I have just come back from one of my favourite destinations – Thailand where nothing appear to have changed since it has come under military rule in May this year. I was once again immersed in that quintessential “Thainess” which indelibly colours the nation and bestows the sense of an ancient land of enormous cultural and topographical diversity. As usual, I found the locals happy, vibrant and welcoming to hordes of international travellers with a smile on their face.
Blessed with a tropical climate, Thailand uniquely offers a graceful blend of antiquity with modernity. In other words I say that variety is indeed the spice of life in this nation. From the excitement of ultramodern Bangkok to the glorious ruins of ancient settlements and from lush forested hills of the North to the white sandy beaches and tropical islands of the South, this Siamese Kingdom offers a medley of sights, scenes that rewards every visitor in its own way, myself being no exception. I have ventured there several times in the last two decades and every visit has been most rewarding for me in all possible ways from enjoying nature, history and cultural richness to filling suitcases with bargains, enjoying mouth-watering cuisine and relishing contemporary lifestyle elements.
This visit I discovered the Nakhon Ratchasima region around Isan province in the North-East where a blend of history, culture and picturesque nature enthralled me, most intriguing being exploring the Phimai Historical Park which dots the ruins of 1000 years old Prasat Hin Phimai, one of the nation’s most significant Mahayana Buddhist sanctuary.
At first sight, image of Angkor Wat in Cambodia flashed my mind, there being serious resemblance in style, setting and construction details between the two – both built by Khmer rulers almost at the same period.
For access into the heart of the shrine, we crossed the Naga Bridge, which is a sandstone platform with set of stairs on three sides each adorning a lion statue at its footsteps. It’s a typical example of Angkor Wat period design. This bridge is believed to link human and heavenly realms as per Buddhist and Hindu cosmology.
The most important part of the sanctuary, the inner courtyard houses the central tower Artistic carvings appear on different parts of the tower, particularly at the gables and lintels, depicting stories of Ramayana and Buddhism. There are statuettes of Lord Shiva as well, in his dancing pose.
The interior of the main shrine, like in any Hindu temple is called “Garbhagriha”, which holds today an ancient statue continued…