The Wat Phra Kaew Temple of the Emerald Buddha in the grounds of the Royal Thai Grand Palace is regarded as the most sacred Buddist temple in Thailand. The word 'Wat' means temple.
I expected a huge impressive Green Emerald Buddha statue. I was disappointed as it was quite small. It is on top of a huge pyramidal altar in the middle of the building. The emerald Buddha is in fact made out of Jadeite which is one of the minerals recognised as the gemstone Jade.
The temple building is outstanding. As you enter the Grand Palace from the street and walk down the avenue to the ticket office you can see the Wat Phra Kaew Temple of the Emerald Buddha on your left. Look for the very large gold tower that looks like an up turned ice cream cone.
It is called a Chedi which is the name given to an ornamentally sarcophagus for storing the ashes of important people. The giant golden Phra Si Ratana Chedi, was built in the 19th-century in Sri Lankan style and supposedly enshrines the ashes of the Buddha.
The older Buddhist temples like Wat Arun and the bell shaped cremation ash storage structures called Chedi are built in the shape of the mythical Buddhist mountain called Meru that is supposed to exist somewhere beyond the physical plane of reality in the realm of perfection and transcendence. The Buddhist equivalent to heaven.
The whole compound is always full of tourists and the Thai faithful. You spend a lot of time trying to avoid getting in other people's photographs or waiting for people to get out of yours. It is a pretty amazing place to visit even though it is crowded.
The large 5 meter tall giant 'Yaksa Tavarnbal' mythical guardian statues by the temple entrance gates are awe inspiring. I particularly liked the figures that line the walls and appear to be holding up part of the building. The murals inside the temple wall tell the Ramayana epic story and are worth studying
The Green Emerald Buddha Temple
The Green Emerald Buddha statue is clothed with garments made of gold. There are three different sets of gold clothing, which are changed by the King of Thailand in a ceremony that matched the changing of the three tropical Thailand seasons. The three sets of gold garments match Thailand's summer season, rainy season, and cool season. It is an important Royal ritual performed to usher in good fortune to Thailand during each season. The two sets of gold clothing not in use at any given time are kept on display in the nearby Royal Grand Palace Museum on the grounds of the Grand Palace, where the public may view them.
The Emerald Buddha, which is believed to have been created in India in 43 BC, travelled to Sri Lanka three hundred years later, then to Cambodia in 457 AD, to Ayutthaya in 1434 following the capture of Angkor Wat, to Chiang Saen a hundred years later, to Chiang Rai, then to Lamphang until 1468, to Chiang Mai until 1552, to Luang Prabang until 1564, to the new capital in Vientiane until 1779, and finally to Thonburi until 22 March, 1784, when it was installed at Wat Phra Kaew temple in the grounds of the Thai Royal Grand Palace, in Rattanakosin, Bangkok where it stays to this day. It is kept in the main building of the temple, called the Ubosoth.
It is compulsory to remove the shoes before entering the temple, as a sign of respect of the Buddha. It is rude to display the soles of your feet towards the Buddha. While offering prayers before the Buddha image, the Thai's sit with there feet tucked in pointing backwards to avoid any offensive stretching of feet towards the deity. There is no photography allowed in the temple building that houses the emerald Buddha.