Bangkok, Thailand’s capital city, is one of the cities where Buddhism has thrived for more than two centuries. The city is adorned with spectacular temples or ‘Wats’ that welcome not only worshippers but also visitors from all over the world to witness the cultural heritage.
Apart from the many big and famous temples, there are a few smaller temples that are as splendid. Many small temples possess precious architecture; painting and sculpture waiting for visitors to come and appreciate with their own eyes.
This class 3 royal temple was originally known as Wat Somklieng and was totally deserted to the point that local people took bricks from the ruins for their own use. The condition became so bad that the traces of the temple could hardly be recognised.
King Phra Nung Klao (Rama III) commissioned King Nangklao (King Rama IV) who was at that time Kromakhun Ussaretrungsun to rebuild the temple and rename it as Wat Rajchaphatikaram meaning ‘the temple that a king changes, replaces or has brought development to’.
The renovation of Wat Rajchaphatikara continued throughout the reigns of King Rama IV and King Rama V and the status of the temple changed into an important sanctuary. The temple received another major renovation again on the occasion of the auspicious 7th Cycle Birthday Anniversary of the late King Bhumibol, and the magnificent mural depicting the story of Phra Maha Janaka was painted on the inside walls of its ubosot.
Ratchawithi Rd, Khet Dusit, (close to Thonburi Bridge on Bangkok side)
In the past, the area around what is now called Klong Mahanak Intersection was regarded as an out-of-the city area since it was outside the city wall. Consequently, Wat Baromniwat which is located in this area was called ‘Wat Nok’ (outside temple) or some might call it “Wat Barommasuk’.
Wat Baromniwat was first built in the reign of Phra Nang Klao Chao Yu Hua (Rama III) by the initiation of Phra Chom Klao Chao Yu Hua (King Rama IV) while His Majesty was being a monk known as Phra Wachirayan Thera in 1834. The temple was intended to be a temple for Arunyawasi monks (monks who practice Vipassana Meditation) or ‘Wat Pa’ to pair with Wat Bowonniwet Vihara which is for Kamawasi monks (monks who reside in a temple in a community) who study pariyatti -the theory of Buddha dharma.
The architecture of Wat Baromniwat is influenced by Krung Si Ayutthaya’s architectural style. A principle Buddha image in Maravichai posture from Sukhothai period, called Phra Tossapollayan which was brought from Phitsanulok Province is enshrined inside the ubosot. In addition, murals painted by Krua Ta In Khong, a renowned master painter in King Rama IV period, adorn the ubosot walls. The murals which are influenced by western drawing techniques depict metaphorical dharma teachings and the way of life of the people of that period.
Rama VI Soi 1, Khwaeng Rong Muang, Khet Pathum Wan
Wat Rajadhivas Vihara
Wat Rajadhivas was built during Krung Si Ayutthaya period, previously called Wat Samohrai. During the reign of King Rama I, the Viceroy Somdej Chaophraya Mahasurasinghanat commissioned a renovation. The work continued into the reign of Phra Chom Klao Chao Yu Hua (King Rama IV) who gave the temple the new name Wat Rajadhivas Vihara, meaning the temple that is a residence of a king. It is this temple that King Rama IV resided in during his monkhood and it also is the temple where the Dhammayuttika Nikaya denomination began.
As time passed, the temple became gradually dilapidated, leading to a major renovation ordered by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V); a new ubosot in Khmer architectural style with stucco art was also built during this renovation period. It is the only ubosot in Thailand which was built in this style.
The ubosot is divided into three sections with the front being a residential area; the middle section being an area for conducting religious ceremonies and the back section is an area where Phra Samphuttawattanopat, the original principle Buddha image, believed to be built in the Ayuthaya period is enshrined. Another principle Buddha image named Phra Samphuttapannee is enshrined in the middle section. Phra Samphuttapannee is a replica of an original Buddha image that was moved to be enshrined in front of the Emerald Buddha by King Rama IV. King Rama V wanted to build the replica of Phra Samphuttapannee to be enshrined as the principle Budhha image of Wat Rajadhivas Vihara but did not want to disregard the existing principle Buddha image so he placed Phra Samphuttapannee in a separate section from Phra Samphuttawattanopat.
Another splendid attraction at Wat Rajadhivas Vihara is the murals depicting the 13 kans (chapters) of Vessantara Jātaka, using fresco technique by Prof. Carlo Rigoli who also painted the mural at Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall.
Samsen Soi 9, Khwaeng Wachira Phayaban, Khet Dusit, Bangkok
Wat Suwannaram is a class 2 royal temple on the bank of Klong Bangkok Noi (Bangkok Noi canal) in Thonburi. Formerly named Wat Thong, this is an old temple dating from Krung Si Ayutthaya period. In Thonburi period, the temple ground was used as an area for executing Burmese prisoners of war.
Later in Rattanakosin period, Phra Phutthayotfa Chulalok the Great (Rama I) commissioned a renovation and gave the temple a new name called Wat Suwannaram.
This temple has a historical importance in terms of a royal protocol. Traditionally, the cremation of any member of the royal families or high-ranked nobilities must be done outside the front wall of the capital. As a devout Buddhist, Somdej Phra Borvornchao Mahasurasinghanat Krom Phra Rajawang Bovorn Sathan Mongkol, who held the title of the Front Palace (Viceroy) in King Rama I’s reign, built a royal crematory in Wat Suwannaram to be used as a crematorium for the royal families.
Inside phra ubosot, Luang Phor Sassada, the principle Buddha image in Maravichai posture from Sukhothai period is enshrined. The mural from the works of two artists during the reign of King Rama III, Luang Wijit Jessada (Khru Thong Yuu) and Laung Seni Borirak (Khru Kong Pae) are the evidence of the excellence of fine art in the Rattanakosin era. They are definitely worth visiting.
Charan Sanitwong Soi 32, Khwaeng Siriraj, Bangkok Noi
Wat Krua Wan Worawiharn
Wat Krau Wan Worawiharn is located away from the capital on the Thonburi side of The Chao Phaya River. There is no clear record of when the temple was built; but there is a presumption that the temple might have been built during Krung Si Ayutthaya period. According to an ancient chronicle, after the death of Chao Phaya Aphaiphuthorn (Noi Boonyarattaphan) who was an important noble who served in the court of King Rama III, Chao Chom Kruawan who was his daughter renovated the temple and dedicated the monastery to be a royal temple. The name of the temple was then taken after hers.
Wat Krau Wan Worawiharn has many attractions such as the ubosot that is listed on the country’s heritage site by the Fine Arts Department due to the exquisite murals painted on all four sides of its wall. The murals depict the five hundred previous lives of Lord Buddha from Gautama Buddha Jataka tales. Besides the impressive murals, the ubosot houses a unique standing principle Buddha image with a gesture of ‘Calming the Oceans’. There are only very few temples in Thailand that have a standing principle Buddha image.
And there is another attraction that was created at Wat Krua Wan Worawiharn only a few years ago. Previously, the temple’s wihan had only empty walls so a project to decorate the walls with modern technology was initiated. Pictures are painted on canvases using computerised techniques and processed into digital files, and then the files are sent to Shigaraki in Japan to be processed onto ceramic tiles before sent back to decorate the wihan’s walls. Shigaraki is famous for its pottery production. The technique makes the paintings last for a very long time.
Thanon Arun Amarin, Khwaeng Wat Arun, Khet Bangkok Yai, (adjacent to the Royal Thai Navy Convention Center)