Splendid and easy to find
Wat Ratchanatdaram is best known for the Loha Prasat, a towering mondop topped with 37 slender iron spires that grab the eyes of passing travellers.
The wat was built in the mid-19th century by order of King Rama III to honour his niece, Princess Sommanas, and a large statue of the king fronts the complex. As an attraction, Wat Ratchanatdaram is not nearly as popular as several other temples and we can’t figure out why—it’s well worth a visit and the location along Ratchadamnoen Avenue, near the Democracy Monument and the Golden Mount, means that most travellers will walk past it at some point.
Standing 38 metres tall with three tiers, the Loha Prasat is composed of laterite pillars encased in plaster and rising to ascending series of prasat spires that were given a golden sheen in recent years. These symbolise the 37 qualities contributing to enlightenment, which include contemplation of the mind and body along with calmness, energy, mindfulness and equanimity.
While it was loosely modelled after much older structures found in India, Sri Lanka and perhaps Burma, Wat Ratchanatdaram’s Loha Prasat is the only one of its kind in the world. It was originally designed as a meditation venue—novice monks would sit in quiet corners among the pillars on the ground floor while senior monastics meditated on the upper levels.
Visitors can step inside the Loha Prasat’s labyrinthine confines dotted with small Buddha images and info boards in English explaining the historical and spiritual background of the temple. There’s also an odd interactive display where visitors hold up a square of plastic to a mirror and it appears that you’re holding a miniature model of the Loha Prasat. You can then take a spiral staircase to the upper floors for a view of the surrounds.
The temple’s ordination hall features murals depicting celestial beings floating on a sea of clouds along the inside of thick walls. The principle Buddha image, known as Phra Setthamuni, was made of copper in the subduing Mara (or touching the earth) posture. There’s also a small wihaan housing statues of kings Rama II and Rama V along with a Buddha image with arms crossed over the chest in the unusual contemplation posture.
At to the back of the complex near the entrance to Mahachai Road, a small cluster of vendors sell protective amulets, khon masks and images of Buddha, Hindu deities and revered Thai monks. You could also wander the neatly manicured garden and take a break in a glittering pavilion that fronts Ratchadamnoen.
Wat Ratchanatdaram stretches at the corner of Ratchadamnoen Ave and Mahachai Rd, 200 metres east of Democracy Monument.
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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