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Ancient Thai History: Sacred sema stones in Isan

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Ancient Dvaravati city in Kalasin known for "sema stones" that mark boundary of Phra Ubosot (ordination halls for Buddhist monks). 

Sema stones made from sandstone.

Click button to listen to Dvaravati Art in Isan download 

TRAVEL & BUDDHISM

Dvaravati art in Isan

18 Apr 2013
Pichaya Svasti

More than 500km away from Bangkok is Fa Daed Song Yang City dating back to the Dvaravati period (6th-12th centuries),  located in what is now Ban Sema in Kamalasai district of Kalasin. The ancient city was registered by the Fine Arts Department as a historic site in 1936.

...Fa Daed Song Yang Ancient City is also called Muang Sema since hundreds of sema stones [ordination hall demarcation stones] were found there. The  ancient city has a sema stone-like shape, surrounded by two soil walls and a moat. The city was about 1km in width and around 2km in length, and was considered one of the larger ancient cities in the Northeast...

....In the 7th century after the spread of Buddhism to the area due to the influence of trade, the city flourished and expanded....

The main religion was Buddhism since many clay votive tablets and hundreds of sandstone sema stones have been unearthed.

...Buddhism was important during the Dvaravati period. Stories carved on sema stones are mostly stories from Jataka tales and the Lord Buddha's life...

...Fa Daed Song Yang ... is located in Kalasin's low-lying plains where the Phan and Pao rivers merge.

The city adopted Buddhism and also the post-Pallava alphabets from India via trade, and also via contacts with the Central Region. ...the inscribed words on two votive tablets are in the ancient Mon language, written with post-Pallava characters used in India around the 9th century.

Both inscription plates mention the construction of Buddha images in dedication to monks who had ordained the owners of the images.

A sema stone at Wat Phochai Semaram contains an inscription stone written with the post-Pallava letters saying, "Merit for Niamoon and for Saming Phra Jak in the future". Niamoon is believed to be a person's name, while the words "Saming Phra Jak" are a pronoun for a bureaucrat-turned-monk...

...at the city there was also salt mining and the making of bronze and iron tools. Rice fields were symmetrical square shapes. ..... Historical evidence shows the city came to an end and became deserted after being attacked along with many other cities by the army of Burmese King Anawrahta (1015-1078). 

..."Kalasin also has three reclining Buddha statues....

Besides Kalasin, traces of Dvaravati culture can be found in other northeastern provinces such as Roi Et, Sakon Nakhon and Nakhon Phanom. Roi Et boasts several ...ancient cities with moats while the base of Phrathat Phanom is believed to be Dvaravati art. Sakhon Nakhon has a number of ..., Dvaravati sites with sema stones, two Khmer sanctuaries... and several cave paintings.  

[Read the rest of this long article with more photos and captions here]

(Source: Bangkok Post, TRAVEL & BUDDHISM, Dvaravati art in Isan, 18 Apr 2013, Pichaya Svasti, link


Travel & Buddhism Vocabulary

Dvaravati - a period in history from the 6th to the 13th centuries with many small states and a style of art ทวารวดี (See Wikipedia)
Dvaravati art in Isan

ordination - the act or ceremony of making someone a priest or other religious leader การบวช
ordination hall - "a building in a Buddhist Wat. It is the holiest prayer room, also called the "ordination hall" as it is where ordinations take place. The term ubosot, shortened to bot in Thai colloquial speech, is derived from the Pali term uposathagara, which refers to a hall used for rituals on the upostha days -- the Buddhist Sabbath, which falls four times a month on the full moon, new moon, and eighth day after each. An ubosot stands within a boundary formed by eight sema stones (Thai: ใบเสมา) which separate the sacred from the profane, and thus differs from a viharn (วิหาร). The sema stones actually stand above and mark the Luk Nimit (Thai: ลูกนิมิต), stone spheres buried at the cardinal points of the compass delineating the sacred area. A ninth stone sphere, usually bigger, is buried below the main Buddha image of the ubosot. Both ubosots and wihans typically house Buddha images. The entrance side of most ubosots face east. Across from the entrance door at the end of the interior is the ubosot's largest Buddha statue"  พระอุโบสถ, โบสถ์ (See Wikipedia)

demarcation - (the making of) a border or a rule that shows the limits of something or how things are divided การแบ่งเขต, การกำหนดเขต,เส้นแบ่งเขต
ordination hall demarcation stones

sema stones - the stones that mark the sacred are of the Buddhist ordination hall ใบเสมา
sandstone sema stones

tales - stories
Jataka tales - the stories of the Lord Buddha's previous lives ชาดก (See Wikipedia)

carved - cut from wood or stone แกะสลัก
Stories carved on sema stones are Jataka tales

clay votive tablets - little clay tablets buried under the ground for religious purposes (See Wikipedia)

site
- a place where something is located or happened สถานที่ สถานที่เกิดเหตุ
historic site

registered - officially recorded as being something with the government (and given permission to operate) 
registered by the Fine Arts Department as a historic site in 1936

dating back to
dating back to the Dvaravati period

More than 500km away from Bangkok is Fa Daed Song Yang City dating back to the Dvaravati period (6th-12th centuries) and located in what is now Ban Sema in Kamalasai district of Kalasin. It was registered by the Fine Arts Department as a historic site in 1936.

moat - water around the walls of a city that makes it more difficult to attack and enter  คูน้ำรอบปราสาทหรือเมือง, คูกำแพงเมือง, คูเมือง
surrounded by two soil walls and a moat

width - the distance across something from one side to the other ความกว้าง
1km in width

