Every country has a particularly revered place that is sacred to its inhabitants. In Thailand, it is the Emerald Buddha Temple on the grounds of the Royal Palace. It holds one of the main shrines. This is a statue of a deity made of jadeite. A solid crystal was used to create it. Festivities and ceremonies are held in the temple.
History and Structure of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha
A visit to the royal palace is included in most sightseeing programs. Part of the territory is closed for viewing, but even that where tourists can go, enough to get a vivid impression. The temple is located in the historic center of the city, was built in the 18th century, the main value is the statue of Buddha and ancient frescoes illustrating the texts of the epic Ramayana.
When it was decided to move the capital, the construction of both the palace and the temple began at once. The building was begun during the reign of Rama I. The date of the beginning of construction is considered to be 1782, and the complex has become a model of classical Thai architecture. Its purpose is to preserve the country’s main shrine, the statue of the Emerald Buddha. The Thais believe that as long as it is in the temple, their country is secure and prosperous. According to legends, the statue is of divine origin. It was repeatedly transported and stored in different countries, attempts were made to get it by force and deception, but it invariably returned to worthy hands. It was brought to Bangkok and installed by Rama I himself. Only a monarch or prince of the ruling dynasty has the honor of dressing the Emerald Buddha in new ritual clothes three times a year when the seasons change.
The Emerald Buddha Temple in Bangkok is one of the few places where video and photography is prohibited. You can only admire the decorations in person or in the illustrations in the brochures.
From the top of the temple complex area resembles a fairy-tale city with colorful peaked roofs, numerous tiers, gilded stupas. The central place is occupied by the vault, where the Emerald Buddha is placed with all kinds of honors. The figurine is carved from jadeite, remotely resembling emerald in color but opaque. When you look at it, it seems that there is an unearthly substance inside, so unusual does the stone itself look.
The complex is surrounded by a wall and has six entrances. At each stand two guards of mythical appearance. When approached, they seem to exceed the wall itself. Their intimidating appearance is meant to ward off all evil thoughts directed at the country’s main shrine. They are made so carefully and with attention to detail that you want to look at them endlessly, from the toes of the bent shoes to the tiered headdresses, reminiscent of pagodas.
Behind the high crenellated wall is a shining treasure. There is no other name for the temple buildings. They are covered with colored tiles dominated by green, gold and red shades, reminiscent of the scales of a dragon. The facades are lavishly decorated with gilded ornaments. They are interspersed with mosaics, colored glass panels and openwork carvings covered in glittering varnish. The outer sheen attracts attention, demanding reverence for the relic hiding in the bowels of the temple.
In addition to the demonic guards, the entrances are guarded by garudas, representing protection and the removal of obstacles to the achievement of the goals. The fiercest and most implacable guards are the huge bronze lions, brought in from Cambodia and installed at the entrance.
The Temple of the Emerald Buddha is magnificent on the outside and dazzling on the inside. The statue of the deity sits on a five-tiered throne, decorated with incredible luxury. The statue is dressed in a gold-woven toga, with a precious tall crown as its headdress. The greater contrast to the external luxury is the peaceful and detached expression of the enlightened one’s face, reminding him that external glitter cannot obscure the radiance of the soul or hide the darkness that lurks within it.
The shrine is surrounded by images of the deities of the second circle, and on either side of the throne are gilded statues of the kings of the Chakri dynasty.
There are two entrances to the hall, for regular visitors and the royal exit. The walls are decorated with teak panels, frescoes and panels with plots from mythological epics. Similar paintings made in different techniques of glass, ceramics and semi-precious stones can be seen in all halls of the temple.
A solemn change of clothes and seasons
In Thailand, along with the usual calendar for social life and work, the change of seasons is observed and honored.
The main rite is the ceremonial vesting of the Emerald Buddha statue in a new set of clothes appropriate to the weather:
- The rainy season calls for tighter clothing, symbolized by a garment resembling a monk’s robe;
- In the cooler seasons, the Emerald Buddha is dressed in full ceremonial royal attire;
- For the hottest months, a light version is reserved, as ornate as the rest of the sets.
The ritual is very solemn, conducted by especially trusted persons of the country under the presidency of the king. The headdress changes along with the garment. The change of seasons is in March, July and November.
The most revered holiday in the country commemorates the anniversary of the enthronement of the ruling dynasty. It begins with the royal family, surrounded by ministers, entering the hall of the Emerald Buddha Temple and a general prayer for the health of all inhabitants and the prosperity of the country. Then a tribute is paid to former rulers.
