Wat Saket, Bangkok, Thailand
(built by Rama I)
high-definition creative commons photographs from Bangkok, showing the architecture, statues, murals and decoration work on this Royal Temple, together with further relevant information.
Wat Saket Ratcha Wora Maha Wihan (also known as Wat Srakesa) dates back to the Ayutthaya era, when it was called Wat Sakae. King Rama I renovated the temple and renamed it to Wat Saket. It was here that the King performed the Royal Bathing Ceremony in 1782, and established himself as King of Thailand.
The Golden Mountain (Phu Khao Thong) is a steep hill inside the Wat Saket compound. It is not a natural outcrop, but an artificial hill. During the reign of King Rama III (1787–1851) the decision was made to build a Chedi of huge dimensions to add to the Wat Saket temple. However, the large Chedi collapsed during the construction process because the soft soil beneath would not support it.
The resulting mud-and-brick hillock was left alone for about half a century, taking the shape of a natural hill and becoming overgrown with weeds. Since by then it looked like a natural small mountain it received its name of Phu Khao at that time.
Finally under Rama IV (King Mongkut), a small Chedi was built on the hilltop. This smaller structure was finished under Rama V (King Mahachulalonghorn, 1853–1910), when a Buddha relic from Kapilavatthu in India was housed in the Chedi on May 23rd 1899. In the 1940s the surrounding concrete walls were built to prevent the hill from eroding. The climb to the top is via 318 steps, and has good views out over the surrounding City.
The Ubosot was built by Rama I, and was richly decorated with murals depicting scenes from the Buddha's Life amongst other things. At the back of the hall are murals depicting scenes in Hell. The central image has the Buddha sitting in meditation posture. Around the Ubosot is an enclosed courtyard with many Buddha statues. The sima markers are very nicely decorated with Chinese porcelein.
The in the Shrine Hall there are two famous Buddha Statues, the standing Phra Attharos, which is around 700 years old and more than 10 metres tall, was brought to the Temple from Phitsanulok in the north of the country; the second, Luang Por Dusit was brought from the old Dusit temple, which no longer exists.
As it was outside the original City walls, the Temple has also functioned as the City's crematorium, and a reputed 60,000 victims of the plague were buried here. There are also many small insets for the deposit of family relics.
A couple of years ago an exhibition was held of 2000 year-old manuscripts found in the Gandhara region (in present-day Pakistan and Afghanistan), they are some of the oldest manuscripts in existence, and some of the them have been permanently installed in the Temple.
text partly adapted from Wikipedia (retrieved, February 15th 2012)
Below are two posters showing the materials that were used in making the ancient Gandharan manuscripts. From this it is clear that the Dharma Pagoda contains a birch bark manuscript.
Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu
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