Wat Borommaniwat | Bangkok Post: Travel

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Wat Borommaniwat

Negotiable

Address:2, Rama IV Rd., Rong Mueang, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330 Thailand

Tel:+662-214-0708

Service day:Everyday

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Official description

Stepping into the ordination hall (ubosot) of Wat Borommaniwat in Bangkok’s Pathumwan district, visitors will be bewildered by the unorthodox mural paintings lining the walls. Wat Borommaniwat is home to Thailand’s first scientific painting of the universe. Combining Thai and Western art, these murals depict the solar system, Saturn and other planets.

The murals, painted with powder colour by famed monk artist Khrua In Khong, can be divided into two categories. Those on the walls between the doors and windows depict important Thai traditions, while those on the walls above the doors and windows show dhamma and words of Buddhist wisdom through Western architecture, art and people. There are a total of eight planets shown in these paintings.

Wat Borommaniwat is a second-class royal temple. It is adjacent to Khlong Maha Nak to the north, a swamp to the south, the Khlong Nang Hong to the east and a rail track to the west.

This temple was built by King Rama IV in 1834 when he was a monk, but remained unfinished until he ascended to the throne and continued its construction. It was called Wat Nok during construction and renamed after its completion. King Rama IV once presided over the royal ploughing ceremony behind this temple, according to Phra Khru Palad Winaiwattana.

Wat Borommaniwat is currently undergoing restorations, which are expected to be completed next year. Call 02-214-0708.

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Editorial Reviews

A century-old temple near the heart of Bangkok contains perplexing dhamma- and astronomy-inspired mural paintings

The mural painting on the interior wall behind Phra Thossapollayan, the principle Buddha statue, in the ordination hall of Wat Borommaniwat depicts the Sun instead of Mount Meru.

Stepping into the ordination hall (ubosot) of Wat Borommaniwat in Bangkok’s Pathumwan district, visitors will be bewildered by the unorthodox mural paintings lining the walls. Wat Borommaniwat is home to Thailand’s first scientific painting of the universe. Combining Thai and Western art, these murals depict the solar system, Saturn and other planets.

“Wat Borommaniwat is the first temple built by King Rama IV. Murals were painted by Khrua In Khong and are dhamma riddles. This temple was later restored by King Rama V,” said Phra Khru Palad Winaiwattana, a monk at the temple.

One of the temple’s 25 living quarters for monks.

The murals, painted with powder colour by famed monk artist Khrua In Khong, can be divided into two categories. Those on the walls between the doors and windows depict important Thai traditions, while those on the walls above the doors and windows show dhamma and words of Buddhist wisdom through Western architecture, art and people. There are a total of eight planets shown in these paintings.

Khrua In Khong became renowned during the Fourth Reign. He was the first Siamese to create mural paintings using the perspective principle, light and shadows. He initially created two-dimensional traditional mural paintings, mostly Buddhist references and Jakata tales, like those at Wat Maha Samanaram in his hometown of Phetchaburi and in Ratchakoramanusorn Hall in Bangkok’s Temple of the Emerald Buddha. He later opted for dhamma, as shown on the murals of Wat Borommaniwat and Wat Bowonniwet Vihara, one of the temples in which King Rama IV stayed during his monkhood.

In the ubosot, above the blue- and green-toned paintings of European architecture and Western people are murals of traditional Thai devas (guardian spirits). If you look at some of these murals carefully, you will see several scientifically correct constellations painted in the sky. The Sun is visible on the interior wall behind Phra Thossapollayan, the principle Buddha statue in post-Sukhothai art style. In the upper part of the wall on the right side of the statue, Saturn with its two brightest rings shines in the dark sky. A little below Saturn is a group of devas flying behind white clouds. On the left side of the statue is a large planet believed to be Jupiter, as it contains horizontal stripes of clouds and is surrounded by the four Galilean moons.

King Rama IV is widely known for his ability as an astronomer, able to forecast the exact date and best location to view a solar eclipse in 1868. Yet very few people know that the king assigned Khrua In Khong to create the mural paintings of Saturn and other planets based on Western knowledge of astronomy. The names of several other planets seen in the paintings here remain unknown. Some of these planets were painted with a good understanding of science for having bright and dark sides, thanks to the direction of sunlight.

A sign under the mural painting behind the principle Buddha statue contains words about the Sun. In this painting, the Sun is positioned exactly where Mount Meru (Khao Phra Sumen) and heaven would traditionally be painted. The meanings of these paintings are in accordance with texts inscribed on 12 stone plates above the doors and windows. Each painting is separated from the next by images of trees and people. In general, these paintings compare the Lord Buddha to a doctor who knows how to cure illnesses using medicine, or dhamma, while the patients are compared to Buddhist monks who follow his teachings.

Wat Borommaniwat is a second-class royal temple. It is adjacent to Khlong Maha Nak to the north, a swamp to the south, the Khlong Nang Hong to the east and a rail track to the west.

This temple was built by King Rama IV in 1834 when he was a monk, but remained unfinished until he ascended to the throne and continued its construction. It was called Wat Nok during construction and renamed after its completion. King Rama IV once presided over the royal ploughing ceremony behind this temple, according to Phra Khru Palad Winaiwattana.

Sala Urupong, a pavilion, was built in 1911 in a traditional Thai style in memory of Prince Urupong Ratchasomphote, the 95th son of King Rama V. He was born to Chao Chom Marnda Leaun in 1893 and passed away at the age of 16 in 1909.

The significance of Wat Borommaniwat lies upon it being the first temple commissioned by King Rama IV and its mural paintings, which reflect dhamma and science and mark the arrival and influence of Western knowledge and thought in Siam.


Wat Borommaniwat is currently undergoing restorations, which are expected to be completed next year. Call 02-214-0708.

This mural on the right side of the statue depicts Saturn and its two brightest rings.

Location

2, Rama IV Rd., Rong Mueang, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330 Thailand

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