Sunday, June 14, 2009

Vessantara Jataka

The Vessantara Jataka, the virtue of Giving, is the last and most venerated of the Ten Great Jatakas. It narrates the most recent former life of the Buddha, that of his rebirth as Prince Vessantara. Jujaka is the nemesis of Vessantara. He is depicted as a treachery and low rank Brahmin, similar to Shakespeare's Sherlock in the Merchants of Venice. Sherlock epitomises the greeds and worldly tricks. Jujaka also represents the greeds and human sins. Wat Chong Nonsi, in the Yanawa area of Bangkok, is quite a distance away from Old Bangkok. In the old days, it would take even more time to reach this temple, which was built in the late Ayutthaya period or around the third quarter of the 17th century. But here lies an invaluable clue to our understanding of the Ninth Reign. From the outside, Wat Chong Nonsi looks like most other temples in Thailand, with the main chapel, an all purpose building, and a living quarter for the monks. But inside Wat Chong Nonsi stands an ancient ubosot, built in a shape of a boat with exquisite roof. A steel fence surrounds this ubosot to prevent an uninvited intrusion. One needs special permission from the abbot to go inside this ancient chapel, which is decaying with time. There are several jedis, including eight sema made from clay, built around the chapel. One can also see the old brick wall surrounding the chapel.
The mural painting from the ubosot of Wat Chong Nonsi represents the high art of the late Ayutthaya period. It depicts the jataka, or the former lives of the Buddha. Only about 15 to 20 per cent of the mural painting survives. Phra Kittisak unlocks the door of the ubosot, which holds the secret of the past. "The Fine Arts Department has told us to keep the mural painting as it is. They do not want us to work on any renovation of the mural painting because it would destroy the original value. The mural painting is kept as it is to allow the new generation to study mural painting, its drawing patterns and colouring. If the mural painting is renovated, it would lose its originality," Phra Kittisak said. On the left hand side of the wall of the ubosot, you can see some scenes from the Vessantara Jataka. Jujaka, a Brahmin, asks a hermit the way to the hermitage of Vessantara.

No comments:

Post a Comment