Wat Phra Phutthabat
The Temple of the Buddha?s Footprint
Wat Phra Phutthabat is a Buddhist?temple in?Saraburi Province,?Thailand. It is among the oldest Buddhist temples in Thailand. Its name means ?temple of the Buddha?s footprint?, because it contains a natural depression believed to be a?footprint?of the?Buddha.
The story of Wat Phra Phutthabat dates from the early seventeenth century when King Songtham of Ayutthaya sent monks to Sri Lanka to worship the Sumankut Buddha footprint. The Sri Lankans told the monks that according to ancient scriptures the Buddha had also traveled in Siam (Thailand), and may have left a footprint there. King Songtham ordered a search for the footprint, which was subsequently discovered in 1623 by a hunter, after a wounded deer he was following emerged from some bushes miraculously healed. The hunter pushed aside the undergrowth to find a foot-shaped impression filled with water almost two meters long, in a stone slab. He drank some of the water which immediately cured him of skin disease. The Mondop was built to cover and help preserve it, later becoming the temple.
Wat Phra Phutthabat was constructed in 1624 during the reign of King Songtham of Ayutthaya. The original temple was destroyed in 1765 during the Burmese-Siamese war. The present structure dates from the Rattanakosin era. It is a first-class royal temple, one of only six in Thailand and regarded by Thai people as being one of Thailand?s holiest temples. The temple occupies a beautiful location on a mountainside surrounded by forest.
The most important feature of Wat Phra Phutthabat temple is the Lord Buddha?s footprint, one of only five originals in the world. Above the temple, on the cliff is the Buddha?s shadow which can be reached by walking up a 290 step set of stairs. The temples Ubosot & Viharns are all built-in either Ayutthaya or early Rattanakosin architectural styles. Within the various halls, you will find many impressive rare Buddha images and various shrines. Elsewhere in the complex are ancient murals and a museum containing many rare artifacts. In fact, there is so much to see here that you could spend almost a whole day exploring. Not everything is featured here, only the highlights!
Visiting Wat Phra Phutthabat
Wat Phra Phutthabat Temple is in the town of Phutthabat which is in between Saraburi and Lopburi. It is not difficult to get to from Bangkok, being only a 100 baht, two hours direct trip on a Minivan from Morchit. If you love Thai temples, Phra Phutthabat is worth the trip or make it a stop on your way to see the Monkey Temple in Lopburi.
Arriving on the van you will get off at the Phutthabat District Office. From there it is a short walk to a long avenue that leads to the Wat Phra Phutthabat. There are two large white arches with spires at the avenue entrance. The temple has two entrances, the first one you come to is guarded by two big colorful Yaksha guardians draped with garlands. The second entrance is 50 meters further along and leads directly to the Naga stairway up to the Mondop.
The Chinese Shrine
Walking through the main entrance there is a courtyard area to your right with a long row of bells. Continuing up the stairs you will pass a seated monk who will flick blessed water over you as you pass. The stairs lead to a platform below the Mondop. To your left are two halls. The first is a Chinese Mahayana Buddhist shrine, the entrance of which is colorfully decorated with red lanterns.
Inside is a collection of Chinese influenced Buddha images. You will also find Guan Yin, the goddess of mercy. The decoration includes large candles with Chinese motifs, bronze dragons, and peacock feathers. The altar is inscribed with Chinese text and colorfully decorated drapes hang from the ceiling.
The air is thick with incense smoke and worshippers pray and offer flowers to the images. A large selection of candles, incense sticks, and golden robes to clothe the images with are sold inside. Just outside is a large golden leafed money tree on which worshipers make merit by attaching banknotes.
The San Phrakan Shrine
Just to the side of the Chinese shrine is a smaller Brahman shrine containing six rather unusual looking images clothed with red sashes and pink and red headscarves. They are completely covered in gold leaf stickers. These are the San Phrakan, a Lopburi period representation of Vishnu. There is a famous San Phra Kan temple just up the road in Lopburi containing a large image that is much revered.
People in the shrine were practicing Kau Chim (the Chinese art of fortune-telling). This is performed in front of the altar and involves the throwing of fortune sticks. The fortune sticks are red and come in several different shapes and sizes.?
