After a very interesting cruise along one of Bangkok’s many klongs, we stepped ashore on Rattanakosin Island, which is directly south of the Grand Palace. We were to visit one of the many, many temples in Bangkok, the Wat Pho Temple.
Wat Pho is one of Bangkok’s oldest temples. It existed even before King Rama I decided to establish Bangkok as Thailand’s capital. In 1788, he began to rebuild the temple complex on an earlier temple site. The marshy site had to be drained and filled before construction began. Construction took over 7 years to complete.
In 1832, King Rama III began renovating and enlarging the Wat Pho temple complex. It now covers an area of 10ha (22 acres). This king was also responsible for turning the complex into a centre of learning, thereby creating Thailand’s first university.
I think you’ll find a wander here as fascinating and enjoyable as I did. Some of the architecture and decorations are truly beautiful.
Entrances to temples are guarded by rather fearsome statues. These are supposed to ward off evil spirits. Usually, there is one on either side of the entrance.
A close up… carved in stone. I’d be scared off!
Other statues are somewhat more benign.
Many of the small buildings are highly decorated.
A line of ornate swan-like necks support the roof beams.
Wat Pho is also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. It’s official name is Wat Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklararm Rajwaramahaviharn. Little wonder it has a couple of easier to remember common names!
This reclining image of Buddha, 15m high and 46m (150 ft.) long, represents the entry of Buddha into Nirvana, the place all Buddhist’s aspire to, the place where all reincarnations end. It’s one of the largest Buddha statues in Thailand…. so big that it is extremely difficult to photograph! It’s brick core is covered and shaped with plaster, after which it was gilded.
A close up of the face of Wat Pho’s Reclining Buddha shows how the right arm of the Buddha partly supports the head with its tight golden curls. The pillows are of pill box design and are richly encrusted with glass mosaics.
The soles of the feet of the Buddha are quite unusual… I haven’t seen anything like this before. Just the size is amazing… they are 3 m high and 4.5 m long! The sole of each foot is divided into 108 ‘boxes’, each one displaying an auspicious Buddhist symbol… flowers, tigers, dancers, white elephants etc… although I don’t know what they mean. In the centre of each sole is a circle representing an energy point, called a chakra.
A close up of another of those bearded statues guarding the temple rooms. Attention to detail in these stone sculptures is incredible.
Outside in a small garden… another less ornate, less forebidding, statue.
Wat Pho was considered the first public university of Thailand teaching students in the fields of religion, science and literature through murals and sculptures. These wall drawings show pressure points that are the basis of Thai massage techniques. There are many more around the walls.
That tradition of learning continues here with a school for traditional medicine and massage which was established in 1955. There are courses in Thai massage, well known in many countries now, as well as Thai medicine, pharmacy and midwifery.
This fellow looks more than a little intimidating but at the same time, somewhat jovial!
Nearby, another small temple building with a superb roof… and an open door.
Inside… a buddha seated on a pile of cushions. Just one of the many shrines in this very large temple complex. There’s still much to see here… so we’ll explore more anon!
All photographs copyright © DY of jtdytravels
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