Wat Buddhapadipa in London
Situated in Wimbledon, the Buddhapadipa temple was the first Thai Buddhist temple to be built in the UK. It is home to monks and nuns, but welcomes visitors of any faith to view the grounds and temple as long as they are respectful.
Its white exterior walls are put into contrast by the red and gold colours of the roof and decorations of the frames of the windows and doors.
Inside the temple hall, the walls are covered with paintings showing the life of the Buddha—from his birth to his death. There are pictures of his birth in Lumbini (Nepal), his renunciation, his enlightenment, and finally his death. The murals were painted by artists Chalermchai Kositpipat and Panya Vijinthanasarn in a surreal style using brilliant colors that, at first glance, seems very unlike classical Thai painting. However, they revive the tendency found in traditional Thai mural paintings to situate episodes from Buddhist myth in scenes populated with figures and objects from contemporary life. The murals were started in the 1980s, and among the many figures in the scenes are portraits of Mother Theresa and Margaret Thatcher, as well as the temple's patrons and the artists themselves.
The main doorway leading out from the shine room has a grand painting of the Buddha meditating to reach enlightenment, directly above it. On the right side of the Buddha are the angry figures of Mara's army, trying to disrupt the Buddha, and distract him from reaching enlightenment. The name 'Mara' means delusion. On the left side of the Buddha is the army of Mara looking more subdued and respectful. They are like this because the Buddha has reached enlightenment, and they could not distract him. Just above the doorway is the figure of Nang Thoranee, the earth goddess. During the climax of Mara's assault, the Buddha touches the earth with his hand. The earth goddess appears to bear witness to the merit the Buddha has accumulated in his many lives, and the water she squeezes from her hair washes away the armies of Mara.
Also in the room is a great shrine built for the Buddha. There are three statues of the Buddha in it; the back one is black, the middle statue is gold, and the front statue is green and smaller than the other two. These statues are surrounded by candles and other decorations.
Also within the grounds are a house, pond, and several bridges. In the gardens signs are posted, each sign giving a message of wisdom to those who stop to read them.
- Sandra Cate, Making Merit, Making Art: A Thai Temple in Wimbledon (2003) University of Hawai'i Press