January 27, 2005

Pak Ou -The Caves Of Many Buddhas

Inside The Pak Ou Cave, Laos
Photography By El-Branden Brazil

In the communist country of Laos, 25 km from Luang Prabang, are two limestone caves that are devoted to Buddhism. To reach them, one must charter a boat ride upon the mighty Mekong River.

The pleasant journey there, reveals the natural beauty that is to be found throughout Laos. Rich jungle foliage hangs over the chalk cliffs that frame the river. In the distance, peaks break through the forests, whilst small villages sporadically interrupt Nature's moment.

As you get closer to the holy site, a white staircase juts out from a small overhanging alcove. Climbing off the boat and up the stairs some 50 feet, the smell of incense gradually becomes stronger. Inside, the visitor is greeted by the sight of thousands of Buddhas.

The Pak Ou Caves have been a site of worship for more than a millennia, and were originally used for animistic practices. When Theravadan (Hinayana) Buddhism arrived in Laos in the 13th Century, the allegiance of the caves shifted, and so Buddha statues have been added ever since. More than 4000 now adorn the caverns.

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