Wat Bowonniwet Vihara is a highly significant Buddhist temple that was built during the reign of King Nagklao (Rama III) in 1829. The temple is considered as a first class Royal temple because it housed several members of the Royal Family.
Wat Bowonniwet Vihara, or Wat Bowonniwet for short, is a highly significant Buddhist temple that was built during the reign of King Nangklao (Rama III) in 1829. Originally, the temple was called Wat Mai and it was a couplet of two temples separated by a canal. In 1923 the two temples were merged into what is currently know at Wat Bowonniwet. The temple serves as
a school for Thai Theravada Buddhism, containing a chedi, a Ho Trai or scripture library, as well living headquarter for a monks. Additionally, the temple is considered as a first class Royal temple because it housed several members of the Royal Family.
One of the most visible features within this structure is a 50-meter high golden chedi. The chedi preserves sacred relics and its lower terrace shelters the portrayals of holy beings from Hindu mythology. Furthermore, the chedi houses the ashes of Thai royalty. Next to the chedi is the temple’s scripture library, the Ho Trai. Within this library visitors can see the antique boxes that contain ancient Buddhist texts written on dried palm leafs, as well as walls that are adorned with murals.
Long before the temple served as a residence for the kings, the Royal Family had strong ties
with the temple. The first strong tie was perhaps the relationship between Prince Monkut and Wat Bowonniet. During 1836 Prince Monkgut found an order of Theravada Buddishm as became the first abbot of the temple, or head of the monks. One of the buildings within the temple, the Viharn Geng, contains some of the ashes of King Mongkut within the base of one of the three Buddha images.
As mentioned before, in earlier times the temple was a complex of two structures, each containing its own monastery. During the reign of King Rama VI, from 1910-1925, the two monasteries were joined into one, which received the monkhood years of King Rama IV before his succession to the throne. Other kings that resided within the ordination hall, or the ubosot, during their monkhood were King Rama VII and Rama IX. The grounds of the temple not only contain the ubosot, but several Phra Tamnak building as well, or residences for Thai Royalty, or high-ranking Buddhist monks. Visitors might notice that the structures’ architecture presents a mix of Thai, Chinese, and European designs.
Wat Bowonniwet is located on Phra Sumen Road, within Bangkok’s Phra Nakhon district. Its location is not too far from the Grand Palace, with an estimated charge of 50-100 Baht ($1.50-$3.00 USD) if traveling by taxi from that location. Visitors should know that there is no SkyTrain BTS station nearby; therefore the most convenient way to travel is via taxi or through the Chao Phraya boat express. The temple opens daily from 6:00 in the morning until 6:00 in the afternoon. Visitors will be glad to know that there is no admission fee. Another worthy mention is that visitors should not wear any other revealing clothing, such as tank tops and shorts. Being culturally sensitive is important and visitors should respect the temple by dressing appropriately.