The History of Wat Arun

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Wat Arun is known as the Temple of Dawn located on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River in Thonburi. It is a very prominent landmark in Bangkok. This temple is best seen from the opposite river bank. The complete name of this temple is Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan.

Wat Arun

View on Wat Arun from from Bitter Deck at Sala Arun. photo: Amazing Thailand FB page

View on Wat Arun from Bitter Deck at Sala Arun. photo: Amazing Thailand FB page

Wat Arun is a temple complex that consists of the towers, the so-called ‘Phra Prang’ (spires) which symbolize the Mount Meru of Hindu cosmology. There are also narrow lanes, old white buildings, shrines and two giants called ‘Yak Wat Jaeng’ who are the mortal enemies of the ‘Yak Wat Pho’ located across the river. The Yaks are figures from the Thai Ramakien, the white figure is called Sahassa Deja and the green one is Thotsakan, the Demon Rāvana.

‘Yak Wat Jaeng', the temple guardians of Wat Arun (photo: Sirinya Pakditawan)

‘Yak Wat Jaeng’, the temple guardians of Wat Arun (photo: Sirinya Pakditawan)

The temple has existed since the days when Ayutthaya was Thailand’s capital. It was then named Wat Makok in the place called Bangmakok meaning ‘Village of Olive’. Hence, Bangmakok was shortened to ‘Bangkok’.

The Chao Phraya River as seen from the main spire of Wat Arun; photo by John Thomson in 1865, Wellcome Library London

The Chao Phraya River as seen from the main spire of Wat Arun; photo by John Thomson in 1865, Wellcome Library London

After defeating the Burmese Army in Ayutthaya, King Taksin reached this place to establish the new capital Thonburi. He arrived at dawn and thus renamed the temple ‘Wat Jeang’. ‘Jeang’ means bright, dawn and clear. During his reign, no monks lived in this temple. However, it was used to house the Emerald Buddha which is located at Wat Phra Kaeow today.

The precious Emerald Buddha, Wat Phra Kaeow (photo credit: JPSwimmer, wikipedia.org)

The precious Emerald Buddha, today located at Wat Phra Kaeow (photo credit: JPSwimmer, wikipedia.org)

King Taksin’s General had taken the Emerald Buddha from Vientiane in Laos to Wat Jeang. Later after King Taksin’s death, this General became King Rama I (Buddha Yodfa Chulaoke). Eventually, King Rama I moved his capital from Thonburi to Bangkok taking the Emerals Buddha with him. There the Buddha was moved to his present site in the Emerald Buddha Temple.

King Rama I, Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke; photo: wikimedia.org

King Rama I, Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke; photo: wikimedia.org

King Rama II (1809-1824) started the construction of the tall spire and the four smaller ones. This was completed by King Rama III (1824-1851). The towers are supported by rows of demons and monkeys and very narrow steps lead to a balcony on the central tower.

The towers of Wat Arun are supported by a row of demons, photo: Sirinya Pakditawan

The towers of Wat Arun are supported by a row of demons, photo: Sirinya Pakditawan

The towers are built of brick covered with stucco and the decorations are also unique. There are numerous pieces of multi-coloured Chinese porcelain.

Pieces of multi-coloured Chinese porcelain at the Temple of Dawn, Bangkok (photo: Sirinya Pakditawan)

Pieces of multi-coloured Chinese porcelain at the Temple of Dawn, Bangkok (photo: Sirinya Pakditawan)

The central tower also harbours the figure of the God Indra seated on his vehicle Erawan which is the three-headed elephant. What is more, there are also figures of the Moon God on a white horse. In addition, the trident of Shiva extends from the top of each tower.

Wat Arun stairway, photo: wikimedia.org

Wat Arun stairway, I think in the centre there is Indra on his vehicle Erawan, photo: wikimedia.org

Thus, the central balcony offers an impressive view of Bangkok and the Chao Phraya River. From there you can also see the Grand Palace, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and Wat Pho.

Wat Arun seen from the Chao Phraya River, photo: wikimedia.org

Wat Arun seen from the Chao Phraya River, photo: wikimedia.org

Summing up, I find that Wat Arun is one of the most impressive monuments that I have ever seen. I really love to visit this place soon again 🙂

Yours, Sirinya

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