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A common cultural practice of installing 'spirit houses' on premises in South Asian Buddhist countries
During my recent visit to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand – three prominent countries of South Asia – on many premises in the urban areas and in most villages by the roadsides, decorative wooden structures resembling temples or colourful houses either on ground or pedestals were seen. As tourists, we were told these are called spirit houses.

"A spirit house is a small well decorated personal shrine dedicated to the protective spirit of a place and most houses, business premises, villages and habitations have a spirit house placed in an auspicious spot, most often in a corner of the property in the form of a miniature house or temple, and is often placed on a pillar or a dais," told our driver adding that the purpose is to provide a shelter for spirits that could cause problems and harm to the residents if not appeased.

Thus, as a Buddhist cultural practice, a spirit house is believed to keep the evil spirits confined and happy with offerings of flowers, food, candle votives and drinks. When seen for the first time, both Thai and Vietnamese spirit houses, work as eye catching courtyard decorations unless you discover the religious belief behind them.

All kinds of spirit houses can be purchased and installed which can be both simple and elaborate for the happiness of the spirits. The little shelters also at times contain toy furniture, play material and other daily use items for the pleasure and use of the spirits.

In fact, spirit houses reflect prevalent belief in animism and ancestor veneration throughout the South Asian region including Myanmar. To devout Buddhists, they are of vital importance for establishing a rapport with the spirits of the ancestors and keeping evil spirits away.

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