Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha is the official name of Wat Phra Kaew, the royal monastery situated on the northeastern/ northwestern corner of the Grand Palace in Bangkok. It houses the statue of Phra Phuttha Maha Mani Rattana Patimakon (Emerald Buddha) and is the place where significant religious ceremonies are conducted. The construction of the temple was completed in 1784 and there have been constant renovations during every reign from King Rama I to IX. The interior of the Ubosoth and the entire compound walls are decorated with mural paintings. Apart from these, other highlights within the temple include the eight stupas, Phra Si Ratana Chedi, the model of Angor Wat, etc.
This royal monastery in the precincts of the Grand Palace was one of Thailand’s first attractions introduced to the world when the tourism promotion began 50 years ago. In addition to the importance as the home of the Emerald Buddha, the architecture of various different eras is an enchanting characteristic. One of the majestic embellishments here is the world’s longest mural painting portraying the enthralling epic of Ramayana on the compound walls.
According to the Bangkok poll conducted by Bangkok University in 2010, the highest vote from tourists for their most favorite destination in Thailand went to Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram. Both local Thais and foreigners are unanimous in their opinion. The temple truly deserves ‘the best of the best’ tourist attraction in Thailand.
The Royal Thai Decorations and Coins Pavilion is also located within the Grand Palace compound on the right hand side before entering the palace’s inner gate. This place displays a collection of coins and other monetary exchange units used in Thailand, as well as Royal regalia. The pavilion is open daily from 8.30 to 15.30.
Ubosot or Main chapelThis one is used for keeping the sacred Buddha image named the Emerald Buddha. The image is not really made of emerald ; it is made of emerald-green jade. It is believed by the people in the region as one of the most sacred Buddha images. The building is the oldest one in the temple compound but it looks new because of renovation. The story of the Emerald Buddha in brief is that:
The Emerald was discovered by chance in 1434 in Chiangrai. At first it was covered with stucco. One day the stucco at the nose came off ,then the green stone inside was seen. It was misunderstood as an emerald one. It has been called the Emerald Buddha since then. It was transferred to different places namely Lampang ,Chiangmai , Lung Phrabang ,Vientian ,Thonburi and Bangkok. This means it was discovered in Chianrai ,Thailand and transferred to the other two towns–Lampang and Chiangmai and transferred to Luang Phrabang and Vientian of Laos then it was returned to Thonburi and Bangkok ,Thailand. 32 years in Lampang,84 years in Chiangmai 226 years in Laos then back to Thailand.
PhrsrirattanachediIt was built in the reign of King Rama IV but completed in the reign of King Rama V. It was built in 1855 and completed in 1882. It was built to keep the Buddha relics that were brought from Sri Lanka. It is made of bricks and stucco which are decorated with golden tile mosaics. The style is in a bell shape that is indirectly applied from Ceylonese one.
PhramondopIt was built in the reign of King Rama I. It is used for keeping the scripture in Buddhism that is called Tripitaka. The building is a sample of Thai style. The roof structure has seven layers that represent the seven mountains in the religious belief.
Phrasat Phrathep BidornIt is used for keeping the former king statues in the present dynasty. It took 27 years to build from 1855 to 1882. It took a long time to build because the construction was delayed for several times. It is a sample of Thai art mixed with the Khmer. It is open to the public 7 times a year such as December 5th–the king birthday’s anniversary and April 6th–the anniversary day of the dynasty.
Ho PhranakIt is used for keeping the crematory ashes of some royal family members such as the viceroys and their off-springs. It is known as a royal mausoleum.
Wihan YodIt is a building with spire-roof and it is decorated with Chinese porcelain. It is used for keeping Buddha images that are sometimes used in ceremonies.It was built in the reign of King Rama III about 180 years ago to replace the original one in the reign of King Rama I.
Salarai or 12 PavilionsThis is one of the 12 pavilions called Salarai meaning the surrounding pavilions (or encompassing pavilions). It was built in the reign (period) of King Rama VII to replace the ones built in the reign of King Rama V as replacement of the original ones in the reign of King Rama I. In the past, it was mainly used for religious affairs such as the prayer and the sermon audience. At present ,it is additionally applied as a tourist resting place.
Royal emblemsThis is one of the four monuments which are built as Buddha offering. They are called the monuments of the royal emblem (or insignia or signet).
At first, there were three in all, built in the reign of King Rama V in 1882 about 134 years ago. One is for King Rama I to Rama III. One is for his father, King Rama IV. And one is for himself , King Rama V. One hundred years later in the present reign, the forth one was built on the occasion of Bangkok bicentennial as a capital. It is for King Rama VI to Ram IX, the present king is King Rama X.
This monument shows the signets of King Rama I to Rama III.
1) This one is a canopy-like-crown; it is the signet of King Rama I.
2) This one is a Garuda, the mythical bird; it is the signet of King Rama II.
3) This one is a throne; it is the signet of King Rama III.
4) This one shows the signet of King Rama IV. It is a Thai crown or headdress.
5) This one shows the signet of King Rama V. It is a tiny Thai crown or headdress.
This one shows the signets of King Rama VI to Rama IX.
6) This one is a trident. It is the signet of King Rama VI.
7) This one is the three arrows being released. It is the signet of King Rama VII.
8) This one is Dusit Devabutra, the deity. It is the signet of King Rama VIII.
9) This one is the traditional number in Thai. It is the signet of King Rama IX.
Demon StatuesThe demon statues in Ramayana the epic that is called in Thai as Ramakien. There are twelve of them here . They are made as the temple guardians then they are known as the Emerald Buddha temple demon-guardians. The artists made them in the position of standing facing the main chapel to show that they are guarding the Emerald Buddha image that is in the main chapel. The multi-faced one in green complexion is the demon king that is named Ravana or Tasakan. And the multi-faced one in white complexion is one of his assistants that is named Sahatsadecha.
Mural PaintingsThe mural paintings about the Hindu epic named Ramayana but it is in Thai version named Ramakien. It is a story that the Thais borrowed from the Indian and modified it into Thai. The themes are similar. It is the story about the battle of Rama the man and Ravana the demon. Rama’s wife,Sita is kidnapped by Ravana the demon king then Rama has to make war with Ravana to bring her back. The battle lasts about 14 years. It is a happy-ending one. These paintings are divided into 178 chapters. Some chapters were made about 180 years ago in the reign of King Rama III ;some were made about 160 years ago in the reign of King Rama IV. However all of them look new because they have been restored , or renovated or retouched.
Assada MahachediThese are called Assada Mahachedi or the eight great pagodas. They are made as offering or dedication for the eight foundations in Buddhism. The first one is for Kotamasakkaya, the Buddha of the present era. The second one is for Dhamma, the teachings. The third one is for the enlightened male monks. The forth one is for the enlightened female-monks. The fifth one is for Patchekka Buddha,the persons who get enlightened as Buddhas but live isolatedly and do not teach the public. The sixth one is for the Buddhist emperors or monarchs. The seventh one is for Potthisatta,the persons who collect merit in order to be incarnated(or born) as Buddhas. And the eighth one is for Sriariya Metrai, the one who will be the future Buddha after this era.
Wat Phrasrirattana Sasadaram MuseumThe history of temple of the Emerald Buddha and the royal grand palace was established in this museum.
source: Tourism Authority of Thailand, Piyawat P. (2016)