Wat Chedi in Khon San, Chaiyaphum

Figure 1. A-B. Design of the Phra Maha Chedi Si Chai Muni that is constructed over small 700 year old phra that. C. The old phra that , the scaffoldings and major pillars and fundaments of the new chedi.

This small temple is situated in Khon San Town, about 800 m north of Highway 12. Opposite the temple is the statue of Luang Phichit Songkhram, the first ruler of the Mueang Khon San (appointed in 1794 in the Reign of Rama I). The small phra that of the temple is believed to be over 700 years old. At the time I visited the temple, in June 2017, the chedi was being renovated—that is, a 32.9 m tall new chedi, the Phra Maha Chedi Si Chai Muni, will be built over the little, ancient one.
Most interesting is the charming interior of the little bot. The ‘primitive’, colorful murals in this building are a hodge-podge of scenes from the Jataka stories and the Buddha’s life story, scenes from the Hell, depictions of life in the countryside and—in the lowest register—a series of Thailand’s most famous chedis.
On the altar is an ancient Lao-style, gilded Buddha with red lips seated in the position of “subduing Mara”. The bot also houses an image of the famous 19th century monk Somdet To and a Footprint of the Buddha.

Figure 2. A. Interior of the bot. Behind the Buddha is a bodhi tree painted in gold on a black back ground. Most offerings are the egg-shaped bai si, many of them made of folded banana leaves. In front of the altar I count at least five donation boxes. B. The Lao-style main Buddha image in the position ‘subduing Mara’.

Figure 3. Murals in the little bot. A. Scene from the Vessantara Jataka. Prince Vessantara is banished from the palace. Accompanied by his wife and children he is heading for a remote forest hermitage in a foreign country. On their way they meet a group of brahmins who beg for the horses that pull the chariot. B. A scene from the Temiya Jataka. The modest Temiya shows his strength by swinging/raising his chariot in the air. C. A scene from the Phurithat Jataka. The naga Phurithat, coiled around a rock, will be captured by a snake charmer who knows a magic spell to subdue the mythical animal.

Figure 4. A. A scene from the Sama Jataka. The good son ‘Golden Sama’ is hit by an arrow from the bow of the King of Benares. B. Details of this scene.

Figure 5. A. (Possibly) a detail of a scene from the Maha Janaka Jataka. During a typhoon, the ship on which prince Maha Janaka has left for Suvarnabhumi, foundered in the middle of the ocean. All 700 passengers became ‘food for fish and turtles’ and died, but the prince survived the shipwreck. The fork-tailed bird in the back ground (also seen in Fig. 3B and 4A) could not be identified. B. A famous scene from the Vidhura-Pandita Jataka. The yak (demon) Punnaka attempts to kill the sage Vidhura-Pandita by swinging the man around, but the sage remains unperturbed. C. A scene from the Narada Jataka. In the garb of a yogi the Great Brahman Narrada has descended from the heavenly realms and stands suspended in the air in front of the king Angati. Narrada carries a golden pole on his shoulders from which hang two golden begging bowls. As the king is misguided by false beliefs, Narrada has come to the rescue and will teach the king the true doctrines.

Figure 6. Scenes from rural life. A. Rice harvest. B. A Buddhist festivity with a long drums parade.

Figure 7. A. Murals showing famous chedis in Thailand, here the Phra Phanom Chedi in That Phanom (left) and the chedi of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai (right) B. A ‘look nimit’ gilded with gold leaves. C. One of the sema stones around the bot.

Figure 8. A. The much venerated Buddha Footprint in the bot. B. The image of the famous 19th century monk Somdet To. C. A mythological animal on guard, probably a naga (serpent) or sing (lion). In the back ground the first and second floor of the new Maha Chedi under construction.