20 STOREY GOLDEN BUDDHA IS A NEW LANDMARK IN THONBURI

Tucked away in the oldest part of Bangkok is Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen, famed for its abbot, teachings, and temple grandeur.

Thonburi on the west side of the Chao Phraya River is the true birthplace of Bangkok. When the palace moved onto the east side of the river to eventually form Rattanakosin Island, Thonburi’s development slowed and today is often known for its slower pace and retains more features of old Bangkok.

Some locations are dated from the Ayutthaya period, including Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen established in 1610. Located on the banks of Klong Dan at Wat Paknam Bhasi Charoen, a giant Buddha statue is the new landmark in the Thon Buri area.  Phra Phuttha Dhammakaya Thepmongkol rises 69 metres at Wat Paknam Bhasi Charoen.

From afar, Buddha’s face looks kind and calm and the head bends down a little, making you feel as if he is looking at the ground or perhaps at you. The statue, built in the meditation posture of a lotus flower, is 69 metres tall, or about the height of a 20-storey building, and 40m wide. It appears as if the image is coated with gold but it is actually made of pure bronze, according to the temple.

Started in 2017, the statue is now almost complete and has been given the name Phra Phuttha Dhammakaya Thepmongkol. The project, which cost 100 million baht, was initiated following a dream of the late highly respected abbot Phra Mongkol Thepmuni, better known as Luang Pu Sod Chanthasaro. He was the founder of Dhammakaya teachings that led to the establishment of Wat Dhammakaya in 1970.

Located on a 20 rai site, Wat Paknam is an old temple founded around 1610 during the Ayutthaya kingdom. The temple was in ruins until Luang Pu Sod from Wat Pho became the abbot of Wat Paknam in 1916 during the period of King Rama VI. The temple still houses artefacts from the Ayutthaya period such as the principal Buddha image in its ordination hall and Ho Tri, a library for keeping the Tripitaka.

When you visit the temple, you will see a huge white pagoda next to the seated Buddha image. First opened in 2012, Phra Maha Chedi Maha Ratchamongkol is the name of the 80m-tall multi-tier stupa. It has mixed architecture — the old Lanna style from the North and the present Rattanakosin prang-like art from the Central Region. The temple invested about 300 million baht and took about nine years to complete.

The bell-shaped glass pagoda was built to house a Buddha relic. It is located on the 5th floor of Phra Maha Chedi Maha Ratchamongkol in Wat Paknam.

This structure features five storeys. The top floor is where you can worship Buddha relics housed in an elegant 8m-tall green glass pagoda. A life-sized sculpture of Luang Pu Sod made of gold is exhibited on the 4th floor.

Personal collections of the present abbot, Somdej Phra Maha Ratchamangalacharn or Somdej Chuang, are displayed on the 3rd floor. The 2nd floor is a prayer and meditation hall while the 1st floor is a museum displaying general items such as antique cars owned by the abbot. The white pagoda is also known as Wat Paknam Museum.