Wat Mahathat, Temple of the Great Relic, Bangkok
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Corridor at Wat Mahathat, with the Viharn on the left, the Ubosoth on the right, and facing the Mondop.
Wat Mahathat or Temple of the Great Relic is on the western side of Sanam Luang. Wat Mahathat was built during the Ayutthaya period, when it was known as Wat Salak. Shortly after Bangkok was established as the capital of Siam, the temple had a strategic position between the newly-built Grand Palace and the Front Palace or residence of the vice-king. As a result, the temple was used for royal ceremonies and funerals.
The present name Wat Mahathat follows a tradition from the Ayutthaya Period when this was the name given to temples that housed relics of the Buddha. As such you will find a Wat Mahathat in quite a few ancient cities in Thailand.
People praying and chanting in the Ubosoth in the late afternoon.
The temple grounds at Wat Mahathat in Bangkok are extensive. The main temple structures are a Phra Ubosoth (Ordination Hall) and a Phra Vihara (Viharn) alongside each other and both a large Mondop (square building) at the back of both the Ubosoth and Vihara. Besides the main buildings there is a sprawling complex with the monastic cells, schools, offices et.
While Wat Mahathat predates the founding of Bangkok as the capital, the temple was significantly renovated after one of its monks, Prince Mongkut, became King Rama IV.
Wat Mahathat is a national center for the Mahanikai monastic sect and houses one of Bangkok's Buddhist universities, Mahathat Rajavidyalaya. As such, it is a most important place of Buddhist learning in mainland Southeast Asia today. Wat Mahathat is also home tof the Center for Vipassana Meditation for study of Buddhism and meditation. It offers some programs in English.
Gable of the Mondop
Our personal observation is that the main structures are quite imposing and well maintained on the outside painted meticously in white color. The surrounding area however appears rather cluttered and crowded. We could not enter the Viharn. However, the inside of the Ubosoth was rather sparsely decorated, when compared to other temples around Bangkok.
In the streets surrounding Wat Mahathat, you will notice a lot of vendor stalls where Buddhist amulets, lucky charms etc. are on offer.
Chofah decoration on the Ubosoth of Wat Mahathat.