Last year, when I went to Chiang Mai Ajahn Suthep organised for me to stay at Wat Sri Suphan. This was very fortunate for me, as not only did the Head of the Temple, Phra Kru Pitak Sutthikhun, understand and encourage the work I was doing, but the monastery was simply the most photogenic of the many temples I saw on that trip.
A similar thing happened when I went to Bangkok. That I stayed in Wat Arun was really only accidental: I met a Vietnamese monk, Ven. Javana, at an outside dana in Penang one day, invited him to Vivekavana, we became friends, and he invited me to visit him at Wat Arun in the center of Bangkok.
I knew that the temple was famous, and for various reasons I had been thinking of going to the city, though to be honest I had really no intention of making another trip quite so soon. However, everything came into place: I had an invite, the temple was in the heart of the city, I had more than one thing I could accomplish there, and it was also about the right time, meaning that in January it would not be overwhelmingly hot. So with the help of the committee I booked a flight.
I was very well received when I arrived, the Head of Section 6, Ven. Chao Kun Methiratanadilok, was teaching both Pali and English at Mahachulalongkorn University, and knew of some of my textual work, and we got along very well from the beginning.
I arrived at 9.00pm at night, so I didn’t see very much that day, but the following day I went with Ven. Javana to have a look around. Anyone who has visited the temple will know what a wonder it is: built mainly in the 19th century, and heavily influenced by Khmer and Chinese architectural styles, it is a remarkable sight.
At the center of the temple is the Khmer-style Prang which rises toweringly into the sky for around 75 metres. The Prang is decorated with seashells and ceramics amidst the stuccowork, and has elaborate motifs, including yakkhas and devas who are set as though they held up the Prang.
It is also possible to climb up the very steep staircase and ascend two levels, or about 2/3rds of the way to the top. I was unsure whether I would be able to survive such an effort, but as always when I am inspired on these trips I made the effort, and of course didn’t regret it.
The view out from the second level spans the Chao Phraya river and its bridges, gives a magnificent view over the Royal Palace grounds, and also over Wat Pho, just across the river from Wat Arun, it was truly a memorable sight.
I spent most of the morning photographing the Prangs, the Viharn and the various Chinese pavillions at the front of the monastery, and we also managed to see the Putthabat (Buddha’s Footprint) in a high shrine room, which is normally kept closed, perhaps only being opened on the Full Moon Days.
As it was the Uposatha in the afternoon we went for the recital of the Patimokkha in the Ubosot, which we hadn’t had time to see in the morning, and I was astonished by the richness of the mural paintings inside, which depict the last ten Jataka stories and scenes from the Life of the Buddha – that was surely my lucky day!
All in all I spent around three days photogrpahing just this one temple, besides taking photographs at other times during my stay there, and I have now edited those photographs and they are the first of the web albums to be published from Bangkok, and the full album of 124 photographs can be seen here: https://www.photodharma.net/Thailand/Wat-Arun/Wat-Arun.htm
Ven. Javana (Phra Naam)
King Takshin in a Chinese Pavillion
Putthabat Shrine Room
Ubosot seen from the Prang
Bodhisatta as Candakumara, the honorable prince
The First Discourse