Wat Phou, which is a Khmer temple complex in the Southern Laos, is located at the foot of the sacred mountain of Phou Cao, Champasak Province, which is 6 kilometers from the Mekong River and 670 kilometers from Vientiane to the south. The temple is surrounded by 4,000 small and large islands on the Mekong River called Siphandone. In Lao language, Siphan is 4,000 and done means island.
Typical characteristics of Wat Phou
The structure of the Hindu temple shows us that Wat Phu was built from the eleventh century to the thirteenth century. Regarded as a miniature of Angkor Wat, Wat Phu still has its own unique and mysterious features, which even attracts visitors who visited Angkor Wat before. Nowadays, the temple is used for the Buddha worship.
Wat Phou is the oldest temple in Laos. Previously, this was the center of Hinduism and worshipped Shiva. By the 13th century, Wat Phou became a shrine to Buddha. Until now, it becomes one of the best places that preserve the values of Lao history and culture.
The temple has a unique structure and leads to a shrine where a linga bathes in the water from a stream on the mountain pouring down. Looking at the architecture of the temple, we can imagine a mountain of hard work that talent craftsmen have to carry out, from transporting large blocks, whittling and carving them into the shape of gods and Buddha, then reassemble them to form a grandiose, harmonious and firm architectural complex on the mountain slope. Indeed the ancient craftsmen made a great effort and exercise the grey matter to create a gigantic Wat Phou.
The main gate and the front of the temple are now ruined, but the reliefs of Hindu deities still remain. Through the gate, you follow a wide road to reach the foot of the mountain full of straight rows of stone pillars of Linga, which is the symbol of Shiva. At the end of the road are the two main temples that face east and are arranged symmetrically on a high mound. Both the temples are being restored. According to Lao legend and history, this is the temple of Badhecvara, which was built in the fifth and seventh centuries. Besides, this place is home to Crethapura, which is the first capital of the kingdom of Chenla. Archaeologists explained that in that period, there existed a road connecting Wat Phou and Angkor.
Wat Phou in these days
Today, Wat Phou is one of the biggest Buddhist festivals of the whole of Southern Laos. This festival is held for three consecutive days in the middle of March. Noong Vien Lake, which lies in front of the ancient temple, is the center of the festival.
It is impossible to escape from the devastation throughout the time. However, over a thousand years, Wat Phou still has been an attractive destination because of the magnificent beauty of the unique architecture. The reason is that the spiritual factors of the sacred land are associated with the desire for a good life. Despite being the ruins, Wat Phou still maintains the majestic vitality of Hinduism.
Wat Phou is an attractive destination for many visitors to the land of a million elephants. Several people come here for sightseeing and discovery while many others pray for good things and give offerings to gods. This ancient temple brings not only the magnificent beauty of the unique architecture but also sacred spiritual elements.