Pha That Luang in Vientiane translates to the Great Stupa or the Great Sacred Reliquary. Legend has it that it was originally built in the 3rd Century and was known to be founded by Asokan missionaries who erected the shrine to enclose a breastbone of Buddha himself. It was then reconstructed during the mid 16th Century by King Xaiyasetthathirat when he moved the capital of Laos to Vientiane from Luang Prabang. The temple was said to have four wats (temples) built around the stupa with one on each side. Today, only two of the temples remain: the Wat That Luang Neua and the Wat That Luang Tai.
In year 1828, the Great Stupa was destroyed by the Siamese armies along with several other temples and houses in the capital. By 1900, That Luang was restored once more under the French colony but it was only in 1930 that the monument was entirely rebuilt in its original design. After the victory of the Lao People Revolutionary Party, the temple was transformed to accommodate the seemingly new era of Laos. It was painted in a golden color and surrounding monument grounds were built to give way to more open space that could accommodate bigger and better events. Because of such construction, many major celebrations such as New Year’s, Army Day and National Holidays are often held here.
Its bright golden cluster is undoubtedly an awe-inspiring view, especially on a bright sunny day against the backdrop of the blue Vientiane sky. That Luang is known to be one of the most sacred Buddhist temples in the capital as the Lao people believe that it contains the remains of Buddha’s hair. Visitors are encouraged to walk around the structure to contemplate the meaning of the doctrines. Each doctrine conveys a reflection of part of the Buddhist doctrine so take your time when making your way around.
All Buddhism believers then come together at the temple during the That Luang Festival. People from all over the country gather together in this huge religious event, which is even considered a public holiday in Laos.
The golden stupa is certainly an amazing sight as anyone visiting it will not fail to notice how much work was put into constructing the temple. The finish product is a majestic cluster of golden architecture that never fails to lure in the eyes. Travelers from all over the world excitedly take great photographs with the famous and beautiful monument. If you are in Vientiane, make sure this place is included in your itinerary anywhere between Tuesday to Sunday from 8 to noon and from 1 to 4 in the afternoon. An admission fee of USD0.20 is charged per person, so be prepared for that. Since the monument is considered an extremely sacred temple, make sure to leave your shoes behind before entering.
Today, the monument has become a national symbol of the country and the people. It ultimately symbolizes the peace, unity and prosperity of Laos. Despite being destroyed and damaged by foreigners countless times, Pha That Luang still stands majestically alongside the Lao people.