Phu Phra Bat is a historical park in Ban Phue District, Udon Thani Province, Thailand. The park’s distinguishing feature is its unusual rock formations around which religious shrines have been constructed.
Huge boulders appear to balance atop impossibly small rocks, rimmed by ancient Buddha images and caves shrouded in legend. A famous tale set at Phu Phra Bat Historical Park proclaims: “There is a sense of mystery here, a primeval force, which speaks, through ancient cave paintings and chiseled motifs, of those that lived long ago.”
Prehistoric rock paintings
Thousands of years ago, prehistoric man wandered around in this area. They left behind rock paintings made in red color depicting various animals and people. As the sandstone is fairly easy to carve, rooms were cut out some of the rocks to create shelters.
During the early days of Buddhism, the rock formations were used by travelling monks, providing them with shelter. A number of very old Buddha images placed in the caves shows the caves were used as ancient temples.
Dvaravati era temples
Boundary pillars from the Dvaravati period can still be found today at Phu Phra Bat. These pillars (or sema stones) mark the sacred area of the Dvaravati temples that existed here some 1200 years ago. The boundary pillars are decorated with depictions of apsaras, female spirits from ancient Hindu mythology. Some of the natural rock formations like the famous Hor Nang Usa rock were used as places for meditations during the Dvaravati era.
During the height of power of the Khmer empire some 10 centuries ago, the Khmer carved Buddha images into the rocks.
The Wat Phra Phutthabat Bua Bok temple in the historical park is an important site for Buddhists in the North East. This temple contains a footprint of the Buddha.