Wat Benchamabophit: the marble temple near the Dusit Palace

Bangkok 1000 temples. Wat Benchamabophit. Marble temple
Entrance to Wat Benchamabophit. By Supanut Arunoprayote [CC BY]

Wat Benchamabophit Dusitvanaram ( วัดเบญจมบพิตรดุสิตวนาราม) received its name from its meaning transcribed from Thai: “Monastery of the fifth King near Dusit Palace”. The temple is also known to foreign visitors as the marble temple ( วัดหินอ่อน) because it is built from Carrara marble imported from Italy. Four majestic marble pillars characterize the entrance, and even the colossal courtyard is made of bright white marble.

Construction of the temple began in 1899 at the request of King Chulalongkorn ( จุฬาลงกรณ์), King Rama V, after building his palace, the Dusit Palace ( พระราชวังดุสิต), in the vicinity nearby on the location of an old temple complex dating from the early 19th century, where the King was previously ordained as a monk for a short time in 1873.

The Dusit Palace is a huge complex of royal palaces, halls, and mansions including the Ananta Samakhom, the Abhisek Throne Hall, and the Vimanmek Royal Mansion, all of them in Dusit district ( เขตดุสิต).

Bangkok 1000 temples. Wat Benchamabophit. Marble temple
Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, next to the Royal Plaza, also known as the Equestrian Plaza in Dusit Palace. By Supanut Arunoprayote [CC BY-SA]

The marble temple is a first-class royal temple and the last significant temple built in Bangkok (between 1899 and 1911) and a fact that also had made it well known is that the reverse of 5-Baht coins depicts the Ubosot of the temple.

The temple is situated at the crossroads of Rama V Road ( ถนนพระรามที่  5) and Si Ayutthaya Road ( ถนนศรีอยุธยา) and it’s located near the many government offices and palaces. The temple is profoundly revered and is often visited by high-ranked officials.

Bangkok 1000 temples. Wat Benchamabophit. Marble temple
Phra Buddha Chinnarat at Wat Benchamabophit. By PEAK99 [CC BY]

The Ubosot (ordination hall) was designed by the king’s half-brother, Prince Narisara Nuvativongse and houses the main bronze Buddha image, the Phra Buddha Chinnarat which sits in front of a subtle illuminated blue backdrop. Golden decorated windows give a serene appearance to the ordination hall in broad daylight. A Bodhi tree, which was conveyed from Bodhgaya in India, also sits behind the ordination hall.

The ashes of King Rama V are buried under the temple’s bronze main Buddha sculpture and so, the temple is dedicated to him. This Buddha statue is a replica of the original Phra Buddha Chinnarat ( พระพุทธชินราช), a sumptuous 7 centuries-old statue settled in Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat in Phitsanulok province.

Bangkok 1000 temples. Wat Benchamabophit. Marble temple
The original image of Phra Buddha Chinnarat at Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat in Phitsanulok. By Takeaway [CC BY-SA]

The temple architecture represents typical Bangkok styling of high, stepped-out multi-tiered sloped roofs. Built entirely of Italian marble, the walls have elaborate ornamental fittings on them. The shiny white marble courtyard gives us a panoramic view of the Carrara marble pillars.

Bangkok 1000 temples. Wat Benchamabophit. Marble temple
Detail of the facade with lion statues guarding the entrance of the temple. By Deror Avi [CC BY-SA]

The entrance is well guarded by two huge stone lions on either side and four impressive marble pillars. Gold crossbeams decorate the interiors and the walls are covered with niche paintings of stupas from all over the country. 52 Images of Buddha reside along the covered walk around the assembly hall.

Bangkok 1000 temples. Wat Benchamabophit. Marble temple
Buddha image in the cloister. By PEAK99 – Own work, CC BY 3.0, Link

Monks reside in private quarters across the canal close to the marble temple. Worshippers from the local community outside bring offerings for the monks every morning at around 6 am. Monks line up each day to receive the daily essentials from the visitors in the form of alms. Important Buddhist festivals of Makha Bucha ( มาฆบูชา) and Visakha Bucha ( วิสาขบูชา) are observed by doing candlelight procession around the temple during the evenings. Fewer people, well-kept quiet gardens, a small stream, and pretty bridges create an enchanting ambiance. A genuine seeker is enlightened to discover the original Bodhi tree which rests within the temple premises.

Bangkok 1000 temples. Wat Benchamabophit. Marble temple
Water pavilion and bridge between the monks and people area. By Aimaimyi – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

King Chulalongkorn is said to have spent time at this temple as a monk prior to being coronated.

You can get there by taxi. The shortest ride is from Phaya Thai BTS station ( สถานีรถไฟฟ้าพญาไท), and the temple is just 2.5 kilometers away. Tuk-tuk is available if you are commuting from the Dusit area. The temple opens daily from 8 am to 5.30 pm. Being in a Thai temple, dress appropriately and try your best not to offend anyone. Shoes need to be taken off before entering the building. There is a reasonable entry fee into the temple and photography is allowed on the premises. It is recommended to get a private tour guide along and set aside half a day to relish all that this marble temple has to offer.