Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Wat Tham Kong Pen: An Isaan Oddity (2)

The main "drum cave" area

Candles and incense, lit
before prayer
The grounds of Wat Tham Kong Pen are unlike those of many other temples. There aren't formal walls or tiled walkways, except in the area called the "drum cave", called that because they'd found a large drum just inside of it way back when - or so I was told.  My Northeastern friend isn't as educated as some of my other friends, but what he lacks in that and English skills he makes up for with a good heart.

In the grand scheme of things it wasn't really all that important to know, anyway; just being there and having the opportunity to share such a peaceful spot was enough for me. Feel free to Google the place if you want to learn more.  Remember that spelling while transliterating can vary widely, and I've also seen it spelled "tham khong phen" and "thum klong paen".

My friend referred to the area as "fah-lest" (forest), and there were more trees than brush, I noticed; the welcome breeze making them sing softly as they moved overhead. It made an almost eerie whispering sound when you were standing inside the main part of the cave area, and the large gong added a harmony of sorts.

The allegedly ancient drum, next to the "rubbing gong"

The gongs (in the photo above) were intended to be touched. Most of you have made a glass "sing" by running your fingertip around the lip of it, and the raised circular center of these gongs responded the same way if you moved the palm of your hand around the sides of them, and the soft, undulating tone would reverberate around the large open area of the cave.

The alter, seen between overhanging boulders in the drum cave

Detail of offerings left by visitors

My friend naturally stopped to light a candle and incense as he bowed his head reverently in prayer for a few minutes, as did I.  When I raised my head and opened my eyes he was smiling at me and said "good". "Life is good," I replied "we need to say thank you." He nodded his head in agreement, and we walked outside to look around.

Another view of the main image area

Nearby there were several other small areas with a Buddha statue, each also having offerings in front of them - some larger, like the one below, some only a couple of feet tall, tucked into a crevice in the rocks. We didn't see any other visitors stop at them, but my friend did at a couple, while I stood at a distance and left him in peace.

Since we weren't in any hurry that afternoon we went back inside the museum to look around and learn a little more about the Venerable Luang Pu Khao Analayo.

Detail from a finely done oil portrait of the man

He was born Khao Koratha into a farming family in the the village of Ban Bo Cha Nang Nong Kaeo in Ubon Ratchathani province on December 28, 1888, where he went to school, married, and fathered seven children.

Another oil painting of Luang Pu Khao Analayo on display. I don't know the story behind it, sorry to say.

After relocating a few times during his lifetime, he eventually ended up (in 1958) at Wat Tham Klong Phane, in the Nong Bua Lam Phu District of the Udonthani Province. There he worshiped and taught until his death at the age of 95 years and five months on May 16, 1983.

Much like at Madame Tussauds, this statue was quite realistic

We asked our ride to wait down along the road a ways so we could walk and get a better look at some of the unusual architecture, as you'll see below.

Aside from the bell tower that began yesterday's post, most of the buildings in the area were built incorporated with the surrounding boulders and massive stone walls, such as the one below:

Here's a view of it from the left side, showing the rock it sits beneath:

Well, I suppose I've kept you here long enough today. If you're in the area (there's a map in yesterday's post, too) I'd say it'd be worth the hour or so drive there to see the place, if for no other reason than the rock formations and the buildings set into them.  I enjoyed my visit.


Anonymous said...

I hope the area is geologically stable...too many boulders in precarious positions.
Nice report!

khunbaobao said...

I hope so, too, Eduard!

When you see them they're SO big you figure it would take a huge earthquake to move them, but in the grand scheme of things (globe-wise) they're just pebbles.

I'm not all that skittish, but I didn't spend much time beneath that slab that juts into the main drum cave.