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A stupa (Sanskrit for “heap”) is an important form of Buddhist architecture as a place of burial or a receptacle for sacred religious objects, which has its origins in the pre-Buddhist burial mounds of ancient India. The earliest stupa contained portions of the Gautama Buddha’s relics, and as a result, these monuments began to be associated with the body and energy of the historical Buddha.

In Thailand, the term chedi (from Pali: cetiya) is more commonly used to refer to stupa as objects and places that keep the memory of the Buddha and his teachings alive. According to the Thai Buddhist cosmology, Traiphum Phra Ruang, a celestial stupa with the name Chulamani Chedi (Pali: Cūḷāmaṇi Cetiya) is situated in the Tavatimsa heaven where the god Indra (Sakka) and 32 deities reside.

Tavatimsa heaven

The Chulamani Chedi is mentioned repeatedly in the story of the life of the Buddha. When Prince Siddhattha renounced worldly life, he cut off his hair which the god Indra placed in the celestial stupa. Long after his enlightenment, the Buddha ascended to the Tavatimsa heaven – where his mother had been reborn as a deva (deity) – to deliver his wisdom or Dhamma.

This occurred during one rainy retreat (the period of the Buddhist Lent), in the…

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