Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew)


The Temple of the Emerald Buddha or Wat Phra Kaew is the most sacred temple in Thailand. The religious complex is located at the Grand Palace. The distinctive feature of this wat is that there are no monks living on its grounds.

The 66 cm high Emerald Buddha depicted in meditating posture is actually carved from a single jade stone (emerald in Thai does not mean a particular stone, but its green color). And the material for the statue is jadeite, a mineral looking like jade but having different structure. There is a belief that this iconic depiction was made by Nagasena, a saint in Pataliputra (present day Patna), India, who, with the support of Hindu god Vishnu and demigod Indra, carved this beautiful masterpiece. The Emerald Buddha is deeply important for Thailand and is being worshiped as the patron of the country.

According to the historians, the Buddha's image was found in Chiang Rai (the northern part of Thailand) in the 15th century – this city was long the capital of the medieval kingdom of Lanna. The legend tells is that after a lightning struck the wat, the statue of Buddha fell down and cracked. After the plaster was removed the monks saw an incredible image of Buddha made from a single piece of green stone. After long traveling the Emerald Buddha finally found its present place in Thailand, which happened in the 18th century during the reign of Rama I. The ubosot where the image is kept is lavishly decorated with paintings dating back to the epoch of Rama III depicting scenes from the life of Buddha. The interior is radiant with magnificent golden decorations.

Interestingly enough, the Thai king or the crown prince instead of him have the right to touch the statue. In Thailand there are three seasons of the year, so thrice a year the clothes of the Emerald Buddha are changed by the king himself. This important ritual is carried out to attract luck in every of the seasons.

The walls of the complex are decorated with frescos depicting scenes from the Ramakien epic, while along its eastern wall there are eight prangs. Next to the entrance gate there is a black statue before which the offerings (candles, flowers and scents) are made. This is a statue of a monk healing the sick ones, who is considered to be a patron of medicine, and this way the relatives of the sick pay their respects and pray.

The chedi of Phra Sri Rattana (the wat's official name) houses a fragment of a bone belonging to Buddha. The chedi was built during the reign of Rama IV, while the golden mosaics were added under Rama V. The nearby library of Phra Mondop is home for the sacred Buddhist texts, there is no entry to it. The royal pantheon built in Khmer style and surrounded by mythical creatures opens once a year, in October, during the commemorations of the Chakri dynasty founding. Inside the pantheon, there are eight full-scale bronze statues of the kings belonging to this dynasty.

Address: Na Phra Lan Rd, Phra Nakhon
Opening hours: daily 8.30 am – 3.30 pm
How to reach: Tha Chang pier
Coordinates: 13.75142, 100.49257