February 9, 2016
While the world may have its Disney land and its other amusement parks we in Thailand like to do things our way and while they may have their cute and cuddly animals, we here in the Land of Smiles have our ‘Hell Parks’ depicting you guessed it HELL. There are in total three parks that we know of, all of them are situated in the grounds of temples and are full of statues illustrating in graphic detail what awaits those that do not follow the simple rules of Buddhism.
Unlike the rest of the world there are no age or height restrictions or health warning on entering the Hell parks, all of which contain various static depictions of people being tortured by demons and an assortment of hideous monsters. There’s blood and gore everywhere and the air is alive with loudspeakers around the complex describing the tortures these sinners have to undergo.
The three hell gardens in Thailand that we are aware of:
Wang Saen Suk Monastery Garden (also known as Wang Saen Suk Hell Garden)
This little slice of hell is located about 85 Kms south of Bangkok, along the traditional Thai Beach resort of Bang Saen Beach. (Bang Saen is the closest beach to the capital) Also referred to as the “Thailand Hell Horror Park” it’s not really a park, it’s more of a Wat garden (“Wat” means “monastery temple”) that depicts what happens in Buddhist Hell.
The least visited, smallest and oldest of the Buddhist Hell gardens, located 8kms north of New Sukhothai, it was created in 1976. It’s also referred to as the ‘Buddhist Learning Garden’.
Wat Phai Rong Wua
Known as the Palace of a Hundred Spires, the temple grounds hold recreations of Buddhist hell and heaven, along with recreations of significance events in the Lord Buddha’s life. These include the places where he was born, reached enlightenment, gave his first sermon and attained nirvana.
The Wat is a popular destination for Buddhists who flock to it every year as it also houses many of the world’s largest metal Buddhist objects including the largest bronze Buddha image in the world. The statue, called Phra Phutthakhodom, stands a staggering 26 meters and is 10 meters wide at the lap. The temple also houses the world’s largest cement Buddha image, fronted by the largest gong and alms bowl in the world. There is also the world’s largest bronze multi-spired building, known as Phra Wihan Roi Yot, along with the largest bronze Wheel of the Doctrine, or Dhammachakra.
The Buddhist concept of hell
The Buddhist concept of hell is entirely different from that in other religions. In Buddhism there are sixteen hells (called Naraka), Eight Cold Naraka and Eight Hot Naraka. Each of the Naraka is in turn subdivided into numerous sub-hells each has its own level of damnation suitable to the particular major sin committed by people in their many lives.
A Naraka differs from the hell of Christianity in two respects: firstly, beings are not sent to Naraka as the result of a divine judgment, it is the persons actions in their own lives that automatically dictates which particular Naraka they will go to; secondly, the length of a being’s stay in a Naraka is not eternal, though it is usually a very long time. Buddhists believe that there are no locks on the gates of hell. Hell is a temporary place and there is no reason for those beings to suffer there forever.
There are various evil acts which can lead one to be committed to the eternal torments of the Avīci Hell. People reborn in Avīci generally have committed one or more of the Five Grave Offenses:
- Intentionally murdering one’s father
- Intentionally murdering one’s mother
- Killing an Arhat(enlightened being)
- Shedding the blood of a Buddha
- Creating a schism within the Sangha, the community of Buddhist monks and nuns who try to attain enlightenment (eternal happiness).