Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan

Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan from the Chao Phraya River

There are hundreds of sources for information on fact, figures and history about today's subject, Wat Arun, so I won't belabor you with a lot of details. Here's a brief overview, though, to give you a crash course on the place:

Wat Arun (or, more correctly Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan) has stood for nearly 200 years in the Thonburi section of greater Bangkok, on the Western side of the Chao Phraya River, just a few hundred yards from the corner of the Grand Palace grounds. The Thai knew it first as Wat Chaeng, a magnificent temple built on some 25 acres of land in the early 1800s.

Wat Arun was painstakingly decorated with pieces of ceramic tile and other broken cast-off materials that trading ships brought from China as ballast and then dumped in Thailand.

Showing some of the detail done from cast-off ceramics

Tourists will know it as Wat Arun, the temple of dawn, but it's at its dramatic best late in the afternoon, when the golden light brings it alive from the other side of the river. It's also quite impressive at night, bathed by an extensive system of lights. I'll follow up with another post featuring night shots of the temple soon.

Seven Buddha statues kneel behind a reclining Buddha image in a nook of the temple

The towering central Khmer-style prang - rising between 66.8 meters/219 feet and 86 meters/282 feet, depending on who you believe - was begun during the reign of King Rama II (between 1809 and 1824), and was finished under the reign of King Rama III (1824–1851). The additional four corner prangs were built not long afterwards.

When it was first built the temple contained the Emerald Buddha, considered by most to be the most holy relic in the kingdom, although the "emerald" part is a misnomer as it's actually made of green jadeite. That beautiful image is now housed within the palace grounds, and we'll make it there in another post - eventually.

People on the lower staircase give some perspective to one of the four towers in the distance and the main central one looming behind them

The day I visited it threatened to rain several times, and the heat and humidity was heavy enough I didn't feel like sticking around in the sun when it did pop through, so it's somewhere I'll visit again some time.  We'll revisit it here again, too.

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