After praying to the shrine?s deities a question is asked before a bamboo holder containing the sticks is shaken. One stick should fall to the floor. Each stick has a number which corresponds to an oracle written on a piece of paper attached to the wall. The oracle is the answer to the fortune seekers question. To verify the answer the worshiper throws two Jiaobei blocks (round on one side, flat on the other). If the blocks fall with one round and one flat side facing up the answer is deemed to be verified. If not the worshipper may go through the process again.
The Temple of the Buddha?s Footprint
The Mondop is one of the most striking temple buildings in Thailand. It stands at the top of 3 Naga staircases. The staircases are believed to represent three ladders used to descend from the Trayastrimsa Heaven, a ladder of jewels used by the Buddha, a ladder of gold used by Indra and a ladder of silver used by Brahma. Two five-headed Nagas are mounted at either side of the staircase.
The glittering Mondop, the temple of the Buddha?s footprint is square-shaped & supported by pillars inlaid with colored glass. The roof has seven tiers. Each tier is covered with green glazed tiles & decorated with miniature gables. The exterior walls are gilded & inlaid with colored glass. The doors are decorated with mother of pearl artwork. The Mondop is surrounded by bells which worshipers ring to make merit. It is believed that if you ring all of the temple?s 93 bells you will live for 93 years.
The Buddha?s Footprint
This is no ordinary footprint. The Buddha?s footprint measures 21 inches wide by 60 inches long & is 11 inches deep. It is enclosed in a glass case. Inside the case, the footprint is covered with layers of gold leaf, coins, and banknotes thrown by worshipers and visitors.
The footprint was found to have 108 auspicious characteristics which authenticated its legitimacy. Visitors can also see an inscription by King Rama V on the stone above the footprint. It was engraved during a visit to pay respect to the footprint.
Thai Buddhist?s believe that worshiping the footprints, sprinkling water, or placing gold leaf on them will lead to the forgiveness of sin, success in life, or eternal happiness.
Just outside the Mondop on a platform, is an area that has some Brahmanic gods. There is a statue of the green-skinned Hindu god Indra, the King of heaven. He sits on a three-headed white elephant & carries a Vajra (thunderbolt). Worshippers show respect to this powerful god by draping him in colorful orange garlands & leaving flowers at his feet. Just behind Indra people light incense sticks and pray towards the Mondop before circling it three times to make merit.
Opposite, is another shrine featuring a short stocky Buddha (not the laughing one!) draped with colorful beads and pearls. He is Phra Phuttha Patimakon, another image of whom is the Emerald Buddha at Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok. Worshipers stick the gold leaf on his face & body. Behind him is a small chedi wrapped in gold cloth. The Chedi contains relics of the Buddha.
The Lersi Shrine
Just above and to the left of the Mondop is another hall. There are more Buddha images, some ancient wall murals, and a praying hermit (Lersi) image, embellished with a red-eyed serpent & wearing a tiger print robe. The Hermit is believed to have healing powers and is worshiped by people with an illness. The main Buddha image sits before a beautiful background mural while a pair of large elephant tusks frame him from the front. The elephant is the most revered of all animals in Thailand. Tusks can be seen in many Thai temples and come from naturally deceased elephants.
A gold leaf-covered reclining Buddha lies to the side of the tusks. The walls display more murals on the subject of death and Buddhist hell. Tiger, leopard & cheetah pattern cloth and orange Buddha image cloth are for sale inside.??
The Big Buddhas
On a raised platform in front of & to the side of the Mondop is a hall containing two large Buddha images, one sitting, one reclining.?
The sitting Buddha is rather unique in that it is sitting as though on a chair in what is known as the European pose. It has both hands resting on the knee, one hand palm down and the other palm up. This is known as displaying the attitude of jungle life. This is the only time I have observed this in Thailand.
The Reclining Buddha is behind the sitting Buddha. In fact, there are two reclining Buddha?s with a smaller one in front. The Buddha is resting his head on his hand which represents the Buddha in his last illness before passing into Nirvana. This image is fairly common in Thailand inspired by the original reclining image at Wat Pho in Bangkok.?
There were many more images in the hall including an emerald green Buddha and several, gold leaf-covered standing Buddhas in the ?repelling the ocean? pose with both hands raised.
Worshippers in the hall were buying golden robes which they wrapped the Buddha?s torso un before sticking gold leaf around the body. Other offerings included flowers and money placed in bowls.?
