Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew & Grand Palace also called the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (official name is Wat Phra Si Ratana Satsadaram), this wát adjoins the Grand Palace on common ground that was consecrated in 1782, the first year of Bangkok rule. The 945,000 sq metre grounds encompass more than 100 building that represent 200 years of royal history and architectural experimentation. Most of the architecture, royal or sacred, can be classified Ratanakosin or old Bangkok style, with lots of minor variation.

The temple structures are extremely colorful, comprising gleaming, gilded chedis (stupas), polished orange and green roof tiles, mosaic-encrusted pillars and rich marble pediments. Extensive murals depicting scenes from the Ramakian (the Thai version of the Indian epic Ramayana) line the inside walls of the compound. Originally painted during Rama I's reign (1782-1809), the murals have undergone several restorations, including a major one finished in time for the 1982 Bangkok/Chakri dynasty bicentennial. Divided into 178 sections, the murals illustrate the epic in its entirety, beginning at the north gate and moving clockwise around the compound.

Except for an anteroom here and there, the Grand Palace (Phra Borom Maharatchawong),is today used by the king only for certain ceremonial occasions such as Coronation Day (his current residence is Chitlada Palace in the northern part of the city), and is closed to the public. The exteriors of the four buildings are worth a swift perusal for their royal bombast.

Borobiman Hall (eastern end), a French inspired structure that served as a residence for Rama VI, is occasionally used to house visiting foreign dignitaries. In April 1981 General San Chitpatima used it as head quarters for an attempted coup. Next west is Amarindra Hall, originally a hall of justice but used today for coronation ceremonies.

Largest of the palace buildings is the triple winged Chakri Mahaprasat, literally 'Great Holy Hall of Chakri' but usually translated as 'Grand Palace Hall'. Built in 1882 by British architects using Thai labour, the exterior shows a peculiar blend of Italian Renaissance and traditional Thai architecture. This is a style often referred to as faràng sài chá-aaa or 'European wearing a Thai classical dancer's headdress' because each wing is topped by a mondòp, a layered, heavily ornamented spire representing a Thai adaptation of the Hindu mandapa or shrine. The tallest of the mondòp, in the centre, contains the ashes of Chakri kings; the flanking mondòps enshrine the ashes of Chakri princes who never inherited the throne. Thai kings traditionally housed their huge harems in the mahaprasat's inner palace area, which was guarded by combat-trained female sentries.
Admission to the Wat Phra Kaew and Grand Palace compound is 200B, and opening hours are from 8.30 am to 3.30 pm.

The most economical way of reaching Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace is by Many air-con bus (example No 8 or 12) asked for going to Sanam luang. You can also take the Chao Phraya River Express, disembarking at Tha Chang.

Emerald Buddha

The so-called Emerald Buddha or Phra Kaew is actually made of a type of jasper or perhaps nephrite (a type of jade), depending on whom you believe. It's 60 to 75 cm high (depending on how it is measured) and a definite aura of mystery surrounds the image, enhanced by the fact that it cannot be examined closely (it sits in a glass case, on a pedestal high above the heads of worshippers) and photography within the bòt is forbidden. Its mystery further adds to the occult significance of the image, which is considered the 'talisman' of the Thai kingdom, the legitimator of Thai sovereignty.

It is not known for certain where the image originated or who sculpted it, but it first appeared on record in 15th century Chiang Rai. Legend says it was sculpted in India and brought to Siam by way of Ceylon, but stylistically it seems to belong to the Chiang Saen or Lanna period (13th to 14 th centuries). Sometime in the 15th century, the image is said to have been covered with plaster and gold leaf and placed in Chiang Rai's own Wat Phra Kaew (literally 'Temple of the Jewel Holy Image'). While being transported elsewhere after a storm had damaged the chedi in which the image had been kept, the image supposedly lost its plaster covering in a fall. It next appeared in Lampang where it enjoyed a 32 year stay (again at a Wat Phra Kaew) until it was brought to Wat Chedi Luang in Chiang Mai.

Laotian invaders took the image from Chiang Mai in the mid-16th century and brought it to Luang Prabang in Laos. Later it was moved to Wiang Chan (vientiane). When Thailand's King Taksin waged war against Laos (about 200 years later), the image was taken back to the Thai capital of Thonburi by General Chakri, who later succeeded Taksin as Rama I, the founder of the Chakri dynasty. Rama I had the Emerald Buddha moved to the new Thai capital in Bangkok and had two royal robes made for it, one to be worn in the hot season and one for the rainy season. Rama III added another to the wardrobe to be worn in the cool season. The three robes are still solemnly changed at the beginning of each season by the king himself. The huge
bòt at Wat Phra Kaew in which it is displayed was built expressly for the purpose of housing the diminutive image.


At June 23, 2007 at 12:08 AM , Anonymous La Lune said...

ตอนเรียน Tour Guiding

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