Wat Phanan Choeng, the royal temple where the tragic legend begins
Indulge to the magnificent beauty of the second-class royal monastery, Wat Phanan Choeng located next to the riverfront of the Pa Sak River in Ayutthaya. Wat Phanan Choeng has lasted long over the centuries as one of the most important temples since the Ayutthaya Kingdom. The temple believed to be established before the establishment of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, however, there’s no any evidence of the founder. The holy place is another must-visit location in Ayutthaya, mainly to pay respect to the giant Buddha image which well-known among locals “Luang Pho To” (means the giant Buddha) or Sam Pao Kong in Chinese. The significant statue of the Buddha enshrined elegantly inside the ubosot. Also, the shrine of the female guardian spirit “Chao Mae Soi Dok Mak” or “Chu Sae Near” that enormously worshipful among the Thai and Chinese believers.
Background of Wat Phanan Choeng
Wat Phanan Choeng or formally Wat Phana Choeng Woravihara, the royal monastery of Siam, founded prior the period of the Ayutthaya Kingdom without any proof of the founder. However, in accordant with the Northern Chronicle noted that ‘Phra Chao Sai Nam Phung,’ the ruler of this region before the Ayutthaya Era is the founder of the temple and named ‘Wat Chao Phra Nang Choeng.’ Additionally, the Ayutthaya Chronicle, written by Luang Prasert Aksornniti mentioned to the creation of the immense gilded Buddha image called “Phra Chao Phanaeng Choeng” in 1324 that is prior the time King U-Thong founded the Ayutthaya Kingdom for 26 years.
In the reign of King Rama IV or King Mongkut of Siam, the king renamed the critical Buddha image to “Phra Buddha Trirattana Nayok” has been in the name from that time on. Wat Phanan Choeng is always the royal monastery status under the monarch’s patronage since the ancient time. Presently, the temple is the second-class of the second grade of the royal monastery enshrined the sacred and gigantic statue of the Buddha “Phra Buddha Trairattana Nayok” (Luang Pho To) and the two figures of the gold Buddha image in Sukhothai art inside the ubosot, as well. Unsurprisingly, the temple and the sacred objects here are respectful among the devotees both local and international with the excellent preservation and restoration time by time.
The Legend of the Love Tragic Story of Wat Phanan Choeng
Although it is the Buddhist religious place, the temple is also remarkable well-known from the mythology which attracting many travelers to visit the site. Illustrated in the northern chronicle noted that once upon the time before King U-Thong founded the Ayutthaya Kingdom. At that time, there was no king to govern the country for some time. Hence, the elite bureaucrats, court officials, and people and ascetics then agreed to find a king by practice the choice by lot. The rite is to sail the royal barge along the river to see the virtuous man to be the king. And the vessel led to a young man who is intelligent, vigorous, and astute, so they brought him back as accredited him to be the king to rule the state and named “Phra Chao Sai Nam Phung.”
After that, Phra Chao Sai Nam Phung visited China with a great welcome by the Chinese emperor. The Siam’s king also requested a step-daughter “Princess Soi Dok Mak” of the emperor to marry him. So, Phra Chao Sai Nam Phung accepted Princess Soi Dok Mak as his consort, he then traveled back to Siam with his beloved lady. Anyhow, when the ship almost destined the royal residence, King Sai Nam Phung told the princess to wait for him at the ship. Actually, the king would enter the palace to prepare the reception for the princess, but the king would not join in the procession to pick up Princess Soi Dok Mak at the ship. Thus, the princess did reject to go ashore. So, the chief official informed King Sai Nam Phung who thought that the princess might have wanted to tease him, the king then dallying said that “if she doesn’t want to land then let be as she wishes.”
So, the princess acknowledged what King Sai Nam Phung mentioned, then she immensely felt slight. Well, King Sai Nam Phung, in the next morning came to pick up the princess by himself and was complained by the princess. The king then teased her more with the words that “Well, if you prefer to stay here, you stay.” Unluckily, once Princess Soi Dok Mak heard that sentence with her resentment, then the princess held her breath to die suddenly. Wherefore, the grief of King Sai Nam Phung.
For this reason, King Sai Nam Phung commanded to invite the body of Princess Soi Dok Mak from the ship to do the cremation with the mourn of both Chinese and Thai people. Hence, King Sai Nam Phung ordered to construct the temple to remembrance to Princess Soi Dok Mak and titled the temple to “Wat Phanang Choen” (Invite the Princess), and then it distorted to “Wat Phanan Choeng” which is the title we know presently.
Highlights of Wat Phanan Choeng
Wat Phanan Choeng, currently, is the second-class of the second grade of the royal monastery, located in Khlong Suan Phlu sub-district, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya district in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya province. The monastery complex highlighted with lots of attractions, for example;
1. Luang Pho To (the Giant Buddha) or Phra Buddha Trirattana Nayok
The massive gilded