Opposite the entrance to the Big Buddha hall is a large white chedi with several small prangs. Steps lead up to a small shrine with a Buddha image inside.
Just behind the Big Buddha hall is another shrine containing a rare Orange colored Buddha image.?
The Cave Shrine
Hidden away just above and opposite the Wat Phra Phutthabat Museum entrance is a cave shrine which is easy to miss. The entrance displays a sign in Chinese. Inside is a small dimly lit shrine featuring a host of smaller Buddha images. Worshipers were lighting incense sticks and praying inside the shrine.?
Wat Phra Phutthabat National Museum
The Wat Phra Phutthabat National Museum displays various rare artifacts and art objects. Inside you can see King Songtham?s clothes, & a replica of the Buddha?s footprint. Also, a collection of ceramics, old weapons, bronzeware and the original roof and spire from the temple destroyed by the Burmese. The bad news is that the museum only opens twice a year during the two annual Wat Phra Phutthabat Fairs. Note, that you cannot take backpacks or cameras into the museum.
From the Mondop it?s a 290 step climb to the mountain?s summit. Once at the top you get a great view of the surrounding countryside. On the way up you will pass several old buildings and a couple of shrines, one of which contained many Buddha images. There is also a stall selling cold drinks, essential on a hot day! Just before the summit, you will come to a platform with a Budai (laughing Buddha) image with the Buddha?s shadow on the cliff behind him. From here it?s a short walk to the clifftop. On the way up you will pass a small hall with red interior walls containing a contented looking Buddha.
The Buddha?s Shadow
An image on the cliff face behind Wat Phra Phutthabat is said to be the Buddha?s shadow. Its shape is similar to that of a human body. Most of the shadow is covered in gold leaf which you can buy from a small stand nearby. If you look closely you can definitely make out a head and arms just above the gold leaf. Many worshipers climb all the way to the top to pray here. In front of the shadow is a ?Budai? statue and an altar. A sign on the statue invites you to throw a coin at the Budai and there were many coins in his lap. However, the target may be the round hole in Budai?s gold leaf-covered pot belly.?
On the mountainside above the Wat Phra Phutthabat Museum building, there are several chedis of different shapes, though the path to them is a bit overgrown.?
Wat Phra Phutthabat Market?
Opposite the temple entrance is a tree-shaded area with a market featuring food and drinks stalls along with clothes, bags and more. There is also a permanent branch of Banrie Coffee in a small hut. Banrie Coffee serves excellent strong Northern Thai coffee and bakery snacks. The market is busiest at weekends when many Thai people come to visit the temple. Worth trying are small grilled coconut cakes, sticky rice in banana leaf and coconut ice cream. Prices are cheap!
Wat Phra Phutthabat Festivals
There are two main festivals held each year at Wat Phra Phutthabat temple:
Holy Footprint festival – The Holy Footprint festival is held at Wat Phra Phutthabat twice a year, usually in February and March. During this festival, many Buddhist worshippers and tourists visit the temple to pay respect to the Buddha’s footprint. Opposite the temple and around the avenue leading to it are all kinds of entertainment, shows, music and plenty of stalls with souvenirs and food.
Tak Bat Dok Mai / Khao Phansa Parade – Tak Bat Dok Mai is a traditional event in Phra Phutthabat district. It is held at the start of the annual three-month Buddhist Lent known as Khao Phansa. During Khao Phansa there is a colorful parade featuring traditional costumes, pink elephants, horses, and candle floats. The parade is only held on the first day. People give alms to monks and offer candles for the Buddhist Lent to Wat Phra Phutthabat temple. Finally, they offer white, pink or yellow flowers to the monks in the morning and late afternoon.
Where is Wat Phra Phutthabat?
Phra Phutthabat is 133KM from Bangkok. It is in Saraburi province on the road between Saraburi City & Lopburi.
Address: Sai Khu Road, Phra Phutthabat, Saraburi Province, Thailand.
Opening Hours: 08.30-17.00 daily.
Getting To Phra Phutthabat: Ignore direction websites like rome to rio who are giving incorrect information. The only direct way is by Minivan from Morchit 2 Minivan station. Go to building B and look for route 12 to Lopburi. This van stops at Phra Phutthabat. The fare is 100 baht. Vans leave all day between 05.00-20.00. There is no train to Phra Phutthabat.
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