This large and eye-catching assembly hall shelters Phra Mongkhon Bophit, one of the most revered Buddha images in Ayutthaya.
Streams of Thai visitors line up to pay homage to it all day, every day, kneeling and bowing while perhaps asking for wishes to be granted.
Seated in the Subduing Mara (or Touching the Earth) posture, the image is 12.45 metres tall, not including the base, and reaches 9.55 metres across at the lap. Originally sculpted from plaster in the middle Ayutthaya period, it marks the spot of the royal family’s cremation site from 1612 to 1767. From a Thai perspective, this is very sacred ground.
During the rule of King Phra Chao Sua in 1706, lightning struck the building that housed the image, knocking part of the Buddha's head off. Restoration was performed during the reign of King Borommakot but the image was badly damaged again during the Burmese attack and the mondop that housed it was totally destroyed save a couple of partial pillars and a brick platform.
The image and what was left of the old wihaan sat exposed and would have looked similar to many of Ayutthaya's other ruins until a fresh restoration began in the 1920s, beginning with a re-crafting of the Buddha's head and shoulder. Over the coming decades a new wihaan was erected to house the image, covering the original ruins. In 1955, a collection of ancient Buddha images were found in the left shoulder of Phra Mongkhon Bophit and are now displayed in the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum. The gold-plated image that you see today was not completed until 1990.
Today the wihaan is a great place to see the ceremonial -- some would say superstitious -- side of Thai Buddhism in practice. After offering flowers and incense to a shrine that fronts the image, you might shake out a Chinese fortune stick from one of the jars and read the accompanying fortune to see if your wishes will come true.
A gold-painted depiction of a pavilion sheltering a white conch that symbolises King Uthong tops the outer wall of the impressive structure, just below the highest point of the broad sloping roof. The same symbol can be found on Ayutthaya’s provincial seal.
How to get there
Wihaan Phra Mongkhon Bophit is located right next to Wat Phra Sri Sanphet on Naresuan Rd.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 29th February, 2016.