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Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)

Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) lies on the banks of the Chao Praya River. It is directly opposite Wat Pho and can be reached by a boat ride. A cool breeze swept over me as I relaxed and gazed at the boats moving on the undulating waves. To call this a boat ride will be a big overstatement as mostly the boat simply drifted from one bank to the other. That was the shortest boat ride of my life! As the shore approached, from my boat, I could see the tall towering prang (Khmer style tall tower like spire) – surrounded by renovation barricades .

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Wat Arun was built in the days of Thailand’s ancient capital Ayutthaya. It was then known as Wat Makok (Olive Temple). When Ayutthaya was captured by the Burmese Army, King Taksin arrived at this temple just as the dawn was breaking and vowed to restore the temple. He built his new capital Thonburi near the temple and renamed the temple Wat Chaeng.  This temple also hosted the Emerald Buddha after it was recaptured from Laos. Later Taksin’s successor, King Rama I moved the palace and Emerald Buddha to the present Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew. Wat Chaeng was abandoned for a long time until Rama II decided to restore the temple and extend the central prang. During the age of Rama III, the prang was decorated with porcelain. The temple was later renamed after the Indian God of Dawn, Aruna in the honor of founding the new Ayutthaya by King Taksin. The first light of the morning rays are reflected off the surface of this temple. During the age of King Rama IV, the temple was then renamed to Wat Arunratchawararam.

Ashes of King Rama II are enshrined in the base of main Buddha Statue at Wat Arun.

The Central Prang is built in Khmer Style of architecture and is encrusted with beautiful and colorful porcelain and seashells. In the bright sun, the prangs looked rich in the shades of white, green, gold and amber.

It was fascinating to see the references of Hindu mythology blended in the architecture. The huge trident gleaming brightly on top of the prangs looked like Trident of Shiva. The figures shown to be supporting the central prang are both gods and demons.

On the second terrace of the central prang, there are statues of Indra riding on his white elephant (Erawan). One needs to look closely as those levels were under restoration. The base of the prang had various figures of ancient Chinese soldiers and animals. The smaller prangs were devoted to the god of wind, Phra Phai (riding on a horse).

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The central prang symbolizes Mount Meru representing the center of the universe. We could climb till the first terrace which was open for the tourists. I wondered if the view to the grand palace and Wat Pho would be clear on the higher levels.

There were bells tied on every corners of the prangs. As I circumambulated the area, I could hear the bells chiming with the breeze.

Wat Arun is the last stop in Thailand’s  Royal Barge Procession. The Royal Barge Procession began during the Ayutthaya period in 14th century. During King Taksin’s reign, he ordered the construction of a barge fleet to carry the Emerald Buddha to his new capital.  The most recent Royal Barge Procession was in 2012.

Copyright ©2017, Lakshmi Nair . This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.

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