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Sala Kaew Kuh (ศาลาแก้วกู่)

Thai. Name of a religious-mythological theme park in Nong Kai, along the Mekhong River, opposite from Laos, with —mostly large— statues depicting characters and scenes from Buddhism and Hinduism, and of which construction started in 1978. The sculptures are made of concrete and some are said to reach as high as 25 meters. It is the brainchild of Bunleua Surirat (บุญเหลือ สุรีรัตน์) a religious-mythological sculpture artist from Isaan, i.e. Northeast Thailand, who also created Buddha Park on the Laotian side of the Mekhong River. According to legend, as a young man, Bunleua accidently ended up in a cave where he met a reusi (fig.), i.e. ‘hermit’ or ‘recluse’, typically a sage or wise character that usually lives in a cave as an ascetic, named Kaew Kuh, who became his spiritual mentor and after whom Sala Kaew Kuh is named. Sala is the Thai term for an open-sided gazebo-like shelter, hall or pavilion, generally of a permanent nature, and Sala Kaew Kuh can thus be translated as Kaew Kuh Pavilion, with the latter referring to the main building in the complex, a three-story concrete building, with in front of it a white dome reminiscent of the chattri, i.e. an elevated pavilion that consist of a dome-shaped roof raised by four or more pillars typical in Indian architecture, and with in gold the Aum sign (fig.), which represents creation and as such is a symbol of the creator god Brahma (fig.). Also transliterated Sala Keoku. See MAP.