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Phra Upakhut (พระอุปคุต)

Thai. Name of a Buddhist deity, who is believed to protect and have authority over all water, and is hence called upon to protect seafaring people, as well as to ask for rain, or alternatively, to stop the rain. In Thailand, he is believed to eradicate any obstacles to progress, and to vanquish danger. He is portrayed in a seated half lotus position, with his head slightly tilted up, as if looking at the sky, and holding an alms bowl in one hand, while putting the fingers of his other hand into the bowl, a mudra that in Buddhist iconography normally refers to eating from an alms bowl. In Thailand, he may sometimes wear a hat in the form of a giant lotus leaf, i.e. a symbol of water, purification and Buddhist Enlightenment, and the pedestal or base on which he is seated (fig.) may have representations of waves of water, lotuses, fish, crabs, turtles or other aquatic animals, which refers to his role as guardian of the waters, but also coins, gold bars, gold bags, and Chinese gold ingots (fig.), suggestion he is also regarded as a kind of wealth god akin to the Chinese Cai Shen, likely because of the fertility associated with water. He is also associated with and sometimes accompanied by nagas, the guardians of earthly waters (fig.). He is much worshipped in Myanmar, where he is known as Shin U Pagok (fig.) or alternatively as Shin Upagutta (fig.), from which the Thai name derives. See also Mazu and TRAVEL PHOTOS.