A Guide to Wat Suthat in Bangkok
Wat Suthat Thepwararam, a renowned temple in Bangkok, is a cherished center for Buddhist worship, attracting devotees who come to pay homage to the revered Phra Sri Sakayamuni Buddha image it enshrines and for its iconic Giant Swing (Sao Ching Cha).
Name (Eng): Wat Suthat Thepawararam Rajaworamahaviharn
Name (Thai): วัดสุทัศนเทพวราราม
Address: 146 Bamrung Mueang Rd, Wat Ratchabophit, Phra Nakhon
Opening Hours: 8.00 to 17.00 daily
Entrance Fee: 100 baht for foreigners
Quick Note: During our visit, the temple was under significant reconstruction
Length of Trip: ~1 hour
Trip Type: cultural / historical
Age Restrictions: none
Dress Code: modest and conservative
Wat Suthat’s vihara is home to the highly revered Phra Sri Sakayamuni Buddha image, which was brought from Ayutthaya in the 18th century. This 8-meter-tall bronze cast statue is considered one of the most sacred Buddha images in Thailand and is ~670 years old.
Its seated position in the meditation posture, with the hands in the Dhyana Mudra, represents the moment of the Buddha’s enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. The Phra Sri Sakayamuni itself, is surrounded by a series of smaller Buddha images and intricate murals of ancient Siam.
Stepping out of the viharn’s sanctified interior, you’ll discover open-air structures, often referred to as “sala kan parian” in Thai. These pavilions serve as more than just architectural embellishments within the temple complex. They are places of reflection and meditation, where devotees can sit in quiet reverence, surrounded by the subtle scent of incense, under the timeless wisdom of the Buddha.
In a long rectangular stretch, Wat Suthat’s outer hall features 156 Buddha images, each about 2 meters tall and resemble the Phra Sri Sakayamuni inside the Viharn. These images serve as repositories for the ashes of deceased family members and are adopted by wealthy households.
The images meticulously arranged in rows facing the main viharn, create a visually striking scene within the temple compound. During major festivals such as Wesak and Songkran, families come to the temple to clean the adopted images and gather around them in commemoration.
The Phra Ubosot at Wat Suthat, commissioned by King Rama III and completed in 1834, is among Thailand’s largest for ordination purposes, measuring approximately 72.25 meters in height and 22.60 meters in width, supported by 68 massive rectangular pillars.
Inside, the central focus is the impressive Phra Buddha Trilokachet, measuring over 5 meters in width and 8.45 meters in height, crafted in a seated “Marn Vichai” style symbolizing Buddha’s victory over demons. The image rests on an elevated platform adorned with exquisite gold, gemstone, and mosaic decorations. In front of the bronze Buddha, around 80 statues represent Buddha’s disciples in postures of attentive listening.
Wat Suthat’s origins can be traced back to the visionary reign of King Rama I (1782-1809), who founded the Chakri Dynasty. His desire to create a significant royal temple in the heart of Bangkok led to the establishment of Wat Suthat in 1807. It was constructed on the grounds of a pre-existing temple, Wat Phra That Mongkhon, which dated back to the Ayutthaya period.
Amongst the 400+ temples in Bangkok, Wat Suthat stands as a remarkable architectural masterpiece, blending Thai, Khmer, and Chinese design elements. The temple’s unique blend of architectural styles is a testament to the cultural diversity and artistic fusion that characterized Thailand during its formative years.
Over the centuries, Wat Suthat has played a vital role in royal ceremonies and cultural events. Today, the temple continues to be a venue for important religious rituals, including the annual Kathin ceremony, where locals offer robes to monks. ts role in both royal and religious ceremonies underscores its enduring significance as a cultural and spiritual center.
Wat Suthat is conveniently located in the historic district of Bangkok and can be reached easily using various modes of transportation, including the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) subway system.
By MRT (Subway): Take the subway to the Sam Yot MRT Station. From the station, you can either take a motorcycle taxi or walk to the temple, which is ~500 meters away.
By Taxi or Tuk-Tuk: If you prefer to take a taxi or tuk-tuk directly from your location to Wat Suthat, simply provide the temple’s name to the driver, and they should be able to take you there without any issues. It’s a well-known landmark in Bangkok.
By Private Car: Park at J Park, Sao Chingcha, for a small fee – the temple is ~300 meters away.
Exploring Wat Saket after visiting Wat Suthat in Bangkok is a seamless and enriching journey through the city’s Buddhist heritage. With their close proximity, you can easily transition from the historical and artistic depth of Wat Suthat to the awe-inspiring heights of Wat Saket, also known as the Golden Mount Temple. Wat Saket offers a unique experience as it sits atop an artificial hill, providing panoramic views of Bangkok’s skyline.
