A City Pillar Shrine is built to house a City Pillar or lak mueang, placed in most Thai cities to be the center, heart and soul of the city and her citizens. The Pillar is a continuation of ancient customs in which a City Pillar was erected first and represented the intent to build a city.
The shrine is also believed to house Chao Pho Lak Mueang, the city spirit deity. In the cities of Udon Thani and Ban Dung, and probably in many other Thai cities as well, there are other guardian and protector spirits and deities to honor, and so the City Pillar Shrine is part of a complex of shrines and effigies to those deities.
City Pillar Shrine, Udon Thani
Udon Thani’s City Pillar Shrine is a sort of park in Udon Thani’s city center with a number of shrines and temples, and a large statue of the Udon Thani Province‘s protecting god.
The City Pillar is visible inside of the shrine in the picture below. People remove their shoes before entering this shrine as the would a temple, and kneel and pray before the Pillar.
Wetsuwan is the chief of the four kings and protector of the north. He is the ruler of rain. He is often associated with the ancient Indian God of wealth, Lord Ganesh. His name means “he who hears everything”.
The Chinese depict Wetsuwon as a human king, but in Thailand he is depicted as a Yaksa, a usually friendly nature spirit, often appearing in southern Asia as a guardian deity. He is seen as the guardian deity of the Udon Thani Province.
I’m sure whether Chao Pho Lak Mueang is a proper name or just a title applied to any city spirit deity, but I was told that the name of Udon Thani’s guardian deity is “Udon Thani”. It is said to reside in the shrine below.
The gold statue in the middle of the shrine, in the picture below, may be an effigy of the guardian deity, or may be seen as the deity itself, I’m not sure which.
The park is surrounded by government buildings, including the Udon Thani Provincial Hall and the Office of Buddhism. Smaller villages in the area still have faded pictures of the departed 9th king, who passed away nearly one year ago at the time of my visit, but the center of Udon Thani displays a new picture of the 10th king.
Apparently there’s always construction going on in the park. There’s still lots of room for new stuff. The structure below reminds me of the one built in Bangkok for the cremation ceremony of Thailand’s 9th king which took place at the end of October.
The interior of the building below is lots of pillars, and nothing else.
The Chinese temple is interesting for many reasons, starting with its very different style.
The cute Phaya Naga in front of the temple would seem to be an acknowledgement that this Chinese temple is located in northeastern Thailand.
A small building nearby offers a good look at some little Chinese dragons.
It’s a great little structure with a lot of detail.
Dragons and various other creatures decorate the roof of the temple…
…and the rest of the temple as well. This temple was fenced off for some reason, so it wasn’t possible to get a closer look.
Placed around the temple are the animals of the Chinese zodiac; below are the rabbit and the ox.
City Pillar Shrine, Ban Dung
In Ban Dung I visited Chao Por Si Sut Tho City Pillar Shrine.
The most prominent feature of this park is a large statue of Por Si Sut Tho, the Phaya Naga who lives in the Kham Chanot Forest. “Por” is an honorific commonly given to Si Sut Tho that is normally applied to monks, which he is not. “Chao”, which is apparently also used at times, is normally applied to kings, which Por Si Sut Tho also is not.
My little Tukata tells me that Por Si Sut Tho takes the form shown below, with a human upper body (or even a fully human form), when he emerges onto the land, but takes the more commonly seen serpentine form when he’s in the water.
There are a number of nice buildings in the park, and there may be interesting stories behind the entities to whom they are dedicated. The shrine below has something to do with Por Si Sut Tho and his wife, Ya Bat Tho Ma.
Below is the shrine of Ban Dung’s City Pillar.
Below is the City Pillar itself.
Please enjoy the Udon Thani City Pillar Shrine gallery of 18 pictures below, and the Chao Por Si Sut Tho City Pillar Shrine gallery of 8 pictures below that.