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Wat Suthat


Brahmanism predated the arrival of Buddhism in Thailand and its rituals were eventually integrated into the dominant religion. Wat Suthat is the headquarters of the Brahman priests who perform the Royal Ploughing Ceremony in May. Begun by Rama I (King Phraphutthayotfa; r 1782–1809) and completed in later reigns, Wat Suthat boasts a wí·hăhn with gilded bronze Buddha images (including Phra Si Sakayamuni, one of the largest surviving Sukhothai bronzes) and incredibly expansive Jataka (stories of the Buddha’s previous lives) murals.

The wát also holds the rank of Rachavoramahavihan, the highest royal-temple grade; the ashes of Rama VIII (Ananda Mahidol, the current king’s deceased older brother) are contained in the base of the main Buddha image in the wí·hăhn .

Wat Suthat’s priests also perform rites at two nearby Hindu shrines: Thewa Sathaan (Deva Sathan), which contains images of Shiva and Ganesh; and the smaller Saan Jao Phitsanu (Vishnu Shrine), dedicated to Vishnu.

The spindly red arch in the front of the temple is Sao Ching-Cha (Giant Swing), as much a symbol of Bangkok as Wat Phra Kaew. The swing formerly hosted a spectacular Brahman festival in honour of Shiva, in which participants would swing in ever-higher arcs in an effort to reach a bag of gold suspended from a 15m bamboo pole. Many died trying and the ritual was discontinued during the reign of Rama VII (King Prajadhipok; r 1925–35). In 2007 the decaying swing was ceremoniously replaced with the current model, made from six specially chosen teak logs from Phrae Province in northern Thailand.

The temple is within walking distance of the klorng boats’ terminus at Tha Phan Fah.

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