Phra Chedi

Maha Chedi Luang, Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai

Phra Chedi (Stupa). The most venerated religious structure for Buddhists is stupa. Originally it enshrined some relics of Lord Buddha. Later on it contained relics of some holymen or kings, etc ; finally it has become a religious symbol as the cross is for the Christians.

As we know, the prototype of the stupa originated in central India. It is composed by the drum, (basement), the dome (tumulus), surmounted by a cubical chair symbolizing the seat of Buddha and over it the chatra (umbrella) which originally had only on tier and later on it became a slender pinnacle formed by many tiers. In Thailand we find stupas of so various forms that we have to limit our remarks to the principal ones only.

Wat Chang Lom, one of the four significant temples, Sukhothai

i) The northern type formed by a cubical solid mass having four niches at its sides containing images of Buddha in high relief or round relief ; this cubical mass is superimposed by one or more storeys and crowned by the domed stupa. If the structure is hollow, then one of the niches serves as entrance door.
Almost always at the corners of the cubical basement and even at the corners of the superposed storeys, there are small stupas which remind both Srivijaya and Burmese art.
Difference of proportions in relation to width and height varies the appearance of this kind of stupa.

The Chedi Thong, twenty-two metres (72 feet) high, sheathed in copper plate overlaid with gold and
surrounded by gold railings with golden lace umbrellas as each corner

ii) Another type of Phra Chedi is the one resembling the Sat Mahal Pasada at Polonnaruva in Ceylon formed by many receding cubical storeys enriched with horizonal rows of standing Buddha-images in high relief. This type of Phra Chedi is to be found in the north of Thailand.

Two of the Phra Chedi Thong or the Twin Golden Stupas and the Royal Pantheon as seen from the west side of Phra Mondop

iii) In general, the form of the round-planned stupa built in Thailand is the one having the same elements as the Indian prototype which was introduced from Ceylon. The form of this stupa is eminently Thai because it is included in a high pyramidal curved outline, a chracteristic noticeable in all Thai religious buildings. This stupa has a high drum formed by many mouldings of the same design, a bell-shaped dome, a square throne surmounted by a low circular colonnade supporting the high and slender chatra (umbrella).