UTHAI THANI — Officials on Monday instructed a temple in the central region to remove a picture of a celebrity on its religious murals, saying it was “inappropriate.”
Although the cameo depiction of celeb Sitang Buathong, who became a sort of a meme figure on social media, won praises from many netizens, officials from an agency on Buddhism visited the Nong Tao Temple and said it disrespected Lord Buddha.
“Sitang’s gesture in the picture is inappropriate and may be considered as a distortion,” Thammanan Chutathanasap, head of provincial religious office, said. “The advent of Buddha should be something people would look forward to, but the painting depicts Sitang with her face down, pointing at an orange.”
The scene – a minor detail in a 3.30 meter-tall mural – resembles one of Sitang’s anecdotes of her supernatural power, in which she said she could order a rolling orange to stop its motion. Her punchline “Orange Stop!” was adopted as an internet meme in recent days.
She was one of the characters seen paying respect to Buddha in the mural.
Phra Somchai Techapalo, deputy abbot of the temple, said the murals portray different chapters of Buddha’s life. The monk said he allowed the artist to add in the meme, since he didn’t find it offensive.
Artist Charanpat Kaewum said she will fix the painting as instructed by officials. Charanpat said she wanted to extend her creativity into her work and had no intention of mocking the religion.
Buddhist murals are commonly found in Thai temples, especially in the ordination hall or ubosot, where the grand Buddha image is housed. While a majority sticks with the traditional art style, some chose to embed modern spin on the religious icons.
In 2018, a temple in Suphan Buri province became viral for its murals bearing Marvel villains and manga characters.