The Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) is very famous among Thais and foreigners alike. Thailand’s holiest shrine, the temple houses a 66cm tall jadeite Buddha statue which is the most sacred Buddha image in Thailand. While part of the Grand Palace complex, Wat Prakaew is a prominent attraction of its own right and draws people from all over the world.
A Brief History
Wat Phra Kaew is known formally as Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram and is the most sacred Buddhist temple in the whole of Thailand. A special island was created to house the temple as well as the Grand Palace and a number of other scared sites in the Eighteenth century when King Rama I took over the Throne from King Takson and decided to mark a new era by moving the capital of Thailand across the Chao Phraya River from the ancient kingdom of Thonburi to its current location. Construction of the temple was officially completed back in 1784 around the same time as the Grand Palace and was once the primary place of worship of the Royal Family. Wat Prakaew is the main focal point during special royal ceremonies and at these times Thai people flock from all over the country to stand vigil outside the temple.
The temple and the surrounding ground have undergone reconstruction a number of times over the years and several Buddhist statues have been added to the collection when they have been presented by visiting dignitaries as gifts to the Royal Family. The temple complex was extensively rebuilt to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Bangkok of 1832, while the latest restoration process took place in 1982 to mark the city’s 200th anniversary. While visitors are permitted to enter the temple and wander through the surrounding grounds throughout the year, entry is reserved during Buddhist holidays and other occasions of note.
What to See
The main highlight of Wat Prakeaw is the Emerald Buddha statue, which can be found on a high plinth in the centre of the temple. Aside from the King of Thailand, nobody is permitted to touch this statue as it is as sacred as the Kind and the Lord Buddha themselves. It is believed that the Emerald Buddha was created in India in 43 BC and after residing for a while in Laos it was brought to Wat Prakaew in 1779, after General Chao Phraya Chakri captured the Laos capital city of Vientiane. The clothes that adorn the Emerald Buddha are changed three times a year by the King and previous costumes are displayed in special cases around the edge of the temple.
Tips for First Time Visitors
Visitors should make sure that they allow plenty of time to check out the inside walls of the chapel, which have been adorned with fascinating mural paintings about the Buddha’s life. There are many statues and sculptures from ancient times as well as remarkable paintings and murals around the temple.
Area of Bangkok
Wat Phra Kaew is located on Rattanakosin island in the Phra Nakon District.