Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Wat Benchamabophit, The Marble Temple

Wat Benchamabophit Dusitvanaram is a Buddhist temple (wat) in the Dusit district of Bangkok, Thailand. Also known as the marble temple, it is one of Bangkok's most beautiful[pea term] temples and a major tourist attraction. It typifies Bangkok's ornate style of high gables, stepped-out roofs and elaborate finials.One of Bangkok’s most beautiful temples is the Wat Benchamabophit, also known as “the marble temple” or Wat Ben. As it is classified as a first class Royal temple, it is also a temple of significant importance.

The official name of the temple is Wat Benchamabophit Dusitwanaram, which means “the Monastery of the fifth King near Dusit Palace”, the fifth King being King Chulalongkorn the Great (Rama V).Wat Benchamabophit (the Marble Temple) is named for the gleaming white Carrara marble (from Italy) of which it is constructed. The most modern and one of the most beautiful of Bangkok's royal wats, Wat Benchamabophit is also notable for its use of European designs.Wat Benchamabophit Dusitwanaran is often referred to by Bangkok locals as ‘Wat Ben’, but overseas visitors may know it better as the Marble Temple. Wat Benchamabophit is one of Thailand’s most famous temples and features on the back of Thailand’s 5-Baht coin.Work began on constructing Wat Benchamabophit Dusitwanaran in 1899 during the reign of King Chulalongkorn (King Rama V). Much like the nearby Dusit Palace and Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, there is a European influence in the design of Wat Benchamabophit with Italian white marble used extensively throughout the temple. Following the death and cremation of King Rama V, his ashes were placed in the base of the main Buddha image which can be found in the ordination hall. 

Wat Benchamabophit is classified as a top-ranking royal temple with connections not only to King Rama V but also to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej who stayed here as a young man when he ordained as a monk.Although the temple itself isn’t as grand as Wat Pho or Wat Phra Kaeo, it is still an attractive cluster of buildings and with Wat Ben attracting fewer tourists than the previously mentioned temples, it’s worth a look if you are in the Dusit area visiting other attractions such as the Vimanmek Teak Mansion.You might recognise this temple from the back of the 5B coin. Made of white marble imported from Italy, the distinctive bòht (ordination hall) of Wat Ben, as it's colloquially known, was built in the late 19th century under Rama V. The base of the central Buddha image, a copy of Phitsanulok's revered Phra Phuttha Chinnarat, contains his ashes.The structure is a unique example of modern Thai temple architecture, as is the interior design, which melds Thai features with European influences: the red carpets, the gold-on-white motifs painted repetitively on the walls, the walls painted like stained-glass windows and the royal blue wall behind the central Buddha image are strongly reminiscent of a European palace. It's not all that surprising when you consider how enamoured Rama V was with Europe – just walk across the street to Dusit Palace Park for further evidence.The courtyard behind the bòht has 53 Buddha images (33 originals and 20 copies) representing every mudra (gesture) and style from Thai history, making this the ideal place to compare Buddhist iconography. If religious imagery isn't your thing, this temple still offers a pleasant stroll beside landscaped canals filled with blooming lotus and Chinese-style footbridges.


History of Wat Benchamabophit:-Wat Benchamabophit was built in 1899 by Prince Narai, half-brother of Rama V. Thailand's current king spent his days as a monk here before his coronation. Today, it is not only a magnificent Thai temple, but a seat of learning for Buddhist monks with intellectual interests.Bangkok's temples are a unique part of the capital's heart and soul. A visit here would not be complete without seeing at least two of them. The architecture is awe-inspiring and the glittering decoration like no other. Imagine thousands of pieces of coloured glass and pottery adorned with intricate structures gilded in glaring gold - you're indeed in a City of Angels! The best time to visit most temples is in the early morning. It's cooler and generally less crowded. The temples ('wats') are not just tourist attractions but also play an important part in Buddhist traditions. Monks live in the temple complexes, wake up around 04:00, attend to prayers and duties and then collect food and necessities from ordinary people on the streets. If you are up very early in Bangkok you will see monks walking around, dressed in saffron coloured robes. This daily alms ritual (called 'tak baht') takes place all over Thailand and is part of the Buddhist philosophy of giving and making merit to attain a better life beyond this one. It's daunting to visit all the temples, so we've listed in the following sections those in the 'must- visit' category, according to their beauty, cultural significance and high regard in Buddhism. Please not that most temples are not open after 18:00. Thai temples are sacred places so you must dress appropriately. No shorts or revealing tops, otherwise you won't be allowed in. This applies particularly to Wat Phra Kaew (inside the Grand Palace.)

What to See at Wat Benchamabophit:-True to its name, the Marble Temple gleams with the polished white stone from Carrara's quarries, including the pavement of the courtyards. Unlike the older temple complexes in Bangkok, the Marble Temple has no central wihaan or chedi. Instead, it has many smaller buildings that combine European influences (such as stained-glass windows) with traditional Thai religious architecture. The main bot contains a golden Buddha statue against an illuminated blue backdrop.Beyond the main bot is a cloister containing over 50 bronze Buddha images in many different styles, representing various Buddhist countries and regions. Behind the cloister is a large Bodhi tree, bought from Bodhgaya (where the Buddha found Enlightenment) as a gift for King Chulalongkorn.


Wat Benchamabophit is an excellent place to watch religious festivals and processions. Unlike most other temples, monks do not go out seeking alms but are instead visited by merit-makers from 6-7am. During the early mornings, monks chant beautifully and intensely in the main chapel.

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