A temple once used by the legendary King of Siam Naresuan the Great as a staging ground for troops is now home to a range of a new, modern-day cast of heroic characters, with the likes of television’s Doraemon, Masked Rider and Ben 10 making appearances in murals throughout the ancient wat.
Other pop culture themes to be found in the murals at Sam Pa Siw Temple in Suphan Buri province include iPads, GPS devices, Angry Birds video game and lottery references.
In January last year, artist Rakkiad Lerdjitsakul began including images of Doraemon – an earless, blue, robotic, time-traveling cat – and his human sidekick, Nobi Nobita, in his moralistic murals inside the temple, which was built in the Ayutthaya period (1350-1767).
Rakkiad said he was an office worker before and grew tired of hearing only “tapping on [computer] keyboards” day-in and day-out. It was then that he decided to teach himself how to draw and pursue a career.
Many people have been upset by his work at the temple and have asked that it be removed from the murals, he said.
Indeed, there has been an effort to remove his murals, although not by angered temple-goers, but by cockroaches which ate portions of his work – they are made of a cement mixture containing sugar cane and tamarinds. He has since switched to acrylic-based materials, Khao Sod reported.
The abbot of the temple, Phra Anand Gussalalanggaro, said that the murals are a good way to get people’s attention, especially children. They will, through the murals, learn about the law of Karma and better understand that “what goes around, comes around,” which can be illustrated in many ways, including with Doraemon, Phra Anand said.
A representative of Sam Pa Siew temple said that these characters, used to illustrate Buddhist principles, are called “tua kang” in Thai. The murals must depict one of Buddha’s lives or scenes from folk tales. An artist has freedom to paint anything reflecting people’s lifestyles, as long as it contains moral or ethical messages, the representative said.
On the temple grounds, visitors may also come across four Doraemon statues embodying the principles of “see no evil, here no evil, speak no evil,” originally depicted by statues of monkeys.
The temple has experienced record numbers of visitors since the pop-culture murals began appearing, Khao Sod reported.