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Wat Phra Pathom Chedi

During the reign of King Asoka in India over 2,000 years ago, Buddhist missionaries was sent to propagate Buddhist philosophies in Nakhon Pathom city which had been a centre of the Dvaravati civilisation. Archeological scholars unanimously agreed that Monk Sona Thera and Monk Uttra Thera, first made Nakhon Pathom their base of religious propagation around the 3rd Buddhist century.

This once prosperous city was abandoned during the 12th century in 1057 A.D. and thereafter Nakhon Pathom was deserted and eventually overcome by jungle. Some of its inhabitants reportedly returned but then abandoned the city again due to flooding by a nearby river. The area is still prone to flooding and it’s swampy.
Phra Pathom Chedi was left to decay in the jungle without care or attention, until after many centuries later when Buddhist monks came to reside here during the reign of King Rama 2 in the early 1800's A.D.

During the reign of King Rama 3, his brother Prince (later King) Mongkut, while a member of the Buddhist priesthood, went several times on pilgrimage to the stupa. On his accession to the Throne, King Mongkut (Rama 4) began a restoration process in 1853 A.D. by building an enormous Chedi over the existing one, including an entire complex with four chapels, numerous sculptures and castings of Buddha (including the immense Reclining Buddha), displays of ancient artefacts, caves into the base of the structure where one can go meditate and pray, and a nice garden sanctuary.

King Rama 4 did not live to see completion of the temple, and the work was carried on by King Chulalongkorn (Rama 5). In addition, King Rama 5 had the jungle pushed back and an entire city was built around the Chedi. A new community only settled down after the renovation of Phra Pathom Chedi was completed during the reign of King Rama V of the Chakri Dynasty.

Phra Pathom Chedi remained as the largest pagoda in Thailand today. Phra Pathom Chedi is the official provincial symbol of Nakhon Pathom at present times. It is assumed that the former Chedi dates back to the year 539 AD due to the fact that the upside down bell shaped Chedi has a similar style to the Sanchi Chedi in India which was built in the reign of King Asoka.

Since Buddhism flourished in this region of Nakhon Pathom, there are many other stupas and temples that were built. Other Nakhon Pathom popular temples for amulet collectors are Wat SisaThong (famous for Phra Rahu worship), Wat Sam Ngam Lp Tae (GumanThong), Wat Rai Khing, Wat Bang Phra (Sakyant Tattoo made famous by LP Pern), Wat Paniangdaek of old time guru LP Tah, Wat Donyaihom associated with LP Ngern and many more temples.  Therefore, it is a must visit to Phra Pathom Chedi and other Nakhon Pathom temples in general.

The construction of the new huge Chedi was completed in the reign of King Rama 5 in 1870 AD. In all, it took 17 years to build. The completed Chedi is a circular one that features an upside down bell shape Chedi (Lankan style). The height from ground to a top crown is some 120.45 metres, and a total diameter at the base is 233.50 metres. The sacred Chedi houses Lord Buddhas relics.

Ven. Phra Thampriyat-tive Thee - Abbot of Wat Phra Pathom Chedi

Wat Phra Pathom Chedi is famous for making mainstream amulets e.g. Somdej.  Exhibited above is Phra Somdej made with old Chedi materials in brown color, and inserted with Silver, Copper, and real Gold takrut.  The trademark of all issued Somdej is represented by an image of the iconic Pathom Chedi either printed or stamped at the rear.

Well-known to many, Nakhon Pathom was the first recorded center of Theravada Buddhism in Thaialand during the Dvaravati period back in the 7th century A.D.  Most Buddha images were made from stones or bricks during that period.  Big Buddha images are usually sculptured in seating or standing position, whereas the smaller ones were usually inscripted with Pali words - Gatha Ye Dhamma (Words of Buddha).  An example of a big Pathom style Buddha image can still be seen inside the Uposatha Hall.

During the reign of King Rama 6, Wat Phra Pathom was renovated again and later the temple became the royal temple of King Rama 6.  Within the monastery compound, there are various interesting historical items, including the Phra Ruang Rodjanarith, an image of Buddha bestowing pardon is enshrined in a Vihara located to the North and in front of Phra Pathom Chedi.

The casting of this Buddha image (see picture below) was casted during the reign of King Rama 6; the images head, hand, and feet were brought from Muang Srisatchanalai, Sukhothai. Under royal command, a wax sculpture of the Buddha image was moulded.  The casting process was held at Wat Phra Chettuphon in 1913.  Later, the Buddha image was enshrined in the Vihara, located on the north side at the top of a huge staircase. The King granted the name of Phra Rung Rodjanarith Sri-intharathit Thammamopas Mahavachiravuth Rachpuchaniyabopitr to this Buddha image. At its base, the relics of King Rama 6 are placed.

Wat Phra Nakhon Chedi is still a learning center in Buddhism studies today following the path of early India missionaries humble beginning.  Samaneras and newly ordained monks pursuing the studies of Pali and higher Buddhist doctrines are taught by qualified teachers.

Wat Phra Nakhon Chedi had provided a truly international setting in receiving students from Sri Lanka, Cambodia and other Buddhist nations.  Accommodation facilities are available for those wanting to study the Dhamma scriptures.

Although Wat Phra Pathom Chedi may be a tourist destination, nevertheless it is a highly revered temple by both Nakhon Pathom folks and international Buddhist followers.  For the avid amulet collector, it must be noted the most valuable treasure here is none other than Somdej votive tablets that are made with the inclusion of old Chedi roof tiles or brick materials.  The funds from amulet sales will be channelled back for temple restoration.  A large portion of newly made Somdej and other similar powder based amulets such as those shown in this article are being kept inside the Chedi rooftop for future generation. 

We hope you have enjoyed this temple tour and may all living beings accrue merits for the cessation of suffering. Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!

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