Wat Thepthidaram, Bangkok, Thailand
(built by Rama III)
high-definition creative commons photographs from Bangkok, showing the architecture, unusual statues of bhikkhunis and brass reliefs in this Royal Temple, together with a history and description of the temple.
The History of Wat Thepthidaram Vorawihan
(The Noble Temple of the Heavenly Angel)
by the Assistant Abbot, Phra Wisudthiwaraphon
King Rāma III of the Chakri Dynasty wished to commemorate his daughter, Her Royal Highness Princess Wilat (Khrom Mun Apsornsudathep), born via the King's concubine, Chao Chom Manda Bang, by building and dedicating a temple to her in 1836. The royal order was given to his son, Royal Prince Laddawan to make a plan to build a temple.
When King Rāma III built the Temple, Princess Wilat also gave a lot of money to endow the temple; because of this many people still hold Princess Wilat in great respect. His Majesty the King Rāma III named the temple Wat Thepthidaram which means ‘Heavenly Angel’ (absornsudathep). His Majesty attended the opening ceremony as the chief principle for the ceremony on December 22, 1839. It is categorized as a third degree royal temple in Thailand.
The Principle Buddha, Phra Buddhathevaviras
Phra Buddhathevaviras is the Principle Buddha image situated in the Ubosot. It is beautifully carved from pure white stone and mesures 14" wide X 20" high in the posture of ‘Subduing Mara’ (Pang Malvichai). King Rāma III brought it from the Grand Royal Palace and placed it in the elegant Whetchayan Pavillion. King Bhumipol Adulyadej (King Rama IX) renamed the Buddha Image as Phra Buddhathevaviras. However, most people refer to him as Luang Pho Khao (The White Buddha).
The Ornamented Standing Buddha
In front of the Principle Buddha, there are two adorned standing Buddha images located one on the left and one on the right. Their posture is called ‘Calming the Ocean’ (Pang Hamsamut). They symbolize paying homage to Her Royal Princess Viras, Krom Muen Absornsudathep.
The statues of 52 Bhikkhunis are found in the Main Hall, 49 are sitting, and three are standing. They were built in bronze and the sitting ones are roughly 11 inches wide and 21 inches tall. Most of them face the Buddha Image, and are various different postures. They are some of the oldest and rarest Bhikkhuni statues in the world.
Thepthidaram Temple throughout is symbolic of women, because King Rāma III built this Temple for his daughter, and so many things are symbolic of women. For example, the wall painting in the Bhikkhuni hall is of the Chinese Phoenix, because in China the Phoenix signifies the power of women.
The Four-Corner Stupas
Each of the corners of the temple is decorated with a prang. The Phra Prang Chaturatit were built with bricks and mortars and are around 15 meters tall. At the base of the each of the prangs there are four guardian deity images, namely, Thao Thataroj, Thao Virunhok, Thao Virupak and Thao Kuwen who are believed to guard the temple in their own directions.
The Statues in the Temple
Around the well-kept ancient monastery, there are quite a number of Chinese and Thai statues in carved stone. They are exquisitely carved in the form of human and animal figures. They are used as part of the decoration to beautify the monastery and its surrounding areas. Unfortunately, many have are being damaged and some were stolen and have disappeared without trace.
Sunthorn Phu, Thai National Poet
Sunthorn Phu, who was the greatest Thai Poet, flourished during the reign of King Rama III. He once entered the monkhood and resided in this temple for three years. Due to his reputation and the significance of his compositions for Thai and world literature, the temple collected all his personal belongings as a monk and began a small museum so that the next generations can also learn to appreciate him as well.
Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu
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