Wat Intharawihan: the temple of the standing Buddha

Bangkok 1000 temples. Wat Intharawihan
Standing Buddha at Wat Intharawihan. Front view. Photo by Discovering Bangkok

Wat Intharawihan ( วัดอินทรวิหาร) is a third-class royal temple. The temple complex stands close to the Rama VIII bridge ( สะพานพระราม 8) crossing on the Chao Phraya river. And it’s very popular for its 32 meters high standing Buddha statue is also known as Luang Pho To ( หลวงพ่อโต), that could be translated as Reverend Father To. Even though this is the only standing Buddha in the entire city, the place is not very crowded.

History

The temple was originally called Wat Rai Phrik ( วัดไร่พริก) and was built during the beginning of the Ayutthaya kingdom. The name was derived from the surrounding vegetable gardens. It was restored by Chao Inthawong and renamed to its current name during the reign of King Vajiravudh, aka King Rama VI ( รัชกาลที่ 6).

Bangkok 1000 temples. Wat Intharawihan
Statue of Somdej Toh at the Ubosot of the temple. By Jason7825 [CC BY-SA]

Construction of the 105 ft high Buddha statue began in 1867 and was completed after 60 years. The then Abbott, Somdej Toh died at the foot of the statue while it was being built and soon became the inspiration behind this statue. He was one of the most famous Buddhist monks during the Rattanakosin period and continues to be the most broadly known monk in Thailand. Somdej Toh also became the preceptor for Prince Mongkut, when he was a monk, and later reigning as King Rama IV ( รัชกาลที่ 4).

Architecture

The architectural styling dates back to the Ayutthaya period and is a true representation of religious Thai artform. Welcoming lanterns line up the entrance. Decorated in Italian glass mosaics, the statue is covered with a thin layer of 24-carat gold.

Bangkok 1000 temples. Wat Intharawihan
Ubosot of Wat Intharawihan beside standing Buddha statue. By Aimaimyi [CC BY-SA]

The top of the statue contains a relic of the Buddha gifted by the Sri Lanka Government and installed by Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, the current monarch of Thailand reigning as King Rama X. The lower part of the ordination hall (Ubosot) is decorated with Italian marble while traditional paintings ornate the walls.

Bangkok 1000 temples. Wat Intharawihan
Buddha statues at the Buddha museum inside the temple. By กสิณธร ราชโอรส [CC BY-SA]

The statue leans against a 32 meters high cemented tower. One can climb up the stairs to have a good view around. There is a Buddha museum which displays Buddha images of all sizes and other artist impressions. An interesting water fountain in the compound contains water from 108 sacred locations.

Worship

The revered Buddha statue dominates the area and stands gracefully with alms bowl. Devotees believe in the powerful aura that the pious statue radiates and feel blessed in His presence. Devotees offer boiled egg, incense sticks and a garland of flowers with deep reverence to the Buddha. A separately constructed chamber has a wax image of an abbot, Phra Puttahachan placed over a spring of water. This chamber shelves also hold water preserved from various regions of Thailand.

Bangkok 1000 temples. Wat Intharawihan
Worshippers praying at the feet of the giant Buddha statue at Wat Intharawihan By Vmenkov – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link.

The temple complex also houses a separate shrine dedicated to a female form of Avalokiteśvara, the Guanyin. Sound of tinkling bells fills up the entire temple ground. Together with the chanting monks, the tranquility picks up quickly on you. Soak yourself for a while as there is a place to sit and meditate. Wat Intharawihan hosts a huge annual temple fair during the first 10 days of March.

Getting there

You can take a Chao Phraya express riverboat up to Rama VIII pier ( ท่าเรือพระราม 8). If you are not close to the river get a metered taxi. Tuk-tuk is convenient for commuting from nearby areas. The temple complex opens daily from 8:30 am until 8 pm and has a small admission fee. Weekends are generally busy so plan accordingly.

Wat Intharawihan is an impressive spot to be on your list of visits if you are in Bangkok.