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Visit to the most sacred Buddhist temple Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok
On a visit to Bangkok in the first week of May this year, we four tourists from India, tried to visit as many famous Buddhist temples as possible, at least, the seven most famous ones. We hired a van and went around for two days visiting various temple complexes which were huge and grand.

We visited the Wat Phra Kaew, which is regarded as the most sacred Buddhist temple or wat in Thailand for being the palladium or protective image of Thai society. It is located in Phra Nakhon district, the historic centre of Bangkok, within the precincts of the Grand Palace of the royals.

This Buddhist temple houses the Emerald Buddha, which is a dark green statue about 66 centimetres tall. It is said that this precious statue has been carved from a single jade stone or emerald.

The statue has been carved in a yogic position, known as Virasana. The pedestal is decorated with Garuda, the mythical half-man half-bird form, a steed of lord Rama which is central to Thai Buddhism.

The Thai King changes the cloak around the statue three times a year, corresponding to the summer, winter, and rainy seasons, an important ritual performed to usher good fortune to the country during each season. Except the king, no one is allowed to touch the statue.

The entrance to temple structure is guarded by a pair of yakshis or mythical giant statues which are 5 metres tall.

Like other Thai Buddhist temples, this temple too follows a strict dress code. It has been mandated that men must wear long trousers and sleeved shirts and shoes; women must wear long skirts or other wears covering their legs. Visitors who arrive dressed otherwise are asked to rent appropriate clothing items at the entry area of the temple to follow the dress code.

The locals follow the dress and behaviour codes but foreigners are told that while offering prayers before the Buddha's image, in the sitting posture should avoid any offensive stretching of feet towards the deity; the feet should be tucked in towards the back.

Another high point of the temple is the hermit's bronze image, which is believed to have healing powers and is located near the entry gate. It is a black stone statue and is believed to be the patron of medicine. Many devotees having sick, ailing and infirm relatives pay respects to this statue by offerings joss sticks, fruit, flowers, and candles.

On the eastern side of the temple premises there are eight towers or prags, each of different colour that represent eight precepts of Buddhism.

All around the temple, one can see the statues of elephants, which symbolize independence and power. Many young children were seen going around the elephant statues three times with the belief that it would bring them strength. One can also see people rubbing the heads of elephant statues for good luck and self-confidence. The heads of the statues of elephants have become oily and smooth due to constant rubbing.

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