View of the Reclining Buddha
1788 A.D. (re-establishment)
King Rama I (re-establishment)
Wat Pho (Thai: วัดโพธิ์, IPA: [wát pʰoː]), also spelt Wat Po, is a Buddhist temple in Phra Nakhon district, Bangkok, Thailand. It is located in the Rattanakosin district directly adjacent to the Grand Palace. Known also as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, its official name is Wat Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklararm Rajwaramahaviharn (Thai: วัดพระเชตุพนวิมลมังคลารามราชวรมหาวิหาร; IPA: [wát pʰráʔ tɕʰêttupʰon wíʔmon maŋkʰlaːraːm râːttɕʰawɔːráʔmahǎːwíʔhǎːn]). The more commonly-known name, Wat Pho, is a contraction its older name Wat Photaram.
The temple is one of the six temples in Thailand classed as the highest grade of the first class Royal temples. The temple complex houses the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand, including a 46m long Reclining Buddha. It is also the earliest centre for public education in Thailand, and is known as the birthplace of traditional Thai massage.
Wat Pho is one of Bangkok's oldest temple and it existed before Bangkok was established as the capital by King Rama I. It was originally named Wat Photaram or Podharam from which the name Wat Pho was derived. The older temple is thought to have been built or expanded in the reign of King Phetracha of the Ayuthaya period on perhaps an even earlier temple site. Wat Pho is named after a monastery in India where Buddha is believed to have lived. After Rama I had moved the capital from Thonburi to Bangkok and built the Grand Palace, he ordered the construction and extension at the old temple site beginning in 1788. Most of the Buddha images in Wat Pho were brought over from abandoned temples in Ayutthaya, Sukhothai and other places in Thailand, which include fragments of an enormous Buddha image from Ayuthaya's Wat Phra Si Sanphet destroyed by the Burmese in 1767 that were incorporated into a chedi in the complex. The rebuilding took over 7 years to complete. In 1801, the new temple complex was renamed Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklavas, and became the main temple for Rama I.
The complex underwent significant changes in the next 260 years. In 1832, King Rama III (1824-1851 A.D.) began renovating and enlarging the temple complex, a process that took 16 years and 7 months to complete. Most of the structures in Wat Pho were built in this period. He built the chapel of the Reclining Buddha, and turned the temple complex into a public center of learning by decorating the walls of the buildings with diagrams and inscriptions on various subjects. The marble inscriptions received recognition in the Memory of the World Programme launched by UNESCO on February 21, 2008.  Wat Pho is regarded as Thailand’s first university and a center for traditional Thai massage. It served as a medical teaching center in the mid-19th century before the advent of modern medicine, and it remains a center for traditional medicine today. The name of the complex was changed again to Wat Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklararm during the reign of King Rama IV. The temple was restored again in 1982 before the Bangkok Bicentennial Celebration.
The Temple Complex
Wat Pho is one of the largest and oldest wats in Bangkok (with an area of 50 rai, 80,000 square metres), and is home to more than one thousand Buddha images, as well as one of the largest single Buddha images of 150 feet (46 m) in length. The Wat Pho complex consists of two walled compounds bisected by Soi Chetuphon running in the east–west direction. The larger northern walled compound, the phuttawat, contains the finest buildings dedicated to the Buddha. It is the part opened to the public and where the reclining Buddha may be found. The southern walled compound, the sanghawat, contains the residential quarters of the monks and a school. The perimeter wall of the temple complex has sixteen gates, two of which are used as entrance for the public. A number of large Chinese statues carved out of rocks are found within the complex guarding the gates of the perimeter walls as well as other gates within the compound; these statues were originally imported as ballast on ship trading with China.
The temple ground contain 91 small chedis (stupas or mounds), four great chedis, two belfries, a bot (central shrine), a number of viharas (halls) and other buildings such as pavilions as well as a small temple museum. Architecturally the chedis and buildings in the complex are different in style and sizes. 71 chedis of smaller size (Phra Chedi Rai) contain the ashes of the royal family, and 20 slightly larger ones clustered in groups of five contain the relics of Buddha.
Wat Pho was also intended to serve as a place of education for the general public. To this end a pictorial encyclopedia was engraved on granite slabs covering a wide range of subjects, such as history, geography, astrology, botany and poetry. Plaques inscribed with texts and illustration on medicine, Thai traditional massage, and other subjects were also placed around the temple, for example within the Sala Rai or satellite pavilions. Dotted around the complex are 24 small rock gardens (Khao Mor) illustrating rock formations of Thailand, and a few statues still survive showing methods of massage and yoga positions. These illustrations and inscriptions in Wat Pho have been registered by UNESCO in its Memory of the World Programme set up to promote, preserve and propagate the wisdom of the world heritage.
Some of the more significant structures in the complex are:
- Viharn Phranorn - The viharn or wihan contains the Reclining Buddha (Phra Buddhasaiyas, Thai พระพุทธไสยาสน์) and was constructed in the reign of Rama III. The interior is decorated with panels of mural. Adjacent to this building is a small raised garden (Missakawan Park) with a Chinese style pavilion; the centrepiece of the garden a bodhi tree which is believed to have been propagated from the original tree in India where Buddha sat while awaiting enlightenment.