...Fa Daed Song Yang Ancient City is also called Muang Sema since hundreds of sema stones [ordination hall demarcation stones] were found there. It is in a sema stone-like shape, surrounded by two soil walls and a moat. The city was about 1km in width and around 2km in length, and was considered one of the larger cities in the Northeast...

century - a period of one hundred years ศตวรรษ
in the 7th century

spread - to gradually affect or cover a larger area แพร่หลาย, แพร่กระจาย แพร่กระจายไปทั่ว
the spread of Buddhism

influence - the power to have an effect on people or things อิทธิพล to affect or change how someone or something develops, behaves or thinks มีอิทธิพลต่อ, ชักจูง อำนาจบังคับ
trade - the buying and selling of goods การค้าขาย

the influence of trade
the spread of Buddhism to the area due to the influence of trade

flourish - when a city or country does well in business and economically and people have a lot of money and are rich
expand -
grow bigger, get bigger
the city flourished and expanded


....In the 7th century after the spread of Buddhism to the area due to the influence of trade, the city flourished and expanded....

unearthed -
to take out of the ground or earth (old buried things)

The main religion was Buddhism since many clay votive tablets and hundreds of sandstone sema stones were unearthed.

...Buddhism was important during the Dvaravati period. Stories carved on sema stones are mostly stories from Jataka tales and the Lord Buddha's life...

plains - wide flat areas of land
low-lying plains

merge
- to join together to become one การรวมกัน
where the two rivers merge

...Fa Daed Song Yang ... is located in Kalasin's low-lying plains where the Phan and Pao rivers merge.

adopted -
start using or doing something
the city adopted Buddhism

post-Pallava alphabets

post-Pallava characters
contacts

The city adopted Buddhism and also post-Pallava alphabets from India via trade and contacts with the Central Region.

inscribe
the inscribed words on votive tablets

inscription 
inscription plates

ancient - very old ที่เก่าแก่ ที่โบราณ
the ancient Mon language

the inscribed words on votive tablets were in the ancient Mon language, written with post-Pallava characters used in India around the 9th century.

The city adopted Buddhism and also the post-Pallava alphabets from India via trade and contacts with the Central Region. ...the inscribed words behind two votive tablets and found that they were in an ancient Mon language, written with post-Pallava characters used in India around the 9th century.

construction - the work of building or making something, especially buildings, bridges, etc. การก่อสร้าง
dedication - คำอุทิศ
ordained - became a monk; made into a monk in a religious ceremony

Both inscription plates mention the construction of Buddha images in dedication to monks who had ordained the owners of the images.

merit  - something that people get from doing good things for others and that grows bigger and helps them get reborn as higher beings บุญ (See Wikipedia)

Merit for Niamoon and for Saming Phra Jak in the future

pronoun - a word like: he, she, it, they, her, his, ....
bureaucrat - a worker in a large government ministry (known for having many rules, being exacting, strict and taking a long time in working)
"Saming Phra Jak" are a pronoun for a bureaucrat-turned-monk...

evidence - information that shows that something actually did happen or actually is true หลักฐาน
deserted - empty ที่ถูกทิ้งให้ว่างเปล่า ร้างไป
army - a large group of people กลุ่มคน, ฝูงชน

salt mining
bronze and iron tools


Rice fields were symmetrical square shapes

evidence
historical evidence

deserted - when no person is at a place
the city came became deserted

Burmese King Anawrahta  (1015-1078) -  "the founder of the Pagan Empire. Considered the father of the Burmese nation, Anawrahta turned a small principality in the dry zone of Upper Burma into the first Burmese Empire that formed the basis of modern-day Burma (Myanmar). Anawrahta unified the entire Irrawaddy valley for the first time in history, and placed peripheral regions such as Shan States and Arakan (Northern Rakhine) under Pagan's suzerainty. He successfully stopped the advance of Khmer Empire into Tenasserim coastline and into Upper Menam valley, making Pagan one of two main kingdoms in mainland Southeast Asia" (See Wikipedia)

attacked by the army of Burmese King Anawrahta (1015-1078)

...at the city there was also salt mining and the making of bronze and iron tools. Rice fields were symmetrical square shapes. ..... Historical evidence shows the city came to an end and became deserted after being attacked along with many other cities by the army of Burmese King Anawrahta (1015-1078). 

reclining - on its side resting
statues - human or animal images that are made of stone, wood, metal, etc.
reclining Buddha statues
Kalasin also has three reclining Buddha statues

traces - very small amounts of  something ร่องรอย
traces of Dvaravati culture

boasts ...  - has something very good ...
Roi Et boasts several ... ancient cities with moats

the base of Phrathat Phanom

base -
the bottom part of a statue
the base
of Phrathat Phanom
the base of Phrathat Phanom has Dvaravati art

sanctuaries -
religious places, temples
Khmer sanctuaries

cave - a large hole in the side of a hill or under the ground ถ้ำ
cave paintings

Besides Kalasin, traces of Dvaravati culture can be found in other northeastern provinces like Roi Et, Sakon Nakhon and Nakhon Phanom. Roi Et boasts several ... ancient cities with moats while the base of Phrathat Phanom is believed to be Dvaravati art. Sakhon Nakhon has a number of ..., Dvaravati sites with sema stones, two Khmer sanctuaries in Muang district and several cave paintings.

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Related search: Sema stones, Kalasin, Phra Ubosot

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