Saturday, May 27, 2006

Pra That Luang
A Look At Lao Culture

Pha That Luang is the most important monument in Laos. It is located in Vientiane at the top of a hill at end of a road named after the monument. It is a popular tourist destination and serves as a national symbol of sovereignty and as a Buddhist symbol.

Pra That Luang is a stupa, which means it is a monument that holds some kind of relic. According to legend, the relic in this stupa is a piece of the breastbone of the Buddha which was brought to Laos in the early 3rd century BC by a Buddhist missionary from India.

The stupa has three levels which culminate in a large four-sided spire designed to look like a lotus leaf. In Buddhism, lotus flowers are often used to represent humans because they grow out of the muddy river bottom but blossom into a beautiful flower.

Much of Pra That Luang is covered in gold leaf.

Every November, there is a multi-day national celebration which is a mixture of religion, nationalism and commercialism at the site of the stupa.