17 Desember 2011

Wat Traimit (Temple of Golden Buddha), the residence of an icon

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Wat Traimit, located in Bangkok’s Chinatown area is a temple renowned for housing the biggest solid gold statue on the globe, a massive 15 foot tall, five and a half ton seated Buddha image. The statue’s composition is approximately 83% pure gold, giving it a huge value.

The majestic statue is thought to have been cast during the 13th century and is considered to be a very good specimen of the Sukhothai style of sculpture, which has many devotees even in the present day. Many experts think that the statue originated from Ayutthaya and that the image was covered in lacquer and plaster to save it from being looted by Burmese invaders, who had besieged the city.

This disguise was so effective that the statue’s true nature remained hidden for nearly two centuries. The story goes that in the 1930s reconstruction work required the demolition of an old temple which contained a stucco Buddha statue. Although the image was not attractive, tradition meant that it could not be destroyed. It was decided to relocate the statue to Wat Traimit, then an unremarkable Chinatown pagoda. As the massive statue was being moved with a crane, the ropes broke and the statue fell to the ground. The plaster covering cracked, revealing the priceless gold image beneath. Parts of the former plaster casing may be seen at the site.

Today the venerated image rests in a newly created chapel located high on a four storey marble covered ziggurat. The second and third storeys of this building contain an interpretive centre; the second storey features exhibits depicting the development of Bangkok’s Chinese community, with a 3D presentation as well as displays of the life of the Chinese in years past.

Meanwhile the museum on the third floor explores the background of the magnificent Buddha figure itself. A video presentation describes Buddha statues in general, including the complete details of the pose known as ‘subduing Mara’. The displays explain the how the figure was created and how it arrived at its present residence.

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