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Wat Bowornniwet

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Rising from a corner of the historic district within earshot of Khao San Road, Wat Bowornniwet is an important centre for Thai Buddhist learning and administration. The maze-like wat supports a lineage of royal ordinations going back two centuries and has various artistic attributes that may interest the casual visitor.





Sometimes spelt Bovornivet and called "Wat Boworn" for short, the temple was established in the early 19th century when Prince Mongkut, then a monk known as Phra Vajiranyano, became the abbot of Wat Mai, a smaller temple predating Wat Boworn. Nearby Wat Rangsi Sutthawat was later adjoined to create the large complex that you see today. Mahamakut Buddhist University, home to an excellent bookstore, was added later to the immediate north and east of the temple.

So many details. Photo taken in or around Wat Bowornniwet, Bangkok, Thailand by David Luekens.

So many details. Photo: David Luekens

During Mongkut’s 27 years as a resident monk (14 of them as the temple’s abbot), he founded the Thammayut order as a reformed Theravada Buddhist school emphasising a disciplined study of the Pali Canon. Along with the older Mahanikai sect, the Thammayut remains one of Thai Buddhism’s two main branches.

After Mongkut disrobed in 1851 to ascend the throne as King Rama IV, Wat Boworn continued as a first-grade royal temple that still holds a special place among Thai royalty. Several subsequent monarchs, including the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, have ordained here for short periods. Six of Wat Boworn’s abbots have also become supreme patriarchs, or sangharaja, overseeing the entire Thai Buddhist community. The latest, Somdet Nyanasamvara Suvaddhana, died in 2013 at the age of 100.

Hindu, Chinese and Thai influences in one shot (with Khmer nearby). Photo taken in or around Wat Bowornniwet, Bangkok, Thailand by David Luekens.

Hindu, Chinese and Thai influences in one shot (with Khmer nearby). Photo: David Luekens

Wat Boworn’s most noticeable feature is a tall, bell-shaped golden chedi surrounded by a marble walkway with a statue of King Mongkut at the base. Further down, a large four-faced image of the Hindu god Brahma joins a Khmer-style prang, while Chinese-style ceramic depictions of animals, flowers and dragons dot the adjacent rooftops. It’s quite the mix of Asian artistic styles in ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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How to get there
From the east end of Khao San Road, walk north on Tanao Road, bear right at the roundabout and you'll see the chedi on your right. The main entrance is a bit further east off Phra Sumen Rd.

Wat Bowornniwet
Corner of Phra Sumen and Tanao Rds, Bangkok
Daily 08:00-17:30
Admission: Free

Location map for Wat Bowornniwet

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