Exploring Wat Phra Chetuphon, Bangkok Grand Temple

Wat Pho Temple in Bangkok

Wat Phra Chetuphon, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, is one of Bangkok’s most famous and iconic Buddhist temples. Located in the Banglamphu neighborhood, the temple is home to the massive reclining Buddha statue that gives it its nickname. Beyond the famous reclining Buddha, Wat Phra Chetuphon has a long and fascinating history dating back to the early 19th century.  From this article, we are planning to share more details on the attractions and  history Wat phra chetuphon.

History and Significance of Wat Phra Chetuphon

Wat Phra Chetuphon was built in 1819 during the reign of King Rama III in the Rattanakosin period. The temple was commissioned by the king to house the enormous reclining Buddha image that was originally located at Wat Pho. The image depicts Buddha entering parinirvana and passing into nirvana upon death.

The reclining pose represents Buddha letting go of earthly suffering and moving on to enlightenment. The serene facial expression and relaxed posture emphasizes the Buddha’s detachment from worldly concerns. This symbolic representation of the Buddha’s death made Wat Phra Chetuphon an important temple for worshippers to reflect on impermanence and the cycle of life.

In the early 20th century, Wat Phra Chetuphon underwent extensive renovations sponsored by King Rama VI. The temple buildings and monuments were rebuilt and expanded in 1920, providing Wat Phra Chetuphon with the grand architectural style it retains today. Though newer than many classic Bangkok temples, Wat Phra Chetuphon remains deeply significant for its impressive reclining Buddha and its role in promoting Buddhist values.

Traditional Temple in Bangkok

The Reclining Buddha

The main highlight of Wat Phra Chetuphon is undoubtedly the massive reclining Buddha statue. This statue has a height of 15 meters and a length of 46 meters. You can call it as one of the largest Buddha statues in Thailand.

The statue is constructed of brick, plaster, and gold leaf, giving it a radiant glow. The soles of the Buddha’s feet are intricately decorated with mother-of-pearl illustrations of the 108 auspicious signs that identified Buddha as a great being.

The reclining pose of the Buddha statue makes it quite unique and more lifelike compared to seated Buddha images. Visitors are often stunned by the sheer size and beauty of the gold-adorned reclining Buddha. Its placid face and relaxed posture serve as reminders to let go of desire and attachment.

Wat Phra Chetuphon Architecture

In addition to the reclining Buddha, Wat Phra Chetuphon contains classic temple architecture and design. The ubosot (main chapel) is a grand building with a multi-layered roof and decorated pillars. Inside the ubosot are artistic murals, Buddha images and ceremonial flags.

At the front of the temple complex is a traditional Thai gate called a prang. The prang is covered in small golden mirrors that glint in the Bangkok sun. Chinese porcelain decorations and golden dragons give the prang an ornate beauty.

Surrounding the temple are tranquil gardens filled with Buddha statues. The gardens provide shade and serenity for visitors wishing to linger. Overall, the temple architecture elegantly complements the enormous reclining Buddha without overshadowing it.

Visiting Information

Wat Phra Chetuphon is located on Sanam Chai Road near Bangkok’s famous Khao San Road. The temple grounds are open daily from 8am to 5pm and entrance fee is 100 baht. Proper dress is required – shoulders and knees must be covered. Photography is permitted but no flash or tripods are allowed inside temple buildings.

In addition to admiring the reclining Buddha, visitors can pay respect at various shrines around the temple. Trying to envision the Buddha’s size from head to toe is a humbling experience. The temple is usually busy but its expansive size means it never feels overcrowded. Allow 1-2 hours to explore the architecture and take in the sheer scale of the reclining Buddha.

Other Notable Features at Wat Phra Chetuphon

In addition to the giant reclining Buddha statue, Wat Phra Chetuphon contains numerous other interesting sights and structures. Exploring the expansive temple grounds reveals intricate Buddhist artwork, sculptures, and shrines around every corner.

Phra Ubosot

The ordination hall, known as Phra Ubosot, houses many artistic treasures. The hall features ornate gates inlaid with mother-of-pearl, as well as murals depicting the life of the Buddha. Inside are golden Buddha statues, ceremonial seats for monks and offerings from devotees.

Phra Mondop

Phra Mondop is a square-shaped shrine building containing a stupa and more Buddha images. This structure stands on pillars decorated with mosaic tiles telling Buddhist stories. The mirrored tiles reflect light dramatically around the shrine.

Four Great Chedis

Scattered around the temple grounds are four towering chedis built in Khmer-style architecture. These monuments contain holy relics of the Buddha, including ashes, bones and artifacts. The chedis are decorated with stucco images of mythical creatures from Buddhist teachings.

Engraved Marble Plaques

Marble tablets engraved with ancient inscriptions can be found mounted along the temple walls. These plaques are antique remnants from past periods of the temple’s history, some dating back hundreds of years. The carved scripts provide insight into Wat Phra Chetuphon’s historic significance.

Tips for Visiting Wat Phra Chetuphon

To make the most of a visit to Wat Phra Chetuphon, here are some top tips:

  • Arrive early to beat crowds and heat
  • Dress respectfully – cover shoulders and knees
  • Give offerings or light incense at shrines
  • Be quiet and mindful inside temple buildings
  • Walk barefoot inside the ubosot
  • Sit a while to contemplate the reclining Buddha
  • Chat with monks to gain insight into Thai Buddhism
  • Explore the temple gardens fully to admire architecture
  • Consider getting a Thai massage within the temple complex
  • Reflect on the deeper meaning behind Buddha images

Final words

With its serenely massive reclining Buddha and elegant architecture, Wat Phra Chetuphon is a Bangkok treasure not to be missed. As one of the city’s most important and distinctive Buddhist sites, Wat Phra Chetuphon provides an opportunity to reflect on the Buddha’s teachings and the nature of existence. Visitors of all backgrounds are sure to be awed by this temple’s historic grandeur and spiritual atmosphere. Over 200 years since its construction, Wat Phra Chetuphon remains an unforgettable Bangkok highlight.

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