Couldn’t book that summer trip to Thailand you’ve always dreamed of due to the pandemic? Well, if like many of us you’ve decided to take advantage of the travel restrictions by familiarizing yourself more with your immediate surroundings, we’ve got the place in mind for you.
Wat Buddhapadipa, or Buddhapadipa Temple, is a 25-minute walk from Wimbledon Station. Or, alternatively, you can just hop on the 93 bus from the train station and be there within five minutes.
Located on Colanne Road, just across from Wimbledon and Putney Commons, Wat Buddhapadipa was the first purpose-built Buddhist temple in the UK.
On top of that, it is the first Thai Theravada Buddhist temple ever to be built outside of Asia. In English, the word Wat is a Thai prefix literally meaning temple, while Buddhapadipa is a compound word in Pali, the canonical Buddhist language, meaning “lamp or light of the Buddha”.
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The temple was created by the London Buddha Temple Foundation for the purpose of spreading Buddhist teachings across Europe. The original temple was based in East Sheen, but in 1976 it was moved to its current location. It is also affiliated with the Royal Thai Embassy in London.
The four-acre site includes a monastery, a pond, and a beautiful flower garden decorated with various ornaments and mini-shrines.
Around every Buddha statue, it is common to find moldy old coins that devotees have left as an offering.
As you stroll through the garden, you may even spot a few monks strolling around in their traditional orange robes. Feel free to say hello to them, this is a friendly bunch, but keep in mind that this is a place of worship, so try to be respectful and don’t disturb them while they are meditating.
Also make sure you are dressed appropriately, as some attendees might be offended if you go dressed as if you were going to Clacton Beach.
Not everyone you speak to at the temple will know English, but you will find the odd English speaker who can help if you need them.
The temple itself stands out in the middle of the site almost like a white pearl that sparkles on a sunny day. It is designed according to traditional Thai Buddhist architecture, with red painted wooden frames around the windows and doors and gilded carvings with gold leaf.
A sign asks you to take off your shoes before entering the temple. The walls inside depict the life and death of the Buddha in colorful neoclassical murals that were painted by Chalermchai Kositpipat and Panya Vijinthanasarn.
Right in front of the gate is the main shrine, which houses three Buddha statues. The statue on the front is a small Buddha in green. The one behind is a larger Buddha in gold, and just behind is another large Buddha in black. One fact that you might miss on your visit is that the large black Buddha statue at the back is actually over 500 years old.
Although the temple website always advises visitors to call or email ahead to schedule only essential visits, the temple doors are generally open to anyone who can enter or leave. There are no restrictions on the site, and visitors are free to walk around the site and take photos.
Temple offerings are optional, but monks appreciate occasional gifts of fruit, which they can eat on their own or share with other visitors.
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So, if you are looking for a little bubble of peace within the bustling capital, look no further.
The Buddhapadipa temple is a great place to stop, breathe clean air, meditate and reflect. It makes you feel like you are in Thailand without the long round trip flight.
You might even be able to sneak in the weird selfie for your social media accounts and convince your friends that you’ve actually visited Thailand. But at the end of the day, the best way to get the most out of your visit is to go with an appreciation for the beautiful landscape and architecture, as well as an openness to experience a different culture and reach for new things. new spiritual plains.