My girlfriend studies temple architecture. This means I study temple architecture. It also means I visit a lot of temples. Today’s temple is Wat Tri Thotsathep Worawihan. Following quick research on Lai Thai and the history of the Rattanakosin Era we call in at the Wat (Temple Compound). Wat Tri Thotsathep Worawihan is found in the old city area of Bangkok (Rattanakosin Island). We potter around and take photos.
Wat Tri Thotsathep Worawihan
Wat Tri Thotsathep Worawihan was built during King Rama IV’s reign during the Rattanakosin period. The temple was originally planned to be built by King Rama IV’s son (Prince Supradit). After Prince Supradit passed away it was to be completed by Prince Nopphawong. After Prince Nopphawong passed away King Rama IV built it himself. The Temple is named ‘Built by Three Gods Temple’. In Thailand revered Kings are respected as Gods. The Wat (Temple Compound) is designed in marble and granite. There are three main areas at Wat Tri Thotsathep Worawihan – The Chedi, The Phra Ubosot and The Wihan.
Phra Ubosot (พระอุโบสถ)
This is the main prayer room and where Buddhist monk ordinations take place. The Phra Ubosot also houses the main Buddha statue. Here the interior is designed in Lai Thai images and tapestry.
The Chedi (เจดีย์)
The Chedi (or stupa) at Wat Tri Thotsathep Worawihan contains Buddhist relics including ashes of revered monks.
The Wihan (วิหาร)
The Wihan or shine hall is where monks pray and worship. Unlike the Ubosot the Wihan is rarely used for public worship. At Wat Tri Thotsathep Worawihan the wihan is older than the Ubosot and contains valuable relics. Today (and most times) the wihan shrine hall is closed to the public. The top of the wihan is decorated by impressive gold Lai Thai carvings.
Having seen my share of phras, chedis and wihans – it’s the smaller things at temples that interest me. I spend most my time poking around looking for bits and bobs of interest. Just a couple finds near the wihan building are a broken monk statue (which looked to have been made from mud) and a random Buddha shrine.
Unlike the touristy temples the Wat compounds at Wat Tri Thotsathep Worawihan are quiet and empty. Today we only see one monk, the caretaker and two fellas repairing a broken air-con. All we hear are birds, lizards and the cars from surrounding streets. The area remains quiet until lunchtime and mayhem breaks at the Primary School next door. Kids scream, bells ring and teachers shout on loud speakers. The neighbouring school was built by the temple (Wat Tri Thotsathep School). Originally the school taught religion but is now used for mainstream education.
The Funeral and Cremation Buildings
Leaving the temple we pass the funeral and crematorium grounds. A funeral is taking place. The family is led by a monk and the mother of the family who holds a picture of the deceased. The procession circles the crematorium 3 times (circumambulation) before entering the front of the building for the cremation to take place.