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Wat Phrathat Phanom Woramahawihaan (วัดพระธาตุพนมวรมหาวิหาร)

Thai. Name of a revered temple in the amphur That Phanom (ธาตุพนม) in Nakhon Phanom Province, which has a distinct stupa in Laotian style, that houses a relic of the Buddha, said to be a breast bone, hence the use of the term Phrathat in the name, though in northeastern Thailand, the term Phrathat can be used for any stupa, whereas the word phanom means ‘mountain’ or ‘hill’ and refers to the temple's location. The stupa was originally built in the 16th century by the Laotian King Setthathirath of Lan Xang, but was rebuilt after it collapsed in 1975 AD. The site is often referred to as simply Phrathat Phanom (map - fig.) and as a landmark of the province and of Isaan, the stupa is often used in tourist promotion campaigns for the area and has been copied at other locations, such as at Wat Soda Pradittharam (วัดโสดาประดิษฐาราม - fig.) in Ratchaburi and even reproduced as a scale replica (map - fig.) time and again. Wat Phrathat Phanom is one of the most important places of pilgrimage in the region for Theravada Buddhists, and –according to popular belief– especially for those born in the Year of the Monkey, according to the Chinese zodiac. Some time between January and March, the annual Phrathat Phanom Fair is held. During this festival, which lasts for nine days and is held from the evening of the 8th day of the waxing moon to the 1st day of the waning moon of the 3rd lunar month, thousands of people make pilgrimages to the temple in order to make merit (tamboon) at its shrines. Annually, on 11 August, the temple holds a ceremony for scholarship students who passed their exams of Pali, the language used in the sacred texts of Hinayana Buddhism, and on the evening of the 5th day of the waxing moon of the 11th lunar month (around October), before then end of the Buddhist Lent, the temple holds the annual Septem Naga Ceremony to commemorate the seven nagas, i.e. the seven children of the phayanaag known in Thai-Pali as Satot Naka (สัตตนาคา), that according to legend look after the temple. Those Satot Naka are of the same level as the gods, were humans in their past existence, and form a group of builders that are hired to restore temples. They are celebrated annually on a day called Wan Satot Naka Ramleuk (วันสัตตนาคารำลึก). The Satot Naka are associated with Ananta, the seven-headed serpent and king of the nagas, who is depicted on the Royal Barge Reua Phra Thihnang Ananta Nagaraat (fig.). See POSTAGE STAMP (1) and (2), TRAVEL PICTURES (1), (2) and (3), WATCH VIDEO, and see MAP.