Wall Murals

Introduction

The Traditional Thai Murals that are found in the temple resembles much of those that can be found in Thailand today. Traditional Thai art primarily consists of Buddhist art with influences from Thai folklore and Hinduism; Thai sculptures most often depict images of the Buddha and other characters from Buddhist and Hindu mythology. From the 1st to the 7th centuries, art in Thailand was influenced by direct contact with Indian traders and the expansion of the Mon Kingdom, leading to the creation of Hindu and Buddhist art inspired by Indian traditions. ​Paintings of Thai Buddha from different periods have a number of distinctive styles, and contemporary Thai art often combines traditional Thai elements with modern techniques. [1] The artwork that is found at the temple are from the Mahanipata Jakata 

 

Mahanipata Jataka (mahānipāta jātaka),  (Ten Great Birth Stories of the Buddha), are stories from the longer Jataka collection.  These tales are the ten final lives of the Bodhisatta, the future Gotama Buddha. Each Jataka story illustrates one of the 10 virtues to be fully developed to become a Buddha. The virtues are renunciation, vigour, compassion, fortitude, insight, morality, patience, equanimity, veracity and generosity.

 

After the last story, Vessantara, the Bodhisatta appears in the Brahma realm before his next form as a human being. 

With reference to https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-arthistory/chapter/thai-art/

wall mural A

2. Mahajanaka (Vigour)

Mahajanaka was a prince and a Bodhisatta. When he was 16, he sailed for Suvarnabhumi, the golden land in the East in order to reclaim his throne from his uncle. A great storm arose sinking the ship. For seven days and seven nights his determination kept him afloat. The goddess of the sea, Manimekhala noticed that he was no ordinary person. She carried him from the water and lay him down on a stone under a mango tree.

The royal court of Mithila was in search of a king. The court Brahmins and ministers noticed that Mahajanaka had the markings of a king and invited him to be king. After some time, he passed his kingdom to his heir and became an ascetic.

Vigour

Renunciation

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1. Temiya (Renunciation)

At one time the Bodhisatta was born as a prince named Temiya.  As a child, his father would carry Temiya to the court while he administered punishments to criminals. Temiya decided he did not want to be king if it meant causing pain to others. He thus pretended to be mute. The king tried unsuccessfully to comple Temiya to make a sound. He tried to frighten him with weapons and snakes but to no avail. Eventually the king was advised by his astrologer to kill Temiya as a mute was of no use to the kingdom.

 

Temiya was brought to the cemetery and a hole was dug. The Bodhisattva thought, "This is the time to show who I am." He then lifted the chariot high and proclaimed aloud the reason why he pretended to be mute. Prince Temiya then renounced his claim to royalty and became an ascetic. 

 

His father visited him in his hermitage and was convinced of the value of the holy life. 

Artwork A1

wall mural B

Compassion

3. Suvanna Sāma (Compassion)

Since he was 16 years old, Sama looked after of his parents who, due to their past kamma, had been blinded by a giant snake. Living in the forest, Sama had great compassion for his parents and all the animals who were his only friends. One day while Sama was gathering water with a herd of deer, the King of Benares saw him and wondered what creature Sama was. He shot a poisoned arrow to capture him thinking that Sama was a forest demon (Sama was actually the Bodhisatta). The King approached Sama and realised he has shot a human. Sama told the king the story of how he looked after his blind parents. The King felt very guilty and brought Sama’s parents to their dying son. Simultaneously, a tree goddess who had been Sama’s mother in a past birth, witnessed what was happening and decided to help him and his parents. She brought him back to health and his parent's sight was restored.

Fortitude

4. Nimi (Fortitude)

Sakka (Indra) had heard of Nimi’s abilities to deliver sermons. He sent a magic chariot to fetch Nimi to preach to the gods in Heaven. On his way, Nimi visited hell. When he later arrived at Sakka’s heavenly palace, Nimi gave a discourse that lasted seven days. Sakka invited him to stay in Heaven but Nimi declined preferring to return to the human realm where he told people about the happiness of the gods, and exhorted them to always (fortitude) give alms and do good so they would be reborn in a divine place.

Artwork B (Main Shrine)
 
 
 
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Wall Mural C

MOrality

5. Bhūridatta (Morality)

Once the future Buddha was born as the demi-serpent Naga Prince Bhuridatta. In this form he had very great powers, but always kept the moral Five Precepts.  At night he slept folded atop ant hill. A snake charmer, Alambayana, captured the Naga Prince and forced him into a basket. He set the basket down a market place and ordered the Naga Prince to dance causing  great wonder and delight. Because he kept the Precepts perfectly, Prince Bhuridatta would not hurt his capturer and so did not escape. 

The performances were repeated in many villages until reaching Benares. When called to dance there, Prince Bhuridatta saw his human brother, Sudassana, in the crowd. His brother and his sister had been searching for him. Bhuridatta went to him, placed his head on his brother's foot and wept.

