Sunday, 17 May 2009

Some Notes on Thai Religious Architecture

Some of Thailand's finest buildings are built for religious purposes. The architecture found in Thailand's temples or Wats and other structures of a religious nature have greatly influenced secular Thai architecture. The clearest example of this is the high, steeply sloping roofs.

Below I will give a brief description of the various types of Buddhist structures found in Thailand.


The Wat or temple is the main religious building in Thailand. It is often in the centre of a compound surrounded by other buildings. Inside a wat will be found various stautes and images of the Buddha. Religious ceremonies and chanting are performed in a Wat.

Below is Wat Phra Kaeo in Bangkok, otherwise known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It is one of Thailand's most famous wats.

The Bot or Ubosot

This is the ordination hall where new monks take their vows. The building is characterised by 6 boundary stones called Bai Sema. A Bot usually faces east and the roof has a Chofa finial.


Chofas are elegant thin finials found on the roofs of Thai religious buildings. See my previous article about Chofas


A Chedi is a high domed edifice under which a relics of the Buddha or a revered teacher are buried.


A Prang is an Ayutthayan or Khmer Chedi. An Ayutthayan Prang tapers off smoothly to the peak whereas a Khmer Prang tapers off in clear steps.

The first picture below is an Ayutthayan Prang, the second a Khmer Prang.

Mondop / Mandapa

A Mondop is a Baldachin or Canopy of State that covers a Buddhist religious library. It is a square shape.

Ho Trai / Ho Phra

A small highly decorated building used to house the holiest scripts belonging to the Wat.


A Viharn is the sermon hall. Open to everyone, this often the busiest place in a Wat compound.

Below is Wat Suthat Viharn


A Naga is a mystical serpent that runs down the roof or embellishes staircases to Viharns or Bots. See my previous article on nagas

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