Two giant red, yellow and black chickens at the entrance of the temple draw my attention. Funny detail, I think; but it’s something different than the usual two lions.
Looking beyond, I notice more chickens at each of the entrance gates. In the distance, behind the building, some gold and silver appears to have a poultry shape…
I decide to take a closer look. I am in the ancient Thai capital of Ayutthaya by the way – and this particular temple is devoted to the Siamese king Naresuan the Great. Some googling on the spot tells me he was born in 1555 and died in 1605. One of his major feats was a series of victories over invading Burmese armies.
I have a quick look inside the temple. A statue of the king is seated on a throne. Intrigued by the birds around, I walk towards the gold and the silver chickens. They are huge. And more appear in sight – I can see chickens of over 4 metres tall! At the other side of the road is what really makes an impression – it’s a huge royal army of chickens!
I’m told that everybody who attributed some personal fortune to the king’s intervention, comes to this temple, bringing a chicken in gratitude. Over the years, the number must have exceeded 10,000 or so. It’s impossible to count them or catch them all in a single photograph.
So, what’s the story of king Naresuan and his chickens? According to legend, when the young and future king was a lonely hostage in Burma, his only friends were chickens. The story goes on to tell that he played with them, talked to them and that they were his constant companions.
Now one can say that. Even in death they followed him!