Wat Saket Ratchaworamahawihan or “Wat Saket” is considered one of the most popular landmarks in Bangkok, because of the well known Golden Mount.
However, there is also another point of interest that shouldn’t be missed, i.e. the Grand Chapel Hall (Ubosot), built during the reign of King Rama I, and is an attractive, serene, seldomly crowded place of worship which still fully retains the early Rattanakosin era vibe.
History of Wat Saket
Originally, it was a temple in the Ayutthaya period named “Wat Sakae”. Subsequently, King Rama I then decreed it to be restored, and dig a canal around the monastery. It was then bestowed the new name of “Wat Saket” which means to “cleanse the hair”.
As this area used to house a Mondop Phra Krayasanan which was used to conduct ceremonial bathing rites for the Muratha Phisek (bathing rites to instill great power in a person) for His Majesty to ascend to the throne after leading an army from Cambodia to suppress a riot in Thonburi in 1782.
Presently, Wat Saket is classified as a second-class royal temple, which means that the temple houses an important pagoda that was personally built by a king, queen, or heir to the throne.
Attractions in Wat Saket
Phra Borom Banphot (Golden Mount)
One of the must-see attractions in Bangkok is the pagoda which is shaped like a mountain. It has a height of 59 meters (but some sources quote 77 meters high).
The way up consists of a low staircase which is not too difficult to walk on, as well as trees providing some shade all the way up. So, it’s not as hot as one might imagine.
Its construction began during the reign of King Rama III, but as its structure was very heavy, the surrounding grounds by the water could not bear the entire weight, thereby causing the pagoda to collapse. The construction had to be stopped until the end of the reign of King Rama III.
In 1863, during the reign of King Rama IV, His Majesty ordered the construction of a new pagoda shaped like a mountain with a Lanka-style pagoda on the top. Phra Borom Banphot was completed during the reign of King Rama V.
Later, the Lord Buddha’s relics were placed in the pagoda on several occasions, with the most significant period occurring in the year 1899 when the Indian government presented the relics excavated from the old pagoda mound at Kabilpat encased in a casket with an inscription that states, “This relic belongs to Samana Khodom (Lord Buddha) of the Sakyaraj clan”.
The best time to visit is in the evening – when it is recommended to take a walk around the surrounding area first, then time your visit to reach the top of the Golden Mount around 18.00 hrs.
Phra Wihan was built during the reign of King Rama III. Its unique feature is the front hall which enshrines the Phra Attharos statue, i.e. a bronze Buddha statue in the Forgiveness posture. It is a 700 year old artwork of the early Sukhothai period and was brought over from Wat Wiharn Thong in Phitsanulok Province.
Phra Attharos, with a height of 10.75 meters, is considered one of the tallest standing Buddha images in Bangkok.
Behind the temple is a small room that enshrines the Reverand Luang Por Dusit, another Buddha statue in the Subduing Mara posture of the Rattanakosin period in which King Rama V brought over from the Ubosot of Wat Dusit.
Main Chapel Hall (Ubosot)
The temple’s main chapel hall (ubosot) was built to replace the original ubosot of Wat Sakae during the reign of King Rama I. It is located on a soft yellow tiled courtyard adorned with a Kanok pattern gable and decorated with stained glass. The middle is decorated with a picture of Lord Vishnu riding a Garuda.
The interior enshrines a Buddha statue built during the Ayutthaya period which was later restored with lacquer and gilded gold over the original Buddha image during the reign of King Rama I. As this Buddha image has no original name, it was therefore called “Luang Pho Phra Prathan”, which simply means the statue is the main Buddha statue in the hall.
Personally, this is my favorite part of the temple as the temple’s pediment is hit by the evening sunlight to produce a golden color that contrasts beautifully against the blue sky, and is surrounded by a low balcony within a serene atmosphere emulating a vibe of being traveling back in time to the reign of King Rama I.
Turning to the west, one can see the dominant Golden Mount not far away. It’s a really impressive scene to take in.
The Reverand Luang Por Toh’s Wihan
The Reverand Luang Por Toh is a metal-casted statue built during the reign of King Rama III, which is gilded with gold. Its lap width and height are about 3.5 meters and 5 meters respectively. It is considered one of the largest metal images.
Luang Por Toh’s Wihan is located near the way down to the Golden Mount. Therefore, visitors should first go up and then come down to pay their respects.
The Reverand Luang Por Dum’s Wihan
A small wihan located in front of the temple enshrines a gold-gilded statue in the Subduing Mara posture, and is an artwork of the early Rattanakosin period. This statue has been closely associated with the Golden Mount since the beginning.
It is believed that it was built for royalty and the general Buddhist faithful who were unable to make the walk up the Golden Mount, and therefore, could worship this statue instead.
Sala Karn Plien (Sermon Hall)
This is the area where a well is located to perform bathing rites for the Muratha Phisek. Later, King Rama III built a pavilion over it to maintain its location.
Phra Si Maha Bodhi Tree
Is a sacred bodhi tree in which the King of Lanka bestowed 6 buds to King Rama II when he sent royal nuncios on a Buddhism quest to Sri Lanka.
King Rama II granted 2 trees to be planted in Nakhon Si Thammarat province, 1 in Kelantan, and 3 other trees to be planted at the Royal Monasteries in Bangkok, namely Wat Mahathat Yuwaratrangsarit. Wat Suthat Thepwararam, and Wat Saket, which was then planted outside the balcony behind the ubosot.
Getting There, Opening Hours, and Entrance Fee
Wat Saket Ratchaworamahawihan
• 344 Thanon Chakkraphatdi Phong, Ban Bat, Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Bangkok 10100
By public transportation
• The most convenient way to get there is by boat. The temple can be accessed from the Phan Fa Lilat Pier, which is the last stop along the boat route, so there’s no chance of getting off at the wrong pier.
• View all routes and piers at https://www.transitbangkok.com
By private car
• There is a moderate amount of parking space within the temple compound, with a small parking fee.
• Daily 07.30-19.00 hrs.
• Free for Thais
• 100 baht for foreigners
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