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Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha)

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The Temple of the Emerald Buddha, or Wat Phra Kaew, is arguably the grandest wat in Bangkok and the standard by which others are judged. The namesake Buddha image is Thailand’s most sacred, carved from solid jade and featuring in enough legends to fill several books. Yet it’s the temple’s ornate details that leave most visitors spellbound.





Completed three years after King Rama I founded the still-existent Chakri dynasty and moved the Thai capital to Bangkok in 1782, Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram, to use the temple’s official name, and the Phra Kaew (“Emerald Buddha”) image that it enshrines, continue to symbolise the unifying interplay between Buddhism and the monarchy in Thailand.

Lavish doesn’t quite cut it. Photo taken in or around Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), Bangkok, Thailand by David Luekens.

Lavish doesn’t quite cut it. Photo: David Luekens

Phra Kaew can also be seen as the ultimate level of Thai superstition—the grandmaster of the many Buddha images and other objects, like talismans and amulets, believed to be imbued with a range of mysterious powers. It would not be an understatement to say that the unity of the Thai kingdom depends on Phra Kaew, a belief that was cemented by its arrival in Bangkok around the same time as the current royal lineage’s founding.

The deeply revered Thai king draws much of his moral and spiritual authority from a perceived connection to Phra Kaew, itself thought to encapsulate the kingly virtues. The term Rattanakosin, coined by Rama I as the name for his new capital and now used broadly to label centuries of Thai art and architecture, was originally a reference to this single Buddha image, translating as “Repository of the Gem Image”.

Where and when Phra Kaew was created remains a mystery. Legends claim it was conjured by the Hindu god Indra over 2,000 years ago in India, where the sage Nagasena is said to have predicted that Buddhism would flourish wherever it was enshrined. Some say it reached Thailand via Sri Lanka, ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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How to get there
Via the Chao Phraya River Express Boat, jump off at Tha Maharaj pier, walk out to the street and take a right, and the Grand Palace will appear in front of you. Buses servicing the area include 1, 3, 6, 25, 44, 47, 53, 82, 91, 508 and 512. Beware of touts telling you that the temple is closed.

Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha)
Na Phra Lan Rd, Bangkok
Daily 08:30-15:30
http://grandpalacebangkok.com/
Admission: 500 baht

Location map for Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha)

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