- Phra Uposatha - This is the ubosot or bot (Ordination Hall), the main hall used for performing Buddhist rituals. It was constructed by King Rama I in the Ayuthaya style, and later reconstructed and enlarged by Rama III. This building is raised on a marble platform. Inside the ubosot is a gold and crystal three-tiered pedestal topped a gilded Buddha, and over the statue is a nine-tiered umbrella representing the authority of Thailand. Some ashes of King Rama I are kept under the pedestal.
- The exterior balustrade surrounding the main hall has around 150 depictions in stone of the epic, Ramakien, the ultimate message of which is transcendence from secular to spiritual dimensions. The stones panels were recovered from a temple in Ayuthaya. The ubosot is enclosed by a low wall called kamphaeng kaew, which is punctuated by gateways guarded by mythological lions.
- The ubosot lies in the center of courtyard enclosed by a double cloister (Phra Rabiang). The cloister contains around 400 images of Buddha selected out of the 1200 originally brought from all over Thailand by King Rama I; 150 of these Buddha images are on the inner side of the double cloister, another 244 images are located on the outer side. These Buddhas figures, some standing and some seated, are evenly mounted on matching gilded pedestals. The cloister is intersected with four viharas, one on each direction, and the one on the west contains a small museum. The are four towers, or Phra Prang, at each corner of the courtyard around the bot. Each of the towers contains four Khmer-style statues.
- Outside the cloisters are dotted many smaller chedis (Phra Chedi Rai) containing ashes of members of the royal family. There are also 4 groups of 5 chedis that shared a single base, one on each corner outside the cloister. Surrounding the cloister are various satellite pavilions (Sala Rai) and four viharas (Phra Viharn Kod or The Gallery), one on each corner.
- Phra Maha Chedi Si Rajakarn - This is a group of four large stupas, each 42 meters high. These four chedis are dedicated to first four Chakri kings. The first, in green mosaic tiles, was constructed by Rama I to house the fragments of the ruined great Buddha from Ayuthaya. Two more were built by Rama III, one in a white tiles to hold the ashes of his father Rama II, another in yellow for himself. A fourth in blue was built by Rama IV who then enclosed the four chedis leaving no space for more to be built.
- Phra Mondob - Phra Mondob is the Scripture Hall containing a small library of Buddhist scriptures. The building is not generally opened to the public as the scriptures which are inscribed on palm leaves need to kept in a controlled environment for preservation. The libary was built by Rama III.
- Next to the Phra Mondob is the Sala Karn Parien, which is thought to date from the Ayutthaya period and serves as a learning and meditation hall.
The chapel and the reclining Buddha were built by Rama III in 1832. The image of the reclining Buddha represents the entry of Buddha into Nirvana and the end of all reincarnations. The figure is 15 m high and 46 m long with his right arm supporting the head with tight curls on two box-pillows of blue, richly encrusted with glass mosaics. The figure has a brick core, which was modeled and shaped with plaster then gilded with gold leaves.
The soles of the feet of the Buddha are 3 m high and 4.5 m long, and inlaid with mother-of-pearl. They are divided into 108 arranged panels, displaying the auspicious symbols by which Buddha can be identified like flowers, dancers, white elephants, tigers and altar accessories. There are 108 bronze bowls in the corridor indicating the 108 auspicious characters of Buddha. People drop coins in these bowls as it is believed to bring good fortune, and to help the monks maintain the wat. Though the reclining Buddha is not a pilgrimage centre, it remains an object of popular piety. An annual celebration for the Reclining Buddha is held around the time of the Siamese Songkran or New Year in April.
The temple is considered the first public university of Thailand, teaching students in the fields of religion, science and literature through murals and sculptures. In 1962 a school for traditional medicine and massage was established. The temple is home to one of the earliest Thai massage schools. Traditional Thai massage and medicine is taught at the Traditional Medical Practitioners Association Center. Courses on Thai massage, which is based on principles of energy flow similar to Chinese acupuncture, may last a few weeks to a year. Two pavilions within Wat Pho are used as classrooms for practising Thai traditional massage and herbal massage, and visitors can received massage treatment for a fee.
There are many medical inscriptions and illustration are placed in various buildings around the temple complex, such as the satellites pavilions, some of which serve as instructions for Thai massage therapists. Among these are 60 inscribed plaques, 30 each for the front and back of human body, showing pressure points used in traditional Thai massage. These therapeutic points and energy pathways, known as sen, were engraved on the human figures, with explanations given on the walls next to the plaques. The understanding so far is that the figures represent relationships between anatomical locations and effects produced by massage treatment at those locations, but full research on the diagrams is yet to be completed.
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วัดพระเชตุพนวิมลมังคลาราม (อ่านว่า พฺระ-เชด-ตุ-พน-วิ-มน-มัง-คฺลา-ราม) ["วัดพระเชตุพนวิมลมังคลาราม (pronounced: wat-phra-chet-tu-phon-wi-mon-mang-khla-ram)"]
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