Anyone who visits Vientiane, the capital city of Laos, cannot miss the awe-inspiring golden building, the Pha That Luang. Here’s all you need to know about this fascinating Buddhist stupa.
Pha That Luang – which literally means ‘great golden stupa’ – is said to have undergone many transformations over the years. Known as a Buddhist stupa nowadays – a hemispherical structure used as a place of meditation – Pha That Luang actually started life in the 1st century as a Hindu temple. In later years Buddhist missionaries and monks from India visited the stupa – the monks were said to have brought a breastbone of Lord Buddha as a relic.
In the 13th century, the stupa was rebuilt as a Khmer temple, but it later fell into disrepair. Then in the 1500s, King Setthathirat relocated the capital city from Luang Prabang to Vientiane. As part of the relocation, the rebuilding of Pha That Luang was ordered, and this time it was surrounded by 30 smaller stupas too.
In 1828, Pha That Luang was destroyed once again, this time by a Thai invasion, and all the gold from the building was stolen. An attempt was made by the French in 1900 to restore it according to the drawings made by the French architect and explorer Louis Delaporte, but the attempt was unsuccessful. After a redesign, it was reconstructed in the 1930s, only to be heavily damaged during the Franco-Thai War. Pha That Luang was finally restored for the final time after World War II.
After such an unfortunate history over many centuries, it’s no wonder Pha That Luang has become a symbol of Laotian pride. Rooted once again in Buddhism, Pha That Luang has three levels to convey the various elements of Buddhist teachings. The cloister is filled with paintings, sculptures and statues of the Buddha. There are a number of altars, where many people bring gifts and flowers. There are also gardens, monuments and smaller stupas, where monks still live and study today.
Outside, the building is covered with 500kg of gold leaf, making the impressive structure a shining beacon in Vientiane. It’s considered to be one of the top architectural works to represent Buddhism across the world.
Nowadays it is possible for visitors to access the interior of Pha That Luang for a small entrance fee, as well as the impressive grounds surrounding the building, which can be accessed free of charge. Pha That Luang is open every day from 8:00 to 12:00 and 13:00 to 16:00.
Join us at Mr Linh’s Adventures for one of our discovery tours of Laos
and we’ll be sure to stop off in Vientiane and Pha That Luang.