Thailand is a country remarkable in that there are 31,200 Buddhist temples, called “Wat” in Thai.The most famous is Wat Arun, the country’s stone shrine, located in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. The temple, the name of which is translated poetically “Temple of Dawn or Morning Dawn” is spread out on the left bank of the Chao Phraya River, on the opposite side of the Royal Residence.
The emergence of the temple
On the site of the Wat Arun temple there was a small village of Makok with the temple of the same name . In 1768, the ruler Thaksin, while rafting down the river, noticed the beautiful Wat and stopped there to pray. The ruler liked the temple so much that later he ordered to rebuild it and moved his residence closer.
The temple was built on a swampy place. To make a stable foundation, thousands of bamboo stalks were brought here, laid crosswise on top of each other, and the space between the bamboo was filled with clay. The new temple was named after Aruna, the Indian deity of the Dawn, who rules the heavenly chariot.
From the beginning of the 19th century, the ruler Rama II ordered to reconstruct the sanctuary, the work was completed in 1851. Since then, hundreds of monks have lived and worked here. Thousands of pilgrims and tourists come here every year.
Wat Arun architecture
The main structure of Vata is the central Prang Phra Prang , which rises 79 meters. Prang is a tall, tower-like temple that is part of the complex. From a distance, the facade of the building looks unattractive, but the closer you come to it, the more you are amazed at the beauty and originality of the building.
Temple of Dawn is a complex of 5 towers. The central Phra Prang, with a diameter of 230 meters, personifies Mount Meru – the center of the universe in Buddhism. The uniqueness of the sanctuary lies in the interweaving of the architectural motives of two religions: Buddhism and Hinduism.
The façade consists of several tiers that represent the diversity of the world. The main prang is surrounded by four sixteen-meter stupas, facing all directions of the world and embodying the waters of the world’s oceans.
Close to Wat Arun, it strikes with its multicolor. Instead of gilded details, its towers are adorned with hundreds of patterns of colored porcelain. Skillful appliqués, glaze, openwork floral and floral ornament are created from fragments of Chinese porcelain. In the first rays of the morning sun, the temple is beautiful: the whole of Wat shimmers with bright colored splashes from the mosaic that lined the structure.
Porcelain was a very expensive decoration, so the walls of the sanctuary are lined with fragments of it: broken dishes were bought in China and brought to Thailand in ship’s holds, which was cheaper.
At the main entrance, visitors are greeted by two huge guards – statues of demons. Three-meter giants clutch a huge club in their hands, a warlike grimace on their faces. The white warrior on the right is Sahasdecha, the green warrior on the left is Ravana.
Having crossed the threshold of the temple, a person feels the colorful world of Eastern religion. You should enter here without shoes, in clothes that cover your shoulders, elbows and knees.
The patterns and stucco moldings are made in bright gold shades, there are many golden statues, on the walls there are impressive paintings from the life of the Buddha, made from fragments of ancient plates, shells and fragments of colored glass.
The railing of the stairs is decorated with dragons. Dragons have no wings, but they fly, their element is water. Terrible and powerful, they are just and benevolent, bring wealth and good luck.
On the marble lotus flower there is a crystal sphere with the relics of Buddha . For many years the main shrine of the country was located in this temple, transferred to another temple – the statue of the Emerald Buddha. In the working church, believers offer prayers.
The territory of the temple complex
On the territory of the sanctuary there are 4 turrets, decorated with small mosaics of sea shells, flowers of amazing beauty are laid out of colored glass on the walls. It houses relics, ancient scriptures and statues of deities.
Around the base of the main Prang are figures of ancient Chinese soldiers and animals.
Here are gazebos, a library, monks’ chambers and many stone statues:
- Shakyamuni Buddha;
- god Indra riding an elephant;
- the god of the moon on a snow-white horse;
- spirits and demons;
- kynarii – half-birds, half-women.
Around the buildings there is a spacious garden with a neat fountain , bowls filled with water everywhere. Under the roofs – chains of bells, iridescently ringing from the wind – they are designed to scare away evil spirits.
6 Thai pavilions in the Chinese style are lined up along the river bank. Constructed of green granite, they are intended for the meeting of the faithful; structures with a roof, but without walls – Buddhists have no secrets.
On the central Prang, at a height of 12 meters, there are terraces to which steep stairs lead. Here, on the open terrace, the visitor sees a strip of the Chao Phrain River, a beautiful bridge thrown across it, the gardens and graceful roofs of the King’s Palace, as well as dizzying Bangkok skyscrapers.
Wat Arun Festival
The colorful Buddhist festival Katina is held in the temple every year. The ceremony is held to express gratitude to the monks and to mark the end of the rainy season. The festival takes place in November, when fasting ends and people start farming.
In order for the year to be successful and the harvest to be generous, lay Buddhists bring offerings to the temples, monks are presented with new clothes called Katina. After all, old clothes have faded and worn out during the wet season.
The ceremony of offering new clothes takes place early in the morning. A colorful procession of the Royal Barges, in which 52 festively dressed boats take part, begins to move along the Chao Phraya River towards Wat Arun. In boats – laity with gifts and His Majesty the King of Thailand.
On the streets there are festive illuminations, thousands of iridescent light bulbs depict scenes from the life of Buddha . The atmosphere of solemnity and fun is enhanced by the aroma of savory dishes that women prepare on open verandas, because a rich feast of this day is a guarantee of a future generous harvest.
The Katina ceremony allows the laity to show their generosity. At the expense of the believers, cloth is purchased for the monks’ clothes, and laymen also sew their clothes. Buddhists bring brooms, brushes, soap and detergents to the temple. And also tea, sugar, coffee and other food – after all, Buddhist monks live only on donations from the laity.
Believers show generous mercy: their donations hang on the “money tree”, so that the tree turns into a lavishly decorated Christmas tree with banknotes instead of foliage.
Lay Buddhists make their donations with joy, they sincerely believe that good deeds improve karma and bring them closer to enlightenment. The king and his assistants present the monks with new clothes and participate with everyone in the festive service.
Anyone and a tourist, as well as a believer who prefers to be alone with their thoughts, can enter the territory of Wat Arun.