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Samnak Pattibat Tham Sanku (สำนักปฏิบัติธรรมสันกู่)

Thai. ‘Sanku Meditation Institution’. Name of a Buddhist meditation centre, located on a forested hill on the outskirts of Mae Rim, just north of the city of Chiang Mai, on the northern end of Doi Suthep-Pui National Park (fig.). The entrance to this Buddhist complex is rather imposing. The centre is accessible by two long staircases, with railings adorned with nagas and guarded at the base by some singha. To the right of and at the bottom of the main staircase, which features multi-headed nagas (fig.), is an artificial cave that bears the name of the centre and is topped with a gilded statue of Mi Le Fo (fig.). It also has some rounded windows that are shaped as open mouths of some yak-like characters and though despite the presence of a lower jaw rather reminiscent of kirtimukha or kala faces (fig.). To the left of the multi-headed naga staircase is a gilded statue of Kuan Yin (fig.). Whereas the cave is perhaps a reminder that caves where in the past prime retreats for meditating monks and peaceful dwellings for hermits, the two gilded statues of the Chinese deities show a clear influence from Mahayana Buddhism. Nearby and seemingly unrelated stands an impressive brick gate (fig.), adorned with several interesting features, including a stupa-like edifice, that is topped with a white chattra (fig.) and a pair of Wisdom Eyes (fig.) painted on it, similar to those on stupas in Nepal (fig.). There are also two small Indian-style chattri, i.e. elevated pavilions with a dome-shaped roof, though here in the form of a Thai Phra Malah Biang, i.e. a type of royal hat as worn by King Naresuan in battle (fig.). In each of these pavilions is the statue of a bare-chested warrior, the one on the left holding a spear, the one on the right with a sword and its sheath. Beside this, there are several statues of fighting cocks (fig.) and some golden swans or hongse (fig.), i.e. Suphanahongse (fig.). See MAP.