All the Spiritual Sagas Surrounding
Hindu and Buddhist Mythology
The culture in Thailand is often associated with legends and myths of the past, which are common themes throughout the country’s art. The mythical creatures found in Thailand can be interpreted as symbols that represent the great kingdom itself or those who inhabit it- meaning there may be more to these images than meets the eye!
There are around 500,000 different statues and sculptures in Thailand depicting a diverse range of mythical creatures and gods.
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 outstanding examples found here, represent fearsome beasts who act as temple guardians. Most of these beings originate from the legendary Himaphan forest, a kind of Buddhist Shangri-La (earthly paradise) somewhere in the Himalayan mountains.
The Naga Serpent
The Naga is a serpent-like protector of Buddha and often acts as a guardian against wicked or even evil spirits. They almost always flank the walls of temples or the staircases that lead up to them. Many you can see carved on roofs, doors, gables and windows. In some cases, they are multi-headed as seen in the photo above.
Here’s a fascinating look into the mythology surrounding Naga ~ The serpent-like god who tempted the great Buddha.
See Thai Mythological Creatures Video
The Garuda is a giant mythical bird-like creature that appears in both Hindu and Buddhist mythology. Its somewhat surreal but curious shape you could say is perceived 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 you can see 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 Apsonsi takes on the shape of that of a half-woman and half-lion. Some of these graceful gilded figures you can view on the upper terrace at the temple of Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok.
The Hongsa (or Hong) is a swan-like figure of which, and an excellent example you can view at the Royal Barge Museum in Nonthaburi Bangkok. Not only is there a Hongsa figure perched proudly on the brow of the king’s barge, but these mythical creatures you can also see 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 you can see at the Grand Palace Complex and Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok.
The Makara is an aquatic monster made up of part crocodile, part elephant and part serpent. This servant symbolises rainfall and several temples depict these creatures on balustrades.
The Erawan is a three-headed elephant of which one of the biblical proportions you can find in the almost fifty metres tall Erawan Museum in the town of Samut Prakan south of Bangkok. Other exceptional examples of these mythical creatures you can view at the Sanctuary of Truth in Pattaya. Another example you are displayed on the central tower of Wat Arun in Bangkok and also in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand.
The Singha (Singh) 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.
The Khochasi is a blend of elephant and lion. Taking on the elephant’s head (signifying wisdom) and the lion’s body (signifying strength). These sculptures and statues are quite common in the north of Thailand are and said to protect the sacred temples in which they are featured.
Thailand is a beautiful country with rich culture and heritage full of beautifully crafted statues and sculptures that grace the holiest places. By clicking through you will see more detailed explanations of each god or creature.
Make sure to go see the statues and figures for yourself! You’ll be amazed at their artectural beauty and be transported by the magic they entail!
The Amazing Temples of Bangkok showcase many of these wonderful mythological creatures. I highly recommend you visit any of these wonderful Wats (Wat meaning temple in Thai): Wat Benchamabophit, Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Phra Kaew (Wat Saket), The Grand Palace, Wat Arun, Wat Benchamabophit, Wat Bowonniwet, or Wat Rachanadda Buddhist Temple.