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  4. Wat Suthat

Wat Suthat, Bangkok

Photo © Ross Websdale. View all images in our Wat Suthat Photo Gallery.
Photo © Azhar Elmiza.
Photo © Azhar Elmiza.
Photos by vangennip. Photo © vangennip.
Photos by vangennip. Photo © vangennip.
Photo © Jimmy Walker.
Photo © Neil Banas.
Photo © Neil Banas.
Photo © Ross Websdale.
Photo © Neil Banas.

Wat Suthatis one of the oldest and largest temples in Bangkok, famed for its beautiful roofline, huge golden Buddha, magnificent frescoes and giant swing out front.

History

Wat Suthat was begun by King Rama I (1782-1809), founder of the Chakri dynasty, soon after his coronation. It was continued by Rama II (1809-24) and completed by Rama III (1824-51).

Rama I brought the temple's main Buddha image to Bangkok by river from Sukothai. On its arrival, the king declared seven days of festivities and the bronze statue was paraded through the streets on the way to the wihan built specially for it at Wat Suthat. Rama himself walked barefoot in the procession and it is said he was so exhausted by the time he arrived that he staggered into the temple.

A huge red teak arch, carved under Rama II, is all that remains of an original giant swing, which was used to celebrate and thank Shiva for a bountiful rice harvest and to ask for the god's blessing on the next.

The minister of rice, accompanied by hundreds of Brahman court astrologers, would lead a parade around the city walls to the temple precinct. Teams of men would ride the swing on arcs as high as 82 feet in the air, trying to grab a bag of silver coins with their teeth.

Due to injuries and deaths, the dangerous swing ceremony was discontinued in 1932, but the thanksgiving festival is still celebrated in mid-December after the rice harvest.

What to See

The large Wat Suthat complex covers an area of 4.08 ha (10 acres). It is rectangular in plan, surrounded by a wall 949 m (3114 ft) in length. The area consists of the temple area itself and the monastic living quarters.

The main wihan (hall) of Wat Suthat houses a beautiful 13th-century Phra Buddha Shakyamuni, a bronze Buddha image over 8m (25ft) tall. The ashes of King Rama VIII, brother of the current king, are contained in its base.

The splendid wall paintings cover an area of 2565 sq. m (27,450 sq. ft) and are perhaps the most extensive and important of their kind in Thailand. They underwent thorough and costly restoration in the late 1980s, after significant damage caused mainly by bat droppings.

The paintings were commissioned at least in part by Rama II but were probably completed towards the end of the reign of Rama III, around 1850. According to art historians, the murals are transitional in style: they differ from the work of classical Thai painters and show an obvious Western influence.

The wall paintings depict the Jataka Tales - 24 previous lives of the Buddha - and the columns are painted with scenes of the early history of Bangkok. The column closest to the door on the right depicts scenes of the early westerners who came to Siam.


The main hall is surrounded by a circumambulatory area of three levels, on the topmost of which are small chapels on each of the four corners.

The large and peaceful cloisters surrounding the wihan contain more than 150 Buddha images along the outer wall. The statues are in various states of repair, since each is "adopted" by a patron to make merit for a departed loved one, who may be interred in the base or the wall next to the Buddha.

Outside stand many Chinese pagodas, bronze horses, and figures of Chinese soldiers. The statues are said to have been shipped from China as ballast in rice boats during the reign of Rama I.

The Buddhist temple is closely associated with Hinduism as well, and especially the Hindu Brahman priests who officiate at important state ceremonies. There are two Hindu shrines nearby. To the northwest across the street is the Deva Sathan, which contains images of Shiva and Ganesh, and to the east, the smaller Saan Jao Phitsanu is dedicated to Vishnu.

Quick Facts on Wat Suthat

Site Information
Names:Temple of the Giant Swing; Wat Suthat; Wat Suthat, Bangkok
City:Bangkok
Country:Thailand
Categories:Temples
Faiths:Buddhism; Thai
Dates:c.1782-1830
Status:active
Visitor and Contact Information
Location:Bangkok, Thailand
Coordinates:13.751023° N, 100.501236° E  (view on Google Maps)
Lodging:View hotels near this location
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

Map of Wat Suthat

Below is a location map and aerial view of Wat Suthat. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.

References

  1. Frommer's Thailand, 6th edition.
  2. Wat Suthat - Oriental Architecture
  3. Wat Suthat - Thailand Guidebook
  4. Bangkok - Wat Suthat - Planetware
  5. Wat Suthat - Thailand for Visitors

More Information

Article Info

Title:Wat Suthat, Bangkok
Author:Holly Hayes
Last updated:04/13/2009
Permalink:www.sacred-destinations.com/thailand/bangkok-wat-suthat-and-giant-swing/thailand/bangkok
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