Art / Beliefs / Thailand

The Curious Creatures of The Grand Palace

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Bangkok’s Grand Palace is chock-full of dazzling buildings, without a doubt. But clustered around these buildings are charming statues of mythical creatures – important symbols for Buddhists. However, for most of the tourists who flock here, the creatures are probably just fun to see. For instance, there are pairs of these giants, called yaksas, standing guard outside a few important buildings.

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These multi-headed serpents are called nagas, and one of their roles is as protector of Buddha, which explains their position on stairs leading to a temple.

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However, these statues are my favorites. They seem to have the legs and tail of a lion, and the upper body of a beautiful woman. I particularly enjoy their appearance as human, and not an idealized god-like creature.

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There is also a male form, but since this guy is half chicken, I wonder about his position in the pecking order.

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And these stupas are held up by intricately mirrored spirits wearing unique masks.

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Given the scale, astounding colors, and details of the buildings, it’s easy to miss these wonderful creatures. But for me, they were an integral part of the experience. Each was museum-piece quality, and speaks volumes about the energy that went into the Palace and its Temples.

Happy Trails,
James

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32 thoughts on “The Curious Creatures of The Grand Palace

    • Like most religions, Buddhism has very complex symbolism. Everything represents something. Colors, animals, flowers, hand positions, etc, each one has its own meaning. I like the chicken man too, but my favorite is the lovely lady (lion legs, dragon tail??). ~James

  1. Thank you for sharing your amazing adventure and photos with us. In this case it’s true “all that glitters is gold”. Looking forward to your next trip and post.

    BE ENCOURAGED! BE BLESSED!

    • Thanks Francine. These statues are so unique and colorful that I never grow tired of looking at them. In Buddhism the color gold symbolizes the sun or fire, and Buddhists in Thailand use it a lot in their temples. ~James

  2. I too was fascinated by the Naga and the statues. Our guide pointed out some of the creatures holding up the stupas are barefoot with snarling teeth (demons) and some wear shoes and are not showing teeth (monkeys). They were my favorite. I kept thinking of the Wizard of Oz and Walt Disney while I was in the Grand Palace.
    Love your photos. What kind of camera did you use to take them?

    • Thanks Shelley. We didn’t take a guided tour, so we missed out on some of the details. Now that you mention it, our monkeys don’t have shoes, but they are showing teeth. I’m sure that means something altogether different. The Palace is one of the most photogenic places I’ve visited, and it’s a photographer’s dreamworld. I’m afraid our camera isn’t anything too exotic. It was a Canon Powershot, ELPH 100 HS. We’re all about simple and lightweight whe we travel, so the Canon fits our needs just fine. Camera technology has come so far that it’s amazing how small point and shoots can take such great pix. ~James

  3. Wonderful photos, James. Thanks for sharing them all.
    The colours and detail are just dazzling.

    • Thanks Virginia. There are lots of things to see in Bangkok, but the Grand Palace should be at the top of your list. It’s incredibly photogenic, and the people-watching is fun as well. It’s a sacred place for Buddhists, so there are lots of non-tourists around. ~James

  4. ‘Pecking order’…had to laugh. 🙂
    Yes, I have enjoyed your Thailand posts. I have bookmarked them for future reference. I know so little about SE Asia and your posts have inspired great interest and a desire to learn more. Such an amazing and seemingly exotic culture. Thank you for these fine posts and photos! – Mike

    • Thanks Mike, I’m glad somebody picked up on my little pun. We’ve traveled quite a lot in SE Asia, and it’s one of our favorite parts of the world. After our last trip to Bangkok, we’ve even talked about spending a month or so there. On our last RTW we stopped in Laos and Cambodia, which were new to us, and also very neat. I’m glad that our posts have been interesting, and hopefully useful for you in the future. ~James

    • Thanks Pam. Our MO lately has been to pick a place, and write new posts during the week, and then run a Blast from the Past on the weekend. We have lots of new followers and this exposes them to some of our fun posts that they may have missed. ~James

  5. I saw something similar at a Kathmandu Buddhist stupa temple, where “weird” creatures seemed to be holding up the stupa. Great photos James!

    • Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog Janaline. Buddhist temples are always colorful, but in Thailand, they are particularly so. And the Grand Palace was the best of the best. ~James

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