and ideas here and I really like that mural!

Oakland Daily Photo said...

Wonderful mural. There's something about its structure and some of the images that reminds me of Renaissance frescoes. Makes me wonder if there ever were cross cultural contacts influencing religious art. Thanks for the tour and for contributing to Monday Mural.

La Principessa Errante said...

Gorgeous mural. I love stupas, they come in so many sizes, and ornamentation, you caught some great ones in this.

EG CameraGirl said...

I can see why you might have missed the door if you were concentrating on the mural. It's funny how we can block out details when we are focused on something else.

If you ever find out more about stupas I hope you share the information with us!

Shooting Parrots said...

The mural at Vientiane is beautiful, so you're forgiven missing the bottom of the door. I can see your viewfinder would be elsewhere!

Gemma Wiseman said...

Such intricate detail and attention to colour in the mural! Fascinating! And so love the style of those stupas! Beautiful sense of magical elegance!

NixBlog said...

Fantastic shots and an interesting post, Francisca.

RedPat said...

Wonderful mural. The temple looks fairly ornate to me.

Birdman said...

Enjoyed this post today. Enlightening

Photo Cache said...

the mural is incredibly fascinating. i too wish you had capture the complete door.

have a happy week.

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Ann said...

Really interesting. If my leg holds up and I don't have to cancel I will be in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam later in the year and this time will be keeping taphophilia in mind when looking for subjects. Along with all the other really interesting stuff, of course.

Halcyon said...

Very intricate painting. I love the rich colors. :)

Andrea said...

As you know I am not keen on murals, but i love portals like doors and windows. We even took a train from Yogyakarta, Indonesia to Solo primarily for the colorful portals. I hope to see Vientianne and Laos too, hopefully next year if someone will join me.

Traveling Hawk said...

Very interesting place. We find stupas very decorative, not thinking about their religious significance. As you found out meantime, I presume, stupas keep enshrined parts of Buddhas or other relics, so they are very important for the believers.

Vetrimagal said...

Beautiful pictures and narration! I have not heard of this place before, and it was enjoyable to read about.

Thanks.


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Francisca said...

@Traveling Hawk...yes, I am aware that larger stupas hold treasuries - some are religious relics that pilgrims come to circumambulate; but I don't believe that is the case for these smaller funerary stupas. I'm guessing, but perhaps they do hold some personal relics of the deceased as part of the memorial. On the other hand, perhaps I am wrong entirely to call these memorials stupas, even though their shapes certainly look like small versions of Buddhist stupas.

Cezar and Léia said...

Une histoire très intéressante et jolies photos!Merci pour cette découverte!
bises
Léia

ladyfi said...

Wonderful shots. Lovely temple.

I've replied to your query about Roros, but in case your Internet is flaky - here is the reply:

he copper mines are all shut down. I think they closed in the seventies. The winters are very dark – and can be harsh – but as it’s also protected in the mountains, not as harsh as you might expect apparently.

We saw lots of young people there. I think they tend to move away and then move back when they start having their own families.

I was there filming in the Håg factory where the world famous Håg chairs are made.

Nicola Carpenter said...

Gorgeous pictures, such lovely vibrant colours.

Herding Cats

Pat Tillett said...

One of the reasons I love your posts, is the interesting information you provide that pertains to the great photos you take. This post is a perfect example of that... Thanks!

VioletSky said...

had you tried to get everything into the photo, you might have not gotten quite so much detail of this amazing mural.

Lowell said...

Fascinating post with gorgeous photos! The artistic abilities of people around the world continually amazes me. Perhaps because I lack some of those abilities! :-)

Thank you for your kind words. I am, indeed, a lucky man! We'll be celebrating in Tampa Bay this Friday.

JM said...

Wonderful! I have to visit Lao soon before it's spoiled.

Julie said...

I have seen images of stupas prior to this, but did not know their name, nor their purpose. One could easily get into strife for inappropriate behaviours with regard to them and their contents, I gather.

I do like the complexity and the colour of the mural, however, what I particularly like is the design of that incredibly simple temple. Are they carvings under the eaves?

Quite gorgeous.

Francisca said...

Yes, Julie, there are intricate gold wood carvings on painted red on the door, top of the columns and under the eaves. You can also see the naga carvings (a semi-divine being, half human and half serpent, found in both Buddhist and Hindu mythology) on all the roof corners. It's too bad I didn't stop to take a closer look and get better close-ups.

Rita said...

Amazing talent that went into creating this wonderful work of art.

diane b said...

Interesting post about other cultures remembering their loved ones.