The Giant Swing in Bangkok, known as “Sao Ching Cha” in Thai, holds a rich and storied history that spans centuries. As a symbol of both religious and cultural significance, its history is a reflection of Thailand’s spiritual and traditional heritage.
Origins & Early History:
The Giant Swing is believed to have been constructed in the late 18th century during the reign of King Rama I (1782-1809), the founder of the Chakri Dynasty. It was originally located in front of the Devasathan Shrine, dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.
Ritual & Significance:
The primary purpose of the Giant Swing was to host an annual Brahmin ceremony known as the “Triyampawai,” which was held to appease the Hindu god Shiva and seek his blessings for a bountiful harvest.
The ceremony involved young Brahmin men swinging on ropes tied to the Giant Swing’s structure, attempting to reach a bag of gold coins suspended from a bamboo pole. This was a highly dangerous ritual and was eventually discontinued in the early 20th century due to several accidents.
Transition to Buddhism:
In 1920, the government of Thailand officially declared Buddhism as the state religion. As a result, Hindu ceremonies were gradually replaced by Buddhist rituals. The Giant Swing, being a symbol of a Hindu rite, was no longer in use for its original purpose.
Relocation & Restoration:
In 1920, the Giant Swing was moved to its current location, in front of the Wat Suthat Thepwararam temple, which was under construction at the time. This relocation was part of King Rama VI’s efforts to consolidate religious sites and create a more unified spiritual landscape in Bangkok.
The Giant Swing underwent several restorations over the years to ensure its structural integrity. The last major restoration took place in 2007, funded by both public and private donations.
Symbolism & Cultural Significance:
Today, the Giant Swing stands as a symbol of Bangkok’s rich cultural heritage and a testament to its history. It has become an iconic landmark in the city.
The structure is an impressive architectural marvel, with its towering red pillars and intricate design. It is often a focal point for cultural events and ceremonies.
UNESCO World Heritage Status:
In 2005, Thailand nominated the Giant Swing and its neighboring temples, Wat Suthat and Wat Ratchabophit, for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Although it has not yet received this status, the nomination reflects the site’s cultural significance.
In conclusion, the history of the Giant Swing in Bangkok is a captivating narrative of cultural evolution and transition, from its original Hindu ritualistic purpose to its current role as a symbol of Thai heritage and spirituality. Today, visitors to Bangkok can admire its grandeur and appreciate the enduring legacy it represents.
As of 2023, the entrance fee is 100 Thai Baht for foreigners to visit Wat Suthat.
For Thai nationals, entrance to the temple is free.
The best time to visit Wat Suthat, like many temples in Thailand, is early in the morning. Arriving in the morning allows you to experience the temple in a tranquil and serene atmosphere before the crowds begin to gather. The cool morning air and soft sunlight create a peaceful ambiance, making it an ideal time for meditation and reflection, while appreciating the temple’s architectural and artistic details.
Additionally, early morning visits offer the opportunity to witness monks’ morning rituals, providing insights into Thai Buddhist culture. If you prefer a quieter and more contemplative visit, aim to arrive at the temple shortly after it opens to fully enjoy its spiritual and historical significance.
When visiting Wat Suthat, as with many Buddhist temples in Thailand, it’s important to dress modestly and respectfully to show reverence for the sacredness of the place. Below are some dress code guidelines to follow:
Clothing: Wear clothing that covers your shoulders, arms, and knees. Sleeveless tops, short skirts, shorts, and revealing clothing should be avoided. Loose-fitting, comfortable attire is appropriate.
Footwear: Remove your shoes before entering temple buildings and certain areas of the temple grounds. Most temples provide areas or racks for shoe storage.
Hats & Sunglasses: Remove hats, caps, and sunglasses when entering temple buildings.
Tattoos: If you have tattoos, especially those with religious or offensive symbols, try to keep them covered as a sign of respect.
By adhering to these dress code guidelines, you not only show respect for the temple and its spiritual significance but also ensure a smooth and culturally sensitive visit.
Yes, Wat Suthat is certainly worth visiting. This temple stands as a remarkable testament to Thailand’s cultural and spiritual heritage, boasting stunning architecture, intricate artwork, and a serene ambiance that invites introspection. From the exquisite ubosot with its hand-carved wooden door panels and the revered Phra Buddha Trilokachet statue to the iconic Giant Swing nearby, Wat Suthat offers a captivating blend of history, artistry, and spirituality.