By: Brittany Racca
"Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without." - Gautama Buddha
The Wat Thammarattanaram Buddhist Temple at Lanexang Village in Coteau, La. is definitely one of Iberia Parish's hidden treasures with its gorgeous detailing, otherworldly statues and overwhelming sense of peace you feel when you simply stand and admire its elegance. Come along with Celine Alis and I on a insider's tour of the temple and let the Lao culture take your breath away!
(Click on photos to enlarge or watch the above video to view all and more!)
Our tour guide for the day was Phanat Xanamane (top right selfie photographer), who was raised in the Lao culture and was born in a Thailand refugee camp. He has made a name for himself among the parish as a kind-hearted humanitarian involved in numerous activites including Envision da Berry.
Nāgas (the snake like statues) in Lao art and literature are the most common mythical creatures. Similar to dragons in other Asian cultures, the Lao nāgas represent magical or supernatural powers. The nāgas protect temples, bring forth water and are associated with wisdom and longevity.
The ornate building pictured above, is used by the residing monks as a temple for worship and is also a living space. Women are not allowed beyond the doors as the monks take a vow of abstinence and wish to resist temptation. Shoes are removed before you proceed up the steps to the doors as a sign of respect. Many of the painted walls inside were done by monks who have lived at the temple.
The larger building is where community prayer commences. It is also where the local Lao bring the monks their meals. When one becomes a monk they relinquish all earthly possessions so everything they use, including toothbrushes, pillows, shoes, as well as their food, must be given to them by their families or community members. The pretty objects in the bottom right corner photo are these items. The items are given as gifts and no one wants to give a plain gift, which is what all the decoration is for.
Lao New Year in Iberia:
Lanexang Village celebrates the Lao New Year every Easter weekend with a three-day festival that includes live music, a beauty pageant, parades, sand castle building, kids activities and vendors selling clothes, jewelry, music and food from Southeast Asia. Every year, the community celebrates the Lao New Year with people coming into the parish from across the country. This year's celebration is March 25 - 27, 2016. It is the best time to tour the temple and get a full immersion in the Laotian culture.
Anyone can visit Wat Thammarattanaram and tour the temple.
Phanat Xanamane offers guided tours of the temple with a minimum of 5 people, and he offers group rates for more than 10 people. School trips are also available. Contact him by phone for rates and tours at (337) 378-9469 or email him here.