The Wat Pho or “Temple of the Reclining Buddha” is one of Bangkok’s most attractive temples. It is a much visited temple complex due to its location immediately South of the Grand Palace and the huge Reclining Buddha image it houses.
The temple that is officially named Wat Phra Chetuphon Wimonmangkhalaram is one of the six temples in Thailand that are of the highest grade of the first class Royal temples.
The Wat Pho is the oldest and largest temple complex in Bangkok, it houses more than 1,000 Buddha images which is more than any other Wat in Thailand. Most of the images were brought over from abandoned temples in places as Ayutthaya and Sukhothai by order of King Rama I.
After the foundation of Bangkok in the Ko Rattanakosin area in 1782 and the construction of the Grand Palace, King Rama I ordered the construction of the Wat Pho. The temple was built on the site of an older, Ayutthaya era temple named Wat Photharam right next to the Grand Palace. During the reign of King Rama III the temple complex was renovated and enlarged which took over 16 years to complete.
The temple is famous for its enormous gold plated Reclining Buddha image. The image named Phra Phuttha Saiyat was build during the reign of King Rama III in 1832 and is 46 meters long and 15 meters high. Although the image is sometimes referred to as the lying Buddha or the sleeping Buddha, the Reclining Buddha shows the passing of the Buddha into final Nirvana after death.
The soles of the Buddha’s feet that are about 3 meters high and almost 5 meters long are inlaid with mother of pearl in 108 segments, showing in great detail the 108 lakshanas or auspicious characteristics of the Buddha. Along the Phra Phuttha Saiyat image you will find a matching 108 bronze bowls, where people donate coins believed to bring good fortune.
In a small garden next to the housing of the Reclining Buddha you will find a Bodhi tree that is a descendant of the Bodhi tree from Bodhgaya in India under which the Buddha reached enlightenment.
The 20 acres temple complex consists of two walled parts separated by a road. The North end closest the Grand Palace contains the main structures like the ubosot, the viharns and the Reclining Buddha. The South end contains the monks private living quarters and a school. The entrances are guarded by huge Chinese warrior statues.
The Wat Pho temple complex contains a large number of structures, including an ubosot or ordination hall, a number of viharns, a scripture hall and almost 100 chedis. The four largest chedis are dedicated to the first four Kings of the Chakri dynasty. They contain some of the ashes of King Rama I through King Rama IV.