Temple of the Emerald Buddha – Bangkok

It is the Indian connection of the Emerald Buddha that made me put Wat Phra Kaew in the must see list of Bangkok. This temple, considered the Mecca of the Buddhists is housed in the Grand Palace. So beautiful is the architecture with golden spires and glittering mosaics that it is easy to get lost admiring the details in the 98.5 hectares compound.

The idol is 66cm tall and 48.3cms wide at the lap. It is dark green in color and we saw it wrapped in a golden robe, since it was the rainy season. We were told the idol is wrapped in three different costumes at the start of the three seasons the rainy, the winter and the summer. The King of Thailand is the only privileged person in the country to carry out this duty. The actual material is probably jasper quartz or nephrite jade and not emerald.


The history of the idol is interesting. Wiki mentions: The Emerald Buddha was created in India in 43 BC by Nagasena in the city of Pataliputra (today Patna in Bihar, India). The legends state that after remaining in Pataliputra for three hundred years, it was taken to Sri Lanka to save it from a civil war. In 457, King Anuruth of Burma sent a mission to Ceylon to ask for Buddhist scriptures and the Emerald Buddha, in order to support Buddhism in his country. These requests were granted, but the ship lost its way in a storm during the return voyage and landed in Cambodia. When the Thais captured Angkor Wat in 1432 (following the ravage of the bubonic plague), the Emerald Buddha was taken to Ayutthaya, Kamphaeng Phet, Laos and finally Chiang Rai, where the ruler of the city hid it.

This it seems is a legend. The mudra (hand gestures with a religious meaning) of the idol resembles the images of Buddha in Southern India and Sri Lanka; it is only this fact that adds some credibility to the legend.


Historians have a different story. Records mention, the idol is believed to have been carved in Northern Thailand not earlier than fifteenth century. According to reliable chronicles: The Emerald Buddha first appeared in 15th century in Chiang Rai and based on its style it seems to be from the Chiang Saen period. It is said that lightening struck the pagoda of a temple in Chiang Rai in northern Thailand and a Buddha image covered with stucco was found inside the temple. The statue was left with the abbot of the temple who removed the stucco and found the Emerald Buddha under it. Read more here.

At Wat Phra Kaew, the idol was placed high up on a pedestal and photography is not allowed from inside. So one has to position himself/herself outside and zoom in to the image over the heads of the worshippers and visitors. My shots aren’t doing actual justice in capturing the brilliance of the image, nevertheless…

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45 Responses to “Temple of the Emerald Buddha – Bangkok

  • Stunning capture, Indrani — regardless of the distance! Fascinating history! Would love to be able to see it in person, but your shot is the next best thing!

    Marvelous post!

    Enjoy your weekend!

    Sylvia

  • Stunning capture, Indrani — regardless of the distance! Fascinating history! Would love to be able to see it in person, but your shot is the next best thing!

    Marvelous post!

    Enjoy your weekend!

    Sylvia

  • Amazing art and craftsmanship. Beautiful.

    Dona Nobis Pacem & Thursday Thirteen

  • Well you have zoomed fantastic Indrani 🙂
    When i click on your pictures
    I can see it really good 🙂
    You have a very long zoom option on your camera 😉
    Buddha Emerald is "BEAUTIFUL"
    Its so amazing to see that green jade and its so funny to read about different costumes for other seasons !!
    Thanks for this Unique post 🙂

  • I wasn't aware of this one – love you account of the history and the mystery!

  • Lots of fascinating places to vsit in angkok. I didn't get to be at Wat Phrae Kaew. Thanks for the info. yes, the King is revered highly,so the task is his.

  • I love the culture you share with us each week!

  • Interesing and beautiful art and photos as well!

  • Great, Indrani! lovely capture, in spite of the distance……

    incidentally, we visited a few temples near Tanjore,where there are lingams made of "Maragatham" literally translated into Emerald. but i felt it looked more like Jade….. probably, Indians were unaware of the material called Jade,and hence called anything green Emerald!

  • Great post. Thanks for all the info with pictures!

    One question still haunting me. Why is that only in India we are not allowed to take the pictures inside temples? Scared of population… i think!

  • I wonder why this temple is not included in the city tour that they have at Bangkok. Nice account of the temple.

  • I wonder why this temple is not included in the city tour that they have at Bangkok. Nice account of the temple.

  • Thank you for the nice description and lovely pics.

  • interesting story of the emerald buddha. whether it is right or not, i guess these regions were much connected in the past, than what it appears.

  • Emarald Buddha!!!! Wow!!! New place to know about!!!

    Pls do wish my friend a Happy B'day at Savoir-Faire

  • that is wonderful – the photography as well as the narration!
    brought back fond memories of the place. had visited it about 15years back and had taken some photographs which were all washed away in the infamous 26/7 floods in mumbai… had not started digital photography then..

  • wow… awesome snaps… i didnt know abt this place… i hv visited many temples in Bangkok. Thanks for posting. 🙂

  • How interesting and what a fabulous place! If it's that amazing looking in photos I can only imagine how beautiful it is in real life.

  • Interestingly narrated . Re-lived my visit to the Emerald Buddha vihara. Love that first picture.

  • The color of that jade is positively intoxicating.

  • It is amazing the things that I learn from your posts and you always manage to take some very good photos.
    I love to hear about other cultures and countries.

    Nuts in May

  • amazing!!! thanks for sharing!

  • What a magnificent story — I was absolutely fascinated. And, considering the restrictions, I think you did a great job with this shot.

  • This was so interesting! I am glad I clicked over today. I love your name. It is beautiful!

  • Very ornate. At least you can get a shot of it even if it is not easy.
    I always like coming here I learn so much.

  • I have visited many Buddhist temple around Central Java. seems that every place has a unique 'style'

  • I've never been to the Grand Palace during the rainy season. Thanks for putting in the history. I never really paid much attention to the details. I'm glad to learn that the emeral buddha was created in India. Now I won't forget that.

  • Nice and very informative post, Indrani! What a splendid place. Thanks for sharing!

  • I feel like I just took a mini vacation. Thank you. It was a lovely trip.

  • Beautiful and lovely shots !!Great post..Unseen Rajasthan

  • I love that the buddha has different costumes for different seasons.

  • Nice post. It was good to find out the history of the idol. This was one of my favorite temples in Bangkok

  • You have brought so many things for us from Bangkok!

    Great post with very informative lines and beautiful pictures…

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • An amazing Photograph when enlarged! This is such an interesting post. Thank you for including the various explanations.

  • Beautiful!! And has a legend and history suited to such a beautiful Buddha!

  • I got to see this last year! Great post for a small world, and a little Buddha.

  • what a marvelous colour, the picture and the history behind the images is superb. thanks for sharing it,hope you had a lovely time in thailand

  • Great photography.

  • beautiful pictures and great writeup.

  • I found the first picture amazing.

  • Hi Indrani! The templeis fabulous, but the last time I asthere I think that pictures inside were forbidden… it's stunning, anyhow!!

    Blogtrotter finished Turkey 2008 and is back to a gem in Iberia. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

  • extravagant idol with history at its longest! ^-^
    the zOOm in was perfect!

  • What a beautiful Buddha.. thanks for capturing it…

    Since Buddishm went from India. let us blv that this Buddha too went from India…

  • Interesting history! And the Buddha looks grand even in this shot. 🙂

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