The Grand Palace

Next to the amazing Buddhist temple complex of Wat Pho are the grounds of the Grand Palace. Originally built in 1782 by Rama I, the palace is no longer occupied by the royal family and is mostly used for official ceremonies.

Royal Reception Hall

Underneath the Royal Reception Hall (pictured above) is a military museum housing the royal family’s collection of antique weaponry and fire arms, many of which were gifts from visiting dignitaries over the years.

Emerald Buddha Photo D Ramey Logan [1]

Emerald Buddha Photo D Ramey Logan [1]

The palace is in fact a collection of different buildings, the most important of which is Wat Phra Kaew – the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The actual statue is carved out of a single piece of jade and the term ’emerald’ refers to the deep green colour of the stone and not what it is made out of. Unfortunately photos of the Emerald Buddha are forbidden – the one on the left was taken by D Ramsay Logan is hosted on Wikipedia and is used here under the Creative Commons License [1].

The Emerald Buddha was discovered by accident after a lightning storm struck the temple in which it was housed. Originally the statue was covered in plaster that replicated the image underneath and it wasn’t until the monks went to repair the damage from the storm that they discovered the original statue.

The size of the statue is approximately sixty-six centimetres tall and around forty-eight centimetres wide. It is believed to have been carved sometime in the fourteenth century. The statue has three ceremonial costumes that are changed three times per year to coincide with the winter, summer and rainy seasons. Only the King or the Crown Prince are permitted to touch the statue.

Directly outside the temple is the bell tower (pictured below) built by Rama IV.

Bell Tower

The palace grounds are laid out in a similar style to the Ayutthaya palaces with many other buildings located within the complex, such as the prayer hall Wiharn Yod (pictured below) which always seems to be closed to the public.

Wiharn Yod

In the centre of the grounds lies Prasat Phra Thep Bidorn, the Royal Pantheon. Originally built to house the Emerald Buddha, it was later decided that the elevation of the Pantheon was not high enough and, with other structures looking down upon it, would not be a suitable place for the statue. Next to the Pantheon is Phra Mondop, the library that houses the revised edition of the Buddhist Canon. It is a replica of Wat Phra Buddhabat in Saraburi province that purports to cover Buddha’s Footprint [2]

Pantheon and Mondop

Entrance to the Royal Pantheon on the left and Phra Mondop on the right. Like Wiharn Yod, the Mondop is always closed to the public.

Opposite Wiharn Yod is the model of Angkor Wat (see below), commissioned by Rama IV at the same time as the bell tower.

Model of Angkor Wat

Outside Wat Phra Kaew is Hor Phra Khanthara Rat (pictured below), a small pavilion that houses the Buddha image used in the Royal Ploughing Ceremony. Known locally as Phra Ratchaphiti Pheutcha Mongkhon it is a Buddhist ceremony held every year to bless the plants, raise morale and generate a good harvest.

Hor Phra Khanthara Rat

On the eastern side of the Wat are eight chedis (see below) that are purported to represent the Noble Eightfold path of Buddhism, which is the fourth of the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths [3].Chedis in the Palace Grounds

Each entrance to the palace is guarded by towering stone Yaksha (below), benevolent nature-spirits who protect the treasures of the earth.

Guardian

All in all the Grand Palace and its surrounds are an impressive sight to see and a ‘must visit’ for any traveler in Bangkok.

The roof of Wiharn Yod

The roof of Wiharn Yod

Architecture

Phra Mondop on left with the Royal Pantheon in the background and a small pavilion to the right

[1] “Emerald Buddha Photo D Ramey Logan” by WPPilot – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/

[2] Bangkok For Visitors – Phra Mondop – http://bangkokforvisitors.com/ratanakosin/grand-palace/emerald-buddha-temple/phra-mondop.php Accessed 17 November 2015

[3] Buddhist Studies – http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/8foldpath.htm – Accessed 15th November 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

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