The coronation of the next ruler also takes place on the grounds of the main temple. It includes the offering of gifts to the deity, incense, ancestor worship, and the taking of an oath to defend one’s faith.
Buildings and pavilions near the Emerald Buddha Temple
There are many statues, ceramic towers, and a tall bell tower. In the outdoor pavilions, sala, built during the reign of King Rama I, you can not only shelter from the rain, light a candle or scented stick and indulge in thoughts of the sublime. These pavilions contain unique objects and symbols of the religion of Java and Cambodia.
In the last century, members of the royal dynasty still lived there. Now they live in much more comfortable conditions, and the building remains as a symbol of power, a place for official ceremonies and receptions at the highest level.
The separate buildings in the immediate vicinity of the palace are also considered part of the residence, but have a completely different function:
- Borombhiman Hall serves as a guest house for foreign ambassadors;
- Amarindra Hall is used for official receptions and ceremonies;
- The Chakri Mahaprasat combines the functions of a tomb housing the ashes of rulers and royalty, a throne room, a reception hall, and an arms museum with a rich collection of objects.
The garden laid out by Rama IV, representing the years and valleys of the country in miniature, deserves special admiration.
The building was built almost simultaneously with the palace, designed to store ancient Buddhist manuscripts and images of kings. Inside, bookcases are installed and special conditions have been created to ensure the preservation of the scrolls.
The outside of the building is richly decorated with carvings and ornaments running along the walls and columns. The traditional tiered roof is topped with a tall spire. Even from the outside it makes an unforgettable impression with its subtlety and elegance of finishing.
The statue is located near the entrance in a separate gazebo to the west of the temple. It is made of dark, almost black stone and, according to the ministers and local residents, can heal ailments. The sick and their relatives go to her with prayers and offerings. Incense, flowers, fruit, perfume sticks and candles are placed as gifts at the foot of the statue.
Conditions for visiting the temple
Entrance is open to visitors every day except on major national holidays and ceremonial times. You have to dress appropriately for the visit. Men may enter the Emerald Buddha Temple only in pants and shirts that cover their arms. Women should have their shoulders and knees covered.
If a visit to the temple was not originally planned and the clothes do not meet the requirements, the necessary items of clothing can be rented at the entrance to the temple complex.
Another subtlety is that shoes are left at the entrance. This rule applies to all temples in Thailand.
Entrance to Wat Phra Keo for tourists is paid, the price of the ticket is 500 baht.
The price of a ticket for a child does not depend on age, but on height. Children under 120 cm pass for free, taller children will have to buy a coupon for 250 baht.
Working hours are from 8:30 to 15:30 every day, seven days a week. Before visiting, it is worth asking if there are no important holidays on that day, otherwise you can admire the main shrine of the country only from a distance.
How do I get to the Emerald Buddha Temple?
The Emerald Buddha Temple in Bangkok is located in the historic center of the capital on Rattanakosin Island. It is formed artificially by a river and several canals, so in addition to the land route there is a waterway. For 15 baht the Express boat takes you almost to the walls of the complex. From pier 9 you have to walk 100 meters. Buses also stop near Wat Phra Keo. The easiest way to get to the Emerald Buddha Temple in Bangkok is with a tour group.
Reviews of a visit to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha
A visit to Wat Phra Keo leaves an amazing impression. Thai culture is very unique and a visit to the central temple gives you the opportunity to touch it, to feel this special atmosphere.
Anna, 31 years old:
The day after we arrived in Bangkok, we went on a sightseeing tour. We saw the Emerald Buddha Temple only from a distance, but it made such a strong impression that we set aside a separate day, dressed properly and went to contemplate the main shrine of Thailand. Half the day flew by unnoticed, more time spent not in the temple itself, but on the territory, admiring the architecture and the decoration of the buildings themselves. Amazing skill and desire to create beauty from ordinary objects.
Julia, 43 years old:
We heard so much about the unique statue that we expected to see a huge colossus. But the Buddha was almost invisible behind the ceremonial robes. But enough to admire the scenes from the epic, there is a whole series of events, you can understand them, even without knowing the language and not knowing the original source.
The reverence and awe of the inhabitants toward the deity was striking. Although if you remember that they associate the prosperity of the country with the presence of the statue in the temple, everything becomes clear. The tour was very interesting, we came together with a Russian-speaking guide, we listened to a lot of legends and watched a lot of demons.