Wat Arun Rajawararam Rajawaramahavihara (Wat Chaeng) | First Class Royal Temple | Presiding Buddha Image: Phra Buddha Dhammisornraj Lokathatdilok | Temple of King Rama II Phrabat Somdet Phra Buddha Loetla Nabhalai
Wat Arun Rajawararam or Wat Chaeng is a First Class Royal Temple and it is also a Royal temple of King Rama II (or Phrabat Somdet Phra Buddha Loetla Nabhalai of Chakri dynasty). It was built during the Ayutthaya period. Although there is no evidence of which king ordered the building of the temple, according to the French Admiral Claude de Forbin and his officer Mr. De Lamare who came to Siam during the King Narai or Ramathibodhi III of Ayutthaya period from 1656-1688, the French made a map of Siam and Wat Arun was on the map. Wat Arun is located on the west side of the Chao Phraya river. The temple’s old main hall or Uposatha and Vihara or Buddha image hall were located in front of the temple’s Stupa or Phra Prang. Ayutthaya craftsmen are presumed to be the builder of the Uposatha, the Virara and the Phra Prang.
Wat Arun Rajawararam’s old name was Wat Makok and it was named after its location, Tambon (district) Makok. There were two temples on Makok district, so one was Wat Makok Nai (Wat Nuannoradit Waravihara) and the other was called Wat Makok Nok to differentiate the temples. In 1767, when King Taksin Maharat , the only King of the Thonburi period, sailed along the Chao Phraya river and arrived at Wat Makok Nork at the break of dawn, he was very impressed by its beautiful Stupa or Phra Prang. Consequently he renamed the temple to “Wat Chaeng” which literally means “dawn” in Thai. In 1768 when King Taksin Maharat moved the capital from Ayutthaya to Thonburi, he built a new royal place and expanded the royal grounds, Wat Chaeng was right in the middle of the new royal palace. According to the tradition, any temple or Wat that was located in the royal place should not be occupied by monks. Another reason why King Taksin Maharat decided to have the temple inside the palace might have been to follow an old tradition of the Ayutthaya period when Wat Phra Sri Sanpetch was located inside the royal palace.
In the Thai royal chronicles, it stated that the restoration of Wat Arun included the Uposatha or the main hall and Vihara or the Buddha image hall, and there was a new palace wall was built around the temple. Wat Chaeng or Wat Arun was considered the main temple of the capital. It was where The Emerald Buddha, the palladium of the Kingdom of Siam (Kingdom of Thailand) rested. In 1779 Chao Phraya Charki or King Rama I captured Vientiane and invited The Emerald Buddha along with Phra Bang (Laos’s Buddha’s image) back to Thonburi. The celebration of the return of The Emerald Buddha lasted for 2 months and 12 days until Vesākha Day, the full moon day on the sixth month of the Thai calendar year. The Emerald Buddha was moved to a Mondop, a square hall with a pyramid roof, behind the old Uposatha and the old Vihara in front of the Stupa. After the moved was completed another celebration for the event was held for 7 days 7 nights.
After the coronation of King Rama I, the king wanted to build a new capital located on the east side of the Chao Phraya river. He ordered that the wall that surrounded Wat Arun should be removed. As Wat Arun was no longer on the palace grounds. King Rama I invited Phra Pothiwongsajarn from Wat Bang Wa Yai (Wat Rakhang Khositaram) to be an abbot along with a handful of high ranking monks. Phra Chao Luk Ya Ther Chao Fah Krom Luang Issara Sunthorn, who later became King Rama II, was assigned to overlook the restoration of Wat Arun. Unfortunately only the monk’s living quarters were completed before the end of the King Rama I period in 1809.
Another important event occurred in 1784, when King Rama II invited The Emerald Buddha from Wat Arun to instead rest in the Royal Grand Palace and returned Phra Bang to the Laos people. When the restoration was finally finished at Wat Arun, 7 days 7 nights celebration was held, and the temple was then given the new name to Wat Arun Rajawararam.
Later, during the King Rama III period, the King also ordered a further restoration of Wat Arun. He designed and ordered the building of a new Stupa in the temple. In 1851, the King Rama III era ended. In the same year, on King Rama IV’s coronation, the King continued the restoration of Wat Arun Rajawararam, and moved King Rama II’s cremains to be located under the throne of the main Buddha Image in the main hall, Phra Buddha Dhammisornraj Lokathatdilok. King Rama IV then renamed the temple ‘Wat Arun Rajawararam’ and it has been the official name of the temple from then until the present day.
Bangkok Yai, Bangkok, Thailand.
Bus Nos. 19, 57, 83
The Temple is Open Daily from 08.30 A.M. - 05.00 P.M.
Special Thanks to Khun Naifah Chandrabhaya, Mr.Stephen Jaggs editor.
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