The Significance of a Jaydee
Pagodas within which relics are enshrined, are also referred to as Dhātu-gabbha. Dhātu refers to the 4 basic elements of existence (in Buddhism, it is believed that the body will return to these 4 basic elements upon death), and Gabbha means ‘womb’ or ‘container’. Centuries ago Europeans exploring Sri Lanka happened upon these structures, which the locals called ‘Dhagoba’ (a localised form of Dhātu-gabbha). This name was further anglicised and corrupted by Europeans into ‘Pagoda’, the name commonly used in the English language today.
The various types of Pagoda, and their origins, are described in the Dhammapada
The farmer was a Brahmin, and when he came over he opted to not pay homage to the Buddha, but to a nearby shrine instead. The Buddha was curious about his reverence for the shrine. The Brahmin replied that the shrine had survived through many generations, and was worthy of reverence.
The Buddha postulated that it be a far greater act of reverence, to honor beings deserving of honor, like the Buddhas, who had perfected their virtues through countless lifetimes and achieved enlightenment, the Paccekabuddha(s)
The Buddha then proclaimed that these 4 beings were worthy of being housed in a Pagoda.
The 3 prescribed types of Pagoda are:
- Pagodas enshrining corporeal remains (known as Sarira-dhatu Cetiya, and usually consisting of hair and teeth from the beings). (see footnote 1.)
- Statues made in the likeness of the 4 beings described above, also known as Uddissa Cetiya.
- Stupas housing monks’ essentials such as robes and alms bowls, in a shrine known as Paribhoga Cetiya. The Bodhi tree is also considered a Paribhoga Cetiya.
The verses in the Dhammapada also explained that the merits gained by those who venerate these personages, or the pagodas which contain the remains of these sages, are unable to be quantified by anyone. This is the reason why Buddhists often circumambulate a pagoda in close proximity while praying.
A later addition, the Dhamma
In the following section, we will explore the various Jaydee found in Thailand.
Configuration of the Jaydee
There are three different configurations commonly used in Pagodas:
1. Jaydee Song O Khuam
The first form of Pagoda is described in Buddhism. Its defining tiers are as follows;
- Than(Note: meaning ‘Base’) – A raised platform that the structure is built upon, indicating its elevated standing compared to graves or regular structures. Some may forgo this element.
- Ruean That– Main body of the Jaydee, consisting of one, or several spaces dedicated to the enshrinement of relics, pictures, and another iconography.
- Ban lang– A throne, representing the royal caste (The Buddha was born into a royal caste)
- Chat– The roof of the Pagoda, resembles a jeweled parasol symbolizing the Triple Gems (Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha), which bless all beings with refuge and sanctity.
2. Jaydee Song Lang Ka, Sukhothai-style
When Buddhism reached ancient Siam during the Sukhothai period (which lasted from 1238 – 1438, about 200 years), the pagodas were built in the Buddhist style of the time, and only incorporated some minor elements of Sukhothai culture. The main tiers of these Pagoda are as follows;
- Than Khiang– An elevated base.
- Than Pathumor Than Bau(Note: Pathum and Bau refer to the lotus) – a tier in the shape of a lotus flower, symbolizing the seat of Buddha
- Bau Thala– Resembling the base of a lotus flower. A style originating from Sri Lanka.
- Bau Pak Rakhang(Note: Rakhang means bell) – Similar in appearance to the upper part of a lotus.
- Ong Rakhangor Ruean That– A space designed to house images and relics of the Buddha, or the ashes of a King.
- Ban lang– A throne room
- Kan Chat– The stem, transitioning to the tier symbolic of the parasol.
- Bau falamee(Note: Falamee means lid of an earthen pot)- Shaped like an inverted lotus, this is the primary “shade” of the parasol, broad enough to shield the Ruean That (Layer 5).
- Plong Chanai– the main body of the parasol, symbolising prestige, royalty and refuge.
- Plee Yod– A peak pointing to the sky, directing the path to Nibbana.
- Yaad Nam Khang– A drop of dew representing Rattana (a precious gem or object.)
3. Jaydee Song Lang Ka, Ayutthaya-style
Buddhism grew more prosperous during the Ayutthaya period (lasting from 1351 – 1767, about 416 years). The style of their Pagodas evolved to reflect this, adding some elements of Ayutthaya culture to distinguish themselves. The general layout and structure, however, were similar to earlier iterations, except the “Sao Han”
These 3 main configurations resulted in many different styles and designs over the centuries in Thailand. In Part 2, we will explore in detail, the various types and designs of pagodas in Thailand.