Sudassana told the snake-charmer that great misfortunate would arise if Bhuridatta was not released. Sudassana demonstrated his power by causing three powerful explosions. The frightened Alambayana immediately freed Bhuridatta.

insight

6. Mahosadha (Insight)

One morning, King Vedeha of Mithila awoke after a terrible dream. His four sages interpreted the dream to mean that there would be a fifth sage who would surpass them in wisdom. On that very day Mahosadha was born and later became the fifth sage, causing the other sages fear and jealousy. One day, the 101 Kings of India under the influence of the evil Brahmin Kevatta attacked Mithila. But Mahosadha, using the Bodhisatta’s insight, tricked them at each strike. Finally, Kevatta invited Mahosadha to meet him outside the city walls. Mahosadha carried with him a jewel which he knew Kevatta wanted. He pretended to drop the jewel and when Kevatta rushed to pick it up, he held down the sage by the shoulders and proclaimed that even an old sage bowed to him. The kings, on seeing this, left in defeat. Kevatta however, did not give up.

Kevatta influenced King Culani to kill King Vedeha by luring him to the kingdom on pretence of wedding King Culani’s beautiful daughter. Mahosadha warned King Vedeha of the plot; King Vedeha ignored the warnings being love blind. Mahosadha, understanding the situation, built King Vedeha a palace. This palace had a tunnel ranning from King Culani's palace to the Ganges river. When King Vedeha arrived at his new palace, he was surrounded by King Culani's troops. Mahosadha responded by luring the princess and her retinue into the tunnel. They emerged at the other side safely.

Because his family were hostages, King Culani realized that he could not hurt King Vedeha. Mahosadha brought King Culani to see his family in the tunnel. Suddenly Mahosadha took a sword and lifted it high in the air thereby making King Culani realise his folly. At long last the two men swore a sincere friendship.

Wall mural D

patience

7. Canda Kumara (Patience)

King Ekaraja had two advisors, Prince Canda Kumara (the Bodhisatta) who was loved by all, and the Brahmin Khandahala who was despised because he took bribes. One night, the king dreamt about the glory of heaven. He asked Khandahala the way to reach heaven. Khandahala, who hated Canda Kumara, hatched a plan to kill him. He answered, "You must sacrifice your entire family, 4 merchants, Canda Kumara and all species of animals." The King gave the order to prepare for the sacrifice.

The king of the gods, Sakka was angered by Ekaraja’s stupidity. He flew down and destroyed the royal parasols thus making the ceremony invalid. The angry crowd attacked Khandahala and killed him and all the prisoners were released.

equanimity

8. Brahma Nārada (Equanimity)

Angati was a king of Videha. Every full moon night, his daughter Ruja would make donations to the poor. But King Angati questioned the making of merit. He sought out the naked ascetic Guna who advised him to enjoy earthly pleasures. Making merit was not important. King Angati believed these words and forbade Ruja from her donations.

Ruja was upset by her father’s inability to see the truth. She raised her hands over her head and invoked the gods to come down and show her father the right way forth. The Bodhisatta at the time was born as the Brahma god Narada. He flew down in a halo of flames carrying two gourds of gold and silver. The gourds were given to Ruja so she could make merit. The Bodhisatta, Narada, told the King that he must be humble, learn the Dhamma and behave properly towards all beings. By these actions he would develop equanimity, gain merit and avoid hell.

Artwork D (Main Shrine)

Information on Wall Murals with reference to http://www.buddha-images.com/10jatakas.asp

 
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mural e

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Phra isuan

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Phra phrod resi

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Phra wisanukam

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Phra phikhanet

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Phra phrom

 

mural f

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Phra in

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Phra khonthap

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Phra Narai

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Phra phirap

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Phra suratsawadi

 

mural G

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Siri chuthamani

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vidhura bandita

 
 

backyard artwork

Backyard artwork

Theravada Buddhist tradition tells a story of a monk who travels to hell on his way to pay homage to the Buddha's hair relic kept in the Chulamani Stupa and to meet with the future Buddha.

 

This venerable is known as Phra Malai. In the temple's new mural he is flying above all the suffering beings. Different unwholesome karma results in Lord Yama assigning beings to the different woeful Realms; the tall hungry Ghost on the right has a pinhole-sized mouth. The killing of animals results in ghosts with the head of the animal that they slaughtered.

 

Hitler, Pol Pot and Ossama bin Laden join the crowd. The beings plead with Phra Malai to have their living relatives transferred merit to them.

 

On the far left are sexual offenders forced to climb the thorny "ngiu" tree while a butcher has an axe embedded in his skull. 

 
Temple door

The Artist

Dr. Irving Chan Johnson is an anthropologist and traditional Thai illustrator. He received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from Harvard University in 2004. He has been practising Thai art since he was a child and currently teaches traditional Thai painting at the National University of Singapore.

 

He is currently a mural painter at Wat Uttamayanmuni, a Thai Buddhist temple in Singapore. Irving's art work blends traditional Thai techniques and aesthetics with contemporary images to create unique works that embody the past in the present. The result challenges viewers to simultaneously engage with present-day society in the frame of a classical Thai genre.

 

Most recently, Irving was commissioned by the British Library to create a special piece as a part of an exhibition on Buddhist art. Irving has also designed a temple gateway in Malaysia, paintings and traditional temple logos. He has conducted lectures and workshops on Thai art in Singapore and the United States.

Temple door drawings by Dr. Irving