When you look up and see the five white prangs in Phetchaburi town in Thailand, you are definitely approaching the Wat Mahathat Worawihan. The five-white-prang is the symbol of the temple and it is so elegant and beautiful that the temple is quite famous all around the country and even the world. The prangs are often the elements that is used to find you way when you do not know the town well as they are very high that you can see them from far away.
Petchaburi town is located some 120km south west of Bangkok in the west of the Gulf of Thailand bordering Myanmar. Wat Mahathat Worawihan is in the old center of the town.
Except the prangs, Wat Mahathat Worawihan, the royal temple of Thailand is also famous for its gold covered Buddha statue, known as Phra Phuttha Chinnarat which means "King of victory". It is considered one of the most beautiful Buddha image in Thailand.
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The history of the royal temple – Wat Mahathat Worawihan
There is no evidence shows that the exact date of the founding of the Wat Mahathat Worawihan, but it is believed that the temple was built in the late Mon Dvaravati era or the Khmer era. From the excavated objects, we can deduce the first structures of the temple were built between 8 to 10 centuries ago. However, the all the buildings we see today in the temples are not original ones. The prangs have been rebuilt and enlarged many times over the centuries.
The five prangs
The Khmer style five massive prangs known as "Phra Prang Ha Yod" which means five peak prang was constructed during the Sukhothai era. The central one of the five prangs is the tallest one rising 42 meters high and it enshrines Buddha relics. Golden images of the Buddha are enshrined in large niches of its four faces. The prangs are brick plastered, decorated with fine stucco work. A trishula, a three pointed spear and the weapon of the Hindu God Shiva are on the top.
The viharn (assembly hall)
The viharn of the temple is opposite the main entrance. It is the assembly hall where devotees come to pray, make merit and look for advice from the monks.
The front gable of the viharn is adorned with stucco reliefs and the ends of the bargeboards are decorated with stucco reliefs.
Between the two entrances doors and at the center of the porch stands a large walking Buddha image with your left hand rising. It is the gesture of teaching, called the Vitarka mudra. Behind it, it is a mural which depicts the Buddha surrounded by devoted Buddhists.
You can find some colorful murals of late Ayutthaya period and now are in a poor condition in the interior walls. They depict scenes of daily life of Thais, battles and Buddhist stories. There is one mural story depicting the demon Mara attacking the Buddha who is meditating under the Bodhi tree.
Three large Buddha images are at the back of the viharn and in front of each is surrounded by some images of important monks and smaller devotees. The main Buddha image was made during the Ayutthaya era. The pedestal of the image is elaborately decorated which is the supporting of the image and the image is carried by warriors and mythical beings.
The ubosot (the ordination hall)
The ubosot is just next to the viharn. The wooden roof of it is red and the walls are whitewashed and the interior of it is very plain. The ubosot enshrines a large golden Buddha image in subduing Mara posture and some various smaller statues are surrounded him.
Festivals often take place on the grounds of the temple, including the annual Phra Phuttha Chinnarat Fair. The Phitsanulok Dragon Boat Races take place in the river outside the temple.
When you visit Wat Mahathat Worawihan, you will see a Khmer and Ayutthaya mixture style architecture that is why the temple is well visited.
How to get to the Wat Mahathat Worawihan
As it is in the center of the town, and the prangs are visible from far away. It is quite easy find it and you are not able to get lost.
The temple opens during the daylight hours and it is very lively during weekend and especially during the Thai National Holidays.
Be sure to dress properly when you visit the temple and please remove your shoes before you entering a building in the temple.
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Temples in Thailand