The temple is first on the list of six temples in Thailand classed as the highest grade of the first-class royal temples.
Bangkok’s oldest Temple predates the city itself and was originally founded as Wat Phodharam in the 7th century. Before there was a temple, the site was a school for traditional medicine and that legacy continues today with Wat Pho. Recognized as one of Thailand’s leading centers for traditional medicine, especially Thai massage. Under King Rama I, the Temple was restored and enlarged, and in 1801 it was renamed Wat Phra Chetuphon, which is the name many Thai people use instead of Wat Pho. The main bot of the Temple houses a seated Buddha image known as the Phra Buddha Deva Patimakorn, which stands on a three-tiered pedestal under which some of the ashes of Rama I, dating to, are still kept. During Rama’s reign III, the Temple continues to be restored and constructed.
At that time the Temple was built as a learning center and Wat Pho is often referred to as the first university in Thailand. In 1832 the Shrine of the Reclining Buddha was built and this magnificent Buddha statue is the main attraction for many of the local and foreign tourists visiting the Temple.
You have to take off your shoes to enter and if you want a little luck, we recommend that you buy a bowl of coins at the entrance of the hall to throw in the 108 bronze bowls arranged lengthwise the walls are lined. Throw in the small pennies and a beautiful chime will sound, and even if your wishes don’t come true, the money will help the monks renovate and maintain Wat Pho. As this is a venerated image, all visitors must wear appropriate clothing, with no bare shoulders and no skin over the knee.
The reclining Buddha image represents the Buddha’s entry into Nirvana and the end of all reincarnations. The pose of the image is known as sihasaiyas, the pose of a sleeping or reclining lion. The figure is 15 m high and 46 m long and is one of the largest Buddha statues in Thailand. The figure has a brick core that was modeled and molded with plaster, then gilded. The Buddha’s right arm supports the tightly curled head, which rests on two cushions inlaid with glass mosaics. The soles of the Buddha’s feet are 3 m high and 4.5 m long and inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Each of them is divided into 108 panels showing the auspicious symbols by which the Buddha can be identified, such as flowers, dancing girls, white elephants, tigers, and altar accessories. In the center of each foot is a circle representing a chakra or “energy point“.
There are 108 bronze bowls in the hall depicting the 108 auspicious characters of the Buddha. Visitors can throw coins into these bowls as it is said to bring good luck and help the monks maintain the wat. Although the Reclining Buddha is not a pilgrimage destination, it is an object of devotion. An annual celebration of the Reclining Buddha takes place around the time of the Siamese Songkran or New Year in April, which also helps raise funds for the upkeep of Wat Pho.
The temple complex
The temple grounds include four large chedis, 91 small chedis, two bell towers, a bot (central shrine), several viharas (halls) and various pavilion-like buildings, as well as gardens and a small temple museum. The complex’s chedis and buildings vary in style and size. Also in the complex are a number of large Chinese statues, some depicting Europeans guarding the gates in the perimeter walls, as well as other gates in the complex. These stone statues were originally imported as ballast on ships trading with China.
Wat Pho was also intended to serve as an educational site for the general public. For this purpose, a pictorial encyclopedia was engraved on granite slabs, covering eight subject areas: history, medicine, health, customs, literature, proverbs, lexicography and the Buddhist religion.