In Thailand it is very difficult to find female imagery in a traditional temple. These figures are at Wat Arun, one of the oldest and most revered temple in Bangkok. Wat Arun was built to evoke Mount Meru, a famous spiritual mountain said to be the center of the universe. Very steep steps lead up its spire with niches where statues portray important stories from the Buddha’s life.
At his birth it was said that the Buddha stood up, took seven steps and pointing to the heavens and the earth, declared himself to be the “world honored one.”
While the story is laden with the mythology of India, significant to this depiction are the two female figures on each side of him. Are they his mother and aunt, the former giving him birth and the latter raising him after his mother died seven days following his birth? If this were true both women play significant roles in the history of Buddhism. His aunt, Mahaprajapati became a follower of the adult Buddha, organized the first sangha of women nuns and reached enlightenment through her practice and study.
I’d love to know more about this lovely work of art. The women could be guardian figures or dieties known as asuras associated with Mount Meru. I am so happy to have found it and invite anyone with more scholarly information to share what you know.
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