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A wat (Khmer: វត្ត wōat; Lao: ວັດ vat; Thai: วัด, RTGSwat, pronounced [wát]) is a type of Buddhist temple and Hindu temple in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. The word wat is borrowed from Sanskrit vāṭa (Devanāgarī: वाट), meaning "enclosure".[1][2]


Front of Wat Mahathat in Luang Prabang, Laos

Strictly speaking a wat is a Buddhist sacred precinct with a vihara (quarters for bhikkhus), a temple, an edifice housing a large image of Buddha and a structure for lessons. A site without a minimum of three resident bhikkhus cannot correctly be described as a wat although the term is frequently used more loosely, even for ruins of ancient temples. As a transitive or intransitive verb, wat means to measure, to take measurements; compare templum, from which temple derives, having the same root as template.

In Cambodia, a wat is used to refer to all kinds of places of worship. Technically, wat generally refers to a Buddhist place of worship, but the technical term is វត្តពុទ្ធសាសនា wat putthasasana. A Christian church can be referred as វិហារយេស៊ូ vihear Yesaou or "Jesus vihear". Angkor Wat អង្គរវត្ត means "city of temples".

In everyday language in Thailand, a wat is any place of worship except a mosque (Thai สุเหร่า surao or มัสยิด matsayit) or a synagogue (Thai สุเหร่ายิว - surao yio). Thus a wat chin (วัดจีน) or san chao (ศาลเจ้า) is a Chinese temple (either Buddhist or Taoist), wat khaek (วัดแขก) or Thewasathan (เทวสถาน) is a Hindu temple and bot khrit (โบสถ์คริสต์) or wat farang (วัดฝรั่ง) is a Christian church, though Thai โบสถ์ (โบสถ์ bot) may be used descriptively as with mosques.


The facade to the Phra Wihan Luang (meeting hall) at Wat Suthat, one of the Buddhist temples in Bangkok, Thailand

According to Thai law, There are 2 types of Thai Buddhist temples:

  • Wat (วัด; wat) are temples which have been endorsed by the state and have been granted wisungkhammasima (วิสุงคามสีมา), or the land for establishing central hall, by the king. These temples are divided into:[3]
    • Royal temples (พระอารามหลวง; phra aram luang), established or patronised by the king or his family members.
    • Public temples (วัดราษฎร์; wat rat), established by private citizens. Despite the term "private", private temples are opened to the public and are sites of public religious activities also.
  • Samnak song (สำนักสงฆ์; samnak song) are temples without state endorsement and wisungkhamasima.


Preah chaedai (royal stupa) Kuntha Bopha was built by using Khmer architectural style during Angkor period in the form of temple shrine, Silver Pagoda, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
A close-up of the main Chedi in Wat Phra Mahathat, Nakhon Si Thammarat

A typical Buddhist wat consists of the following buildings:

  • Bell tower (Khmer: ប៉មជួង; Lao: ຫໍລະຄັງ; Thai: หอระฆัง)
  • Bot (Thai: โบสถ์) or Ubosot (Lao: ອຸໂປສົດ; Thai: อุโบสถ; from Pali uposatha) or Sim (Lao: ສິມ) - the holiest prayer room, also called the "ordination hall" as it is where new monks take their vows. Architecturally it is similar to the vihara; the main differences are the eight cornerstones placed around the bot to ward off evil. The bot is usually more decorated than the wihan.
  • Chaedai (Khmer: ចេតិយ) or Chedi (Lao: ເຈດີ; Thai: เจดีย์) from Sanskrit: chaitya, temple or that (Lao: ທາດ) - It is also known as Stupa , usually conical or bell-shaped buildings but many Cambodian stupas are sumptuously constructed in the style of temple shrine. They often containing relics of Buddha. Moreover, they are the place to keep the urns that contain bone remains of the dead after being cremated and serve as the memorial monuments for those ancestors so that their new generations can practice religious ceremony as they wish.
  • Chantakhara (Thai: ชันตาฆร) a room in which fire and water are kept.
  • Drum tower (Khmer: រោងស្គរ; Lao: ຫໍກອງ; Thai: หอกลอง)
  • Hong Song Nam (Thai: ห้องสรงน้ำ) bathroom.
  • Ho trai (Khmer: ហោត្រ័យ; Lao: ຫໍໄຕ; Thai: หอไตร) - library where Buddhist texts are kept.
  • Kappapiya Kudi (Thai: กัปปิยกุฎี) utility and storage room.
  • Kod (Khmer: កុដិ), Kut, Kutti, Kuti or Kati (Lao: ກຸຕິ, ກະຕິ; Thai: กุฏิ) : monk cells or the living quarters of the monks that are separated from the sacred buildings.
  • Mondop (Thai: มณฑป; from Sanskrit: Mandapa) - a usually open, square building with four arches and a pyramidal roof, used to worship religious texts or objects.
  • Pond (Khmer: ស្រះ - Srah; Lao: ສະນ້ໍາ Sa Nam; Thai: สระน้ำ Sa Nam): is rectangle in shape and sometimes decorated with Lotus flowers, one of the most noticeable flower in Buddhism. In addition, some wats illustrate the figure of Buddha being sheltered by 7 heads naga whose name, Mucalinda (Khmer: មុជ្ជលិន្ទ), in the middle of the pond. The pond itself representing Mucalinda pond, which derived its name from the naga.
  • Sala (Khmer: សាលា; Lao: ສາລາ; Thai: ศาลา; from Sanskrit: Shala - School, from an earlier meaning of shelter) - a pavilion for relaxation or miscellaneous activities. In Cambodia, Sala also serves as the Buddhist educational center in wat but not every wat has it, however it can be built outside the wat.
    • Oupadthan Sala or Sala Bonn (Khmer: ឧបដ្ឋានសាលា ឬ សាលាបុណ្យ) or Sala Wat (Thai: ศาลาวัด) : a hall for people gathering together to make a donation or other Buddhist ceremonies.
    • Sala Baley or Sala Putthikakseksa (Khmer: សាលាបាលី ឬ សាលាពុទ្ធិកសិក្សា): literally means Pali school or Buddhist educational school, is the place to teach Buddhist Dharma in both Pali and Khmer languages and other subjects. Sala Baley is divided into 3 levels, they are Buddhist elementary school (Khmer: ពុទ្ធិកបឋមសិក្សា - Putthikakpathamaseksa), Buddhist high school (Khmer: ពុទ្ធិកវិទ្យាល័យ - Putthikakvityealay) and Buddhist university (Khmer: ពុទ្ធិកសកលវិទ្យាល័យ - Putthikaksakalvityealay). Beside Buddhist Dharma, Buddhist university includes many important majors such as philosophy, science study, information technology, Sanskrit and other foreign languages etc. These types of school are able to be constructed outside the wat and laymen are also allowed to study there.
    • Sala Chhann (Khmer: សាលាឆាន់), Sala Bat (Thai: ศาลาบาตร) or Ho Chan (Thai: หอฉัน) : lunch hall for monks.
    • Sala Chhatean (Khmer: សាលាឆទាន), Sala Klang Yan (Thai: ศาลากลางย่าน) or Sala Rong Tham (Lao: ສາລາໂຮງທໍາ; Thai: ศาลาโรงธรรม) : is usually smaller than other halls in wat and can be built outside the wat, especially along the roads or even in the center of villages in order to celebrate minimal Buddhist events as well as being used for dining and relaxing place. At some points of view, Sala Chhatean is thought to be Sala Bonn as well.
    • Sala Kan Parian (Thai: ศาลาการเปรียญ) or Ho Chaek (Lao: ຫໍແຈກ; Thai: หอแจก) : study hall, In the past this hall was only for monks to study in.[citation needed]
    • Sala Song (Thai: ศาลาสรง): a water blessing room, the room where monks receive blessing by using water.
    • Sala Thormmasaphear or Thormmasala (Khmer: សាលាធម្មសភា ឬ​ ធម្មសាលា), Sala Fang Tham (Thai: ศาลาฟังธรรม): Dharma assembly pavilion, however some assume this hall to be Sala Bonn.
    • Sala Tha Nam (Thai: ศาลาท่าน้ำ): pier pavilion.
  • Vihear (Khmer: វិហារ) or Wihan (Lao: ວິຫານ; Thai: วิหาร) from Sanskrit: vihara - a meeting and prayer room.
  • Wachak Kod (Khmer: វច្ចកុដិ) or Watcha Kudi (Thai: วัจจกุฎี) or Than (Lao: ຖານ; Thai: ถาน) : restroom or toilet.

Almost Buddhist temples in Cambodia were built by using Khmer architectural style as the principal concept of knowledge in traditional building construction which have passed down from generations to generations since the ancient time. Most temples were finely decorated with a spike tower (bosbok) (Khmer: បុស្បុក) (some temples have 3 or 5 spike towers, however some have none) on the roof top along with pediments, naga heads and chovear (Khmer: ជហ្វា) (a decorative ridge-piece that is placed at each topmost edge of the roof, just above the tip of each pediment). Below the edge of the roof and at the top of external columns, garuda or kinnari figures were equipped in gesture of supporting the roof. There are a pair of guardian lion and one head or several (3, 5, 7 or even 9) heads naga sculptures are located beside each entrance of the temple. Inside the main temple (vihara) and the multipurpose hall (lunch hall), mural painting was exquisitely depicted by describing the life of Gautama Buddha and his previous life.

Despite the fact that every wat in Cambodia serves as the Buddhist cultural center to maintain the existence of Buddhism permanently, those pagodas also play the fundamental role to conserve Khmer identity accurately by representing masterpiece of Khmer art achievement in architecture skill which has been survived and thrived for over a thousand years.

The roofs of Thai temples are often adorned with chofas.


Some well-known wats include:


By the end of 2017, there are 4,872 wats with 69,199 Buddhist monks supporting Buddhism in Cambodia[4]. Moreover, Cambodian Buddhists cover approximately 97% of its entire population which mark as the world's largest Buddhist nation by percentage.

These are the examples of wat in Cambodia:





See also[edit]


  1. ^ "wat". Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2018-01-11. 
  2. ^ "Wat". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 2018-01-11. 
  3. ^ ราชกิจจานุเบกษา, ประกาศกระทรวงธรรมการ แผนกกรมสังฆการี เรื่อง จัดระเบียบพระอารามหลวง, เล่ม ๓๒, ตอน ๐ ก, ๓ ตุลาคม พ.ศ.๒๔๕๘, หน้า ๒๘๔
  4. ^ 26th annual Buddhist monk summit of Cambodia in Chaktomuk conference hall, Phnom Penh, December, 2017.