A reclining Buddha is a rarely found statuary pattern and represents the Buddha during his last illness, about to enter parinirvana – nirvana after death. In this iconic pose he is always depicted lying on his right side, head resting on a cushion or right elbow and his hand supporting his head.
One usually finds these icons in temples but I happened upon this massive sculpture while hiking Mount Phousi in Luang Prabang, Laos. The statue is so long from head to foot that I had to split it into 2 images and, as you can see below, I’m not very good at lining things up!
Prior to this hike I’d injured my knee and considered staying at the hotel but Laos is a land of enchantment and reluctant to miss anything in this stunningly beautiful country, I decided to take it slow and travel light. Leaving my Canon 5D Mark ll behind, I took only my cell phone.
Though not exceptionally lengthy, the steep path is interspersed with 328 steps with every turn along the winding route offering a more stunning scene than what preceded it.
Along the way were several temples where I stopped to offer a prayer, rest and inhale the delicate sent of incense permeating the evening air. Each place of worship along the route offered a much needed rest for my knee and was so enticing that it spurred me on to see what was around the next bend.
Continuing up hill, I turned at a U-bend in the path and spied a beautiful local woman crouched in front of a low table covered with tiny woven wicker baskets. As I drew nearer, I discovered each basket contained a small, finch sized bird.
In Laos, the bird is an omen of good fortune & freedom and plays a prominent ceremonial role. During the Lao New Year Pii May (pronounced Pii-My) or Kut Songkaan it’s traditional to capture and release birds (and other small animals) to symbolize freedom from the past (if released to the West) and good luck for the future (if released to the East).
For a few Laotian kips ($1.00 = 8,115 kips) two of my traveling companions purchase a basket bird & participate in this venerable custom. Although some tourists complain about the practice, I feel imposing judgement on traditional practices of another culture is small-minded. I travel to experience that which I’m unfamiliar with, to participate in the diversity of other cultures, not to make the world to my liking. As Margaret Mead once wrote: “Anthropology demands the open-mindedness with which one must look and listen, record in astonishment and wonder that which one would not have been able to guess”
In due time I reach the highest temple and, in the fading dusk, light one last stick of incense, offer one final prayer and upon shifting my view find myself breathless as I witness the perfect beauty of earth turning toward sleep. And, just for a moment, I forget my pain and bask in this graceful, exquisite moment.
Wishing you delightful moments as you travel the globe like an anthropologist!
Google+ by Jo Ann Tomaselli