FEATURE: Pha That Luang, a grand stupa and national symbol of Laos

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Laos is a breathtaking country with an abundance of fascinating places for visitors to explore and the Pha That Luang stupa in Vientiane is one of the most awe-inspiring. 

The stupa is one of the most well-known attractions in Vientiane and a sight that visitors should not miss.

With this being Visit Laos-China Year 2019, the governments of the two countries have organised many activities to popularise the two countries’ tourist attractions.

Laos’ many cultural attractions give visitors a glimpse of the country’s special features, including architecture.

Pha That Luang is a grand and sacred stupa and has long been considered the national symbol. The stupa is one of the most important monuments in Laos and a landmark in the capital city, and has a long and interesting history.

It is a sacred site because the huge golden stupa is said to contain a relic of the Lord Buddha.

As well as being a religious icon, it teaches people about Laos’ architecture and history.

The That Luang Stupa has a long history and features some intricate architecture and carvings.

The stupa is located in That Luang village, Xaysettha district, in the city centre and can easily be reached on foot.

The stupa is a striking structure and is about 45 metres high at the tallest point. The central spire is surrounded by 30 smaller spires, and the stupa itself is surrounded by a square formation of broad open pathways that are lined with small Buddha images.

The stupa was originally built in the 3rd Century, about the same time as the establishment of the city of Vientiane, to house some of Lord Buddha’s bones. The original stupa was very small and made of stone. The site soon became a place for people to worship and pray to Buddha.

The original structure was renovated on the orders of the great King Saysetthathirath in the 16th century when he moved the Lao capital from Luang Prabang to Vientiane in 1560. The king led his citizens in enlarging Pha That Luang in 1566, and the original site was covered with a bigger stupa.

From then on, the monument took on the name Pha That Luang or Grand Stupa, and has been renovated numerous times.

Now, the stupa is protected and greatly revered. Large numbers of people, including foreign tourists and Buddhists from Laos and countries around the world, come to visit and worship at the stupa daily.

Visitors can see some very old and intricate architecture and carvings and learn about the stupa’s origins.

However, visitors should be aware that there are some rules to follow when entering the stupa, either for a visit or to worship, and should dress modestly in keeping with Lao tradition.

The stupa is open daily from 8 am to 4 pm. There is an admission fee of 2,000 kip for Lao nationals and 5,000 kip for foreigners.

Every November, the spectacular That Luang festival takes place to celebrate the stupa, and people from across the country eagerly take part. Foreigners also attend to watch the rituals alongside local people to get a first-hand experience of this uniquely Lao event.

The celebrations take place from November 5-11 this year, and include age-old traditions and customs that have remained unchanged for centuries.