The year is 2552, and we are celebrating Songkran, the Thai New Year at the Buddhapadipa Temple in Wimbledon. The Thai calender, similarly to the Nepalese one, counts the years from the date that Buddha was born, just like Christian countries count the dates from Christ’s birth. Songkran coincides with the Vernal Equinox, which is more than I can understand of our mysterious universe and the more mysterious ancients who managed to somehow figure these things out.
Songkran is a festival where in Thailand, people spray water and powder at each other in the name of good fun. Isn’t it strange that Songkran and Easter both celebrate the Vernal Equinox and in some parts of Europe, it is a tradition to splash water at each other too? Anyway, we came to the Wat Thai (Thai Temple) to take in the festivities and Thai street food that is as authentically Thai as it gets.
From Putney Bridge or South Wimbledon Tube station, bus 93 took us to Calonne Road and the temple is just a short walk away.
The temple is set within lush greenery and its majesty is accentuated by the gilded roofs set against the perennially overcast London sky.
The walls within this temple are painted with characters and objects both modern an ancient. Divided into heaven, earth and hell, for some reason, the Mona Lisa and many other western icons find their way in here, intermingling with Asian ones and stunning any onlooker into a trance-like state in trying to decipher it.
Two Singhas (Lions) guard the entrance to the temple.
And people of all races burn candles in the wish that the flames carry their prayers to the heavens.
A gold leafed Buddha receives his followers, and I say a little prayer for permission to take a photo as well as redemption for my pathetic soul.
Behind the temple lies a beautiful garden with a pond linked by pedestrian bridges. Wandering through this garden transports us to another world and despite the noise from the festivities, I suddenly felt calmer and more relaxed here.
Buddhist teachings are scattered all over the garden, and beyond the festivities, this is indeed a wonderful place for quiet thought and contemplation.
Its hard to imagine that such a beautiful Thai temple exists in London, but it does, and I will come back now and again as it gives the feeling of inner peace that we need all the more in these trying times.