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Temple History

Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn, is named after Aruna, the Indian God of Dawn. Sitting majestically on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River, the legendary Wat Arun is one of the most striking riverside landmarks of Thailand. Despite the name, the most spectacular view of the glittering monument can be seen from the east side of the river at sunset, when the spires of Wat Arun make an impressive silhouette against the skyline.

This Wat or Buddhist temple is an architectural representation of Mount Meru, the center of the world in Buddhist cosmology. In the mythology of Tibetan Buddhism, Mount Meru is a place that simultaneously represents the center of the universe and the single-pointedness of mind sought by adepts. Thousands of miles in height, Meru is located somewhere beyond the physical plane of reality, in a realm of perfection and transcendence. The four-corner prang of Wat Arun, which house images of the guardian gods of the four directions, reinforces this mystical symbolism.

Wat Arun is one of the few surviving legacies from the Chakri dynasty of Thailand. During the golden era of Ayutthaya, ships of various nations sailing up and down the 'River of Kings' would make a stop at the junction of the Chao Phraya River known as Thonburi, to replenish supplies and provisions which were available abundantly in this area. The sailors would stop in obeisance in front of the old temple formerly known as Wat Makok or Wat Makok Nok.

It is said that the royal fleet of King Taksin, the founder of the former capital of Thonburi, arrived at Wat Makok Nok precisely at dawn. He stopped his vessel and disembarked to pay homage to the Holy Relic inside the pagoda, and the temple was subsequently referred to as Wat Chaeng - the Temple of Dawn. When King Taksin crowned himself the monarch, the temple was designated a royal temple within the grand palace, as it was the first place in Thonburi to catch the morning light. Unfortunately, King Taksin treated the temple monks badly, expelling them so that he could worship privately in the temple. The Wat housed the statue of the Emerald Buddha, before it was moved to Wat Phra Kaeo in 1785.


Even without the sacred statue, Wat Arun continued to be much revered amongst the people. Monks were allowed to return during the rule of Rama I, the first King of the Chakri dynasty, who disestablished Wat Chaeng as the royal temple when he moved the capital across the river to what is today downtown Bangkok. Later, King Rama II restored the temple to its former glory and changed its name to Wat Arun Rachatharam.

During the reign of Rama III, the Prang was raised to an astonishing height of 67 meters, making it the highest one in Thailand even today. As an exponent of art and architecture, this sovereign completed the restoration of the temple structure with the adornment of small pieces of fine China glinting in the sun. The name of the temple was changed once again to Wat Arun Ratchavararam.

 

Additional Information

The main feature of Wat Arun is its central prang (Khmer-style tower) which is encrusted with colourful porcelain. his is interpreted as a stupa-like pagoda encrusted with coloured faience. The height is reported by different sources as between 66.8 m (219 ft) and 86 m (282 ft). The corners are surrounded by four smaller satellite prang. The prang are decorated by seashells and bits of porcelain which had previously been used as ballast by boats coming to Bangkok from China. The central prang is topped with a seven-pronged trident, referred to by many sources as the "Trident of Shiva". Around the base of the prang are various figures of ancient Chinese soldiers and animals. Over the second terrace are four statues of the Hindu god Indra riding on Erawan.

In the Buddhist iconography, the central prang is considered to have three symbolic levels—base for Traiphum indicating all realms of existence, middle for Tavatimsa where all desires are gratified and top denoting Devaphum indicating six heavens within seven realms of happiness.

At the riverside are six pavilions (sala) in Chinese style. The pavilions are made of green granite and contain landing bridges.

Next to the prang is the Ordination Hall with a Niramitr Buddha image supposedly designed by King Rama II. The front entrance of the Ordination Hall has a roof with a central spire, decorated in coloured ceramic and stuccowork sheated in coloured china. There are two demons, or temple guardian figures, in front.[9] The murals were created during the reign of Rama V.

The central prang symbolises Mount Meru of the Hindu cosmology. The satellite prang are devoted to the wind god, Phra Phai. The demons (yaksha) at the entranceway to the ubosot are from the Ramakien. The white figure is named Sahassa Deja and the green one is known as Thotsakan, the Demon Ravana from Ramayana.

From Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok Wat Phra Kaew is 49.9 Km, from Bangkok Railway Station it is 8.1 Km. From Itsaraphap 23/2 Alley bus stop Wat Arun is 1.1 Km

SkyTrain to Saphan Taksin Station S6. (Silom Line), Take Exit 2 and go to Chao Phraya River Express Boat Pier.Take boat heading to Tien Pier (N.8) and walk straight to WAT PHO.

Located on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, this temple can be reached either by Arun Amarin Road or by boat from Tha Tien Pier, near Wat Pho. The Tha Tien express boat pier, at the southwest corner of the Grand Palace or Wat Phra Kaew, is diagonally opposite Wat Arun and boats ply at very frequent intervals. You can get to Tha Tien on the Chao Phraya River Express boats from any other pier, or take a taxi to it. Buses that go near Tha Tien are ordinary buses 1, 25, 44, 47, 62 and 91 that stop on Maharat road. Plenty of Thonburi canal tours also take tourists to visit this artistic piece of architecture.
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