Lak Mueang

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Inside the Bangkok city pillar shrine. The longer pillar is the original of Rama I, the shorter was added by King Mongkut (Rama IV)
This article is about city pillars of Thailand; for other meanings, see Lak kilomet, Lak nuay or Lakh

Lak Mueang (Thai: หลักเมือง) are city pillars found in most cities of Thailand. Usually housed in a shrine (Thai: ศาลหลักเมือง) which is also believed to house Chao Pho Lak Mueang (เจ้าพ่อหลักเมือง), the city spirit deity; they are held in high esteem by citizens.

It was probably King Rama I, who erected the first city pillar on 21 April 1782, when he moved his capital from Thonburi to Bangkok. The shrine was actually the first building of his new capital, the palace and other buildings were created later.

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Shortly after the shrine in Bangkok, similar shrines were built in strategic provinces to symbolize central power, such as in Songkhla. Further shrines were created during the reign of King Buddha Loetla Nabhalai (Rama II) in Nakhon Khuen Khan and Samut Prakan, and by King Nangklao (Rama III) in Chachoengsao, Chanthaburi and Phra Tabong Province (now in Cambodia). However, after King Mongkut raised a new pillar in Bangkok, no further shrines in the provinces were built until 1944, when then-Prime Minister of Thailand Phibunsongkhram built a city pillar in Phetchabun, as he intended to move the capital to this town. Though this plan failed to get approval by the parliament, the idea of city pillars caught on, and in the following years several provincial towns built new shrines. In 1992, the Ministry of Interior ordered that every province now should have such a shrine. However, as of 2010 a few provinces still have no city pillar shrine. In Chonburi the shrine was scheduled to be finished by the end of 2011.[1][2]

The building style of the shrines varies. Especially in provinces with a significant Thai Chinese influence, the city pillar may be housed in a shrine that resembles a Chinese temple; as, for example in Songkhla, Samut Prakan and Yasothon. Chiang Rai's city pillar is not housed in a shrine at all; but, since 1988, is in an open place inside Wat Phra That Doi Chom Thong; it is called the Sadue Mueang (Thai: สะดือเมือง), Navel or Omphalos of the City. In Roi Et, the city pillar is placed in a sala (open-air pavilion) on an island in the lake of the centre of the city.

Bangkok City Pillar Shrine (also known as San Lak Muang) is one of the city pillar shrines in Thailand that is ancient, sacred, and magnificent. It was believed that people achieve prosperity and fulfilment in their work and career, cut the misfortunes and supplement the luck, power, and prestige if they take a bow and respect this sacred place. The Shrine is located at the heart of Bangkok, opposite the Grand Palace in the south-east corner of the Sanam Luang and close to the Ministry of Defence. According to a historian, the shrine was built after the establishment of Rattanakosin Kingdom (Bangkok) instead of the old capital, Thonburi Kingdom in the reign of King Rama I of the Chakri Dynasty at 6:45 a.m., Sunday, 21 April 1782. It was constructed because the continuation of ancient traditions and Brahman's customs believed that it has something to do with the Held, the single city pillar ceremony (Held “Lak Muang”) which is made of an Acacia wood (chaiyapreuk) before the construction of the city for a major goal to build a city and to be the centre of soul for the Thai citizen.

As stated above that the “chaiyapreuk wood” meaning tree of victory. For Thai locals, this wood is used as a part to build the pillar. It was 108 inches high from the ground and buried 79 inches deep, which makes this pillar total height to 187 inches with 29 inches diameter and contained horoscope for Bangkok City inside. However, the shrine has been renovated several times, under the reigns of Kings Rama IV and Mongkut. The pillar has been dilapidated. So, The King ordered to excavate the old and build the new pillar replacement and placed a new horoscope for the city. It was replaced in 1752 with a new pillar measuring 5.035 meters or 201.4 inches high, 47 centimetres or 18.8 inches diameter measured at the base of the pillar with a width base of 70 inches and respectfully engage both of the old and new pillars to a refurbished pavilion with a Prang-shaped which was the model of the shrine of Ayudhya. It was finished on Sunday, 1 May 1753. Besides, in 1980, in preparation for the Rattanakosin celebration of the 200th anniversary in 1982, the Bangkok City Pillar Shrine had undergone extreme grandiose and exquisite renovation and constructed the arches to established five-city guardian deity.

With the beliefs and legends of the shrine, In - Chan - Mun- Kong’s legend, Thai local believed that the construction of the shrine had to sacrifice four people after the proclamation of people names “In - Chan - Mun- Kong” all over the city (“In” from the north, “Chan” from the south, “Mun” from the east and “Kong” from the west). Anyone who responded was brought to the ceremony location, captured and embedded into a hole. Those spirits will guard and protect the city. However, this myth is just their stories and not recorded in the chronicle. People usually use three incenses, one candle, gold foil, two lotuses, two flower garlands and one three-colour taffeta to worship in the shrine.

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