One of Bangkok’s most beautiful temples is the Wat Benchamabophit, also known as “the marble temple” or Wat Ben. As it is classified as a first class Royal temple, it is also a temple of significant importance.
The official name of the temple is Wat Benchamabophit Dusitwanaram, which means “the Monastery of the fifth King near Dusit Palace”, the fifth King being King Chulalongkorn the Great (Rama V).
At the end of the 19th century the King had Dusit Palace build, a large complex of Royal Palaces and Mansions including theAnanta Samakhom, the Vimanmek Royal Mansion and the Abhisek Throne Hall in Dusit district.
When Dusit Palace was finished, the King ordered construction of the marble temple in 1899 nearby on the site of an old temple complex dating from the early 19th century. In this temple, King Chulalongkorn ordained as a monk for a short time in 1873.
The ubosot of the marble temple
The ubosot of the marble temple was designed by Prince Narisara Nuvativongse, half brother of King Chulalongkorn. It is build from carrara marble imported from Italy, hence the name marble temple. The entrance is marked by four impressive marble pillars, and even the large courtyard is made of shiny white marble.
The temple is a magnificent example of the Bangkok architectural style with its multi tiered roofs, elegant chofahs at the top end of the roof and the beautiful gold carvings. The white marble and the golden decorated windows give the ubosot a delightful appearance, especially in the sunlight. On either side of the entrance is a large stone lion, guarding the temple.
The Phra Buddha Chinnarat Buddha image
Inside the ubosot or ordination hall you will find the main Buddha image of the marble temple, the Phra Buddha Chinnarat displaying the subduing Mara mudra with a beautiful illuminated blue background.
The image is a copy of the original Phra Buddha Chinnarat, a magnificent 7 centuries old image located in the Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat temple in Phitsanulok province. The ashes of King Rama V are buried under the bronze Buddha statue.
On the left and right walls you will find niches with paintings of important stupas from across Thailand.
In the galleries surrounding the ubosot you will find a display of 52 Buddha images dating from several periods and in various styles like Ayutthaya, Sukhothai and Dvaravati style.
Behind the ubosot is a Bodhi tree, that was brought over from Bodhgaya in India, where the Buddha reached enlightenment. A Dhamma lecture hall close to the ubosot was used by King Chulalongkorn to listen to Dhamma sessions. Some more structures around the Wat are the abbots living quarters and a bell tower.
The Wat Benchamabophit is an active temple, the monks private living quarters are across the canal separated from the temple area. Starting around 6 am, people from outside the temple come here to bring food offerings to the monks unlike other temples, where the monks go out on the street to receive food.