The Wat Traimit temple in the Chinatown area of Bangkok is a Royal temple famous for the enormous gold Buddha image it houses.
The temple, which is officially named Wat Traimit Withayaram Worawihan and also known as “The Temple of the Golden Buddha” enshrines the massive solid gold Buddha image named Phra Phuttha Maha Suwan Patimakon displaying the subduing Mara mudra.
Largest solid gold Buddha image in the world
For centuries the true identity and value of the image were not known, until by accident in the 1950’s it was discovered that the image was made of solid gold. The image is more than three meters high, weighs some five and a half tons and is most likely some 700 to 800 years old. It is the largest solid gold Buddha image in the world.
History of the gold Buddha
The origin of the huge Buddha image is not exactly known. Because of its style it is assumed that it was cast during the Sukhothai era, the Kingdom that existed from 1238 until 1438 with the city of Sukhothai in Northern Thailand as its center.
The Golden image moved to Ayutthaya
After the demise of Sukhothai and the rise of the Ayutthaya Kingdom (1350 – 1767), the statue was probably moved to a temple in Ayutthaya. In 1767 Ayutthaya was destroyed by Burmese invaders. At some point before that, the Golden Buddha image was covered with a plaster coating, most likely in order to disguise it and prevent it from being stolen by the Burmese.
After Ayutthaya was destroyed the image most likely remained in Ayutthaya, without drawing attention, and its true origin and value was forgotten.
After King Rama I had established Bangkok as the new capital, he ordered thousands of Buddha images to be brought to Bangkok from the Northern regions, such as Sukhothai and Ayutthaya, because of the still existing threat of the Burmese.
Gold Buddha installed in Wat Traimit
The Golden Buddha was taken to the Wat Chotanaram in Bangkok. In the 1930’s the image finally ended up in the Wat Traimit, still covered in plaster.
In 1955 a viharn was erected to house the image. When the Golden Buddha was moved to the new building using a crane, a cable broke and the image fell to the ground and into the mud. The workmen are said to have run off fearing bad luck.
The next day, when a monk returned to the temple he found the image still in the mud, with some of the plaster coating broken revealing the gold, thus revealing the true identity and value of the image.
A mondop to house the Golden Buddha
In 2008, a 3 storey building named Phra Maha Mondop was erected to house the Golden Buddha image.
The first floor contains a museum, the Chinatown Heritage centre where visitors can learn about the history of Chinatown and the Chinese immigrants in Bangkok.
The second floor contains an exhibition on the history of the Golden Buddha. Some of the coating that revealed its true identity are on display here. The top floor of the Phra Maha Mondop contains the Golden Buddha image.