Wat Arun: The Temple of Dawn at the bank of Chao Phraya River

Wat Arun at night. View from Chao Phraya River with boats flowing down the river

When planning a trip to Bangkok, you should consider visiting Wat Arun Ratchawararam ( วัดอรุณราชวราราม), also known as the Temple of Dawn ( วัดมะกอก) at the bank of Chao Phraya River. The temple is popular for its cultural significance and tourism magnitude, and it is acclaimed as one of the top landmarks of the Bangkok skyline. It is also called by locals as Wat Chaeng ( วัดแจ้ง) or solely Wat Arun ( วัดอรุณ).

Wat Arun Ratchawararam is an ancient temple from the Ayutthaya period. His old name in the Thonburi period was Wat Makok ( วัดมะกอก). When the King of Thonburi moved the capital from Krung Si Ayutthaya to Krung Thonburi, he also took the Emerald Buddha from Vientiane (current capital of Laos) to Wat Arun, before it was later transferred to Wat Phra Kaew in the Grand Palace. Wat Arun was renamed Wat Arun Ratchatharam by King Rama II ( พระรามที่ 2) in the Rattanakosin period. Another restoration finished in the reign of King Rama IV ( พระรามที่ 4) and the temple’s name was changed again to the current name of Wat Arun Ratchawararam.

The Temple of Dawn at dusk
The Temple of Dawn at dusk

The temple has a strong cultural and historical importance—it was named after the Indian God Aruna, God of Dawn, and it is situated at the Thonburi side (western bank) of the Chao Phraya River. The monumental site can be viewed from the eastern side of the river, and it makes a spectacular site to visit at the sunset.

Wat Arun
Wat Arun. View of the Grand Pagoda surrounded by smaller prangs. Photo by Discovering Bangkok

The Grand Pagoda of the temple is surrounded by smaller prangs, and each of the prangs mimics the features and structure of the Khmer-style pagoda. These architectural structures are delighted with small pieces of colored glasses, and the intricate patterns on the prangs are enhanced with Chinese porcelain.

Chinese soldiers at the entrance of Grand Pagoda
Chinese soldiers at the entrance of Grand Pagoda. Photo by Discovering Bangkok

To incorporate the cultural elements to the temple, the architects of the temple decorated its base with Chinese animals and Chinese soldiers for enhancing the intricacy of the temple’s design.

Wat Arun. Grand Pagoda
Visitors climbing the stairs of the Grand Pagoda. Photo by Discovering Bangkok

At the temple, the visitors and tourists are encouraged to climb the Grand Pagoda, which introduces them to a mesmerizing and captivating view of Chao Phraya River, Wat Pho, and Grand Palace from the middle level of the pagoda.

Wat Arun. Chinese porcelains in the facade
Chinese porcelains in the facade. Photo by Discovering Bangkok

Once a tourist enters Wat Arun, they will find walls decorated with exotic murals, where they will also find the image of Niramitr Buddha.

King Taksin, known as Taksin the Great ( สมเด็จพระเจ้าตากสินมหาราช), who was the only King of the Thonburi Kingdom, envisioned a structure for the temple in 1768. It is fundamentally believed that King Taksin had arrived at the temple, after winning a battle at Ayutthaya against the Burmese army.

Wat Arun Bangkok
Gallery with Buddha sculptures in Wat Arun. Photo by Z3144228 [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Wat Arun is celebrated as the architectural illustration of Mount Meru, which has immense significance in the Buddhist cosmology books. The architects of the temple have taken proactive measurements for placing the outlying pagodas in a strategic position that reinforces the symbolism of the temple gracefully.

Wat Arun. Erawan
God Indra on top of the three-headed elephant, Erawan. Photo by Discovering Bangkok

When visiting Wat Arun, you will come across the following:

  • You will find four statutes of God Indra over the second terrace of the temple, and the idol is placed on top of the three-headed elephant, Erawan.
  • You will come across six Chinese style pavilions at the riverside of the temple, and these pavilions lead to the bridge that commemorates the arrival of the Royal Barge Procession to the temple.
  • The Ordination Hall is placed in conjunction with the pagodas at the temple, and it is decorated with the Niramitr Buddha image, which was brought into life by King Rama II. King Rama II took the responsibility of crafting Buddha using wood and proceeded further by covering the design in gold leaf.

Bangkok sports a multitude of temples and historical sites and Wat Arun certainly makes one of the most appealing and attractive temples to visit in Bangkok. The architectural structure of the temple is immensely aesthetically pleasing, which provokes the tourists to pay a visit to the temple.