Sangkachai Buddha

This rotund figure of the fat monk known as Phra Sangkachai sits smiling with hands around his belly on a tiered lotus throne. The mother-of-pearl finely inlaid on the eyes and the patterned cloth hanging down the front of the throne are typical of the earlier Rattanakosin decorative style. The Thai Phra Sangkachai may have originated from early Theravada Buddhist traditions of the Mon culture in Burma, probably as a wealth-bestowing deity. He is sometimes confused with the Chinese Laughing Buddha, or Budai, who is an incarnation of the future Buddha Maitreya. However, Sangkachai is believed to have been an Arhat (one who attains Enlightenment) who was reverred for his ability to explain the dhamma teachings in a clear manner. He was the author of the first Pali Grammar, the Madhupinadikar Sutta. Popular stories tell of how he was extremely handsome and attracted unwanted advances of women as well as men. Angels also mistakenly worshipped him as the Buddha. In order to avoid such inappropriate attention, he allowed himself to become extremely overweight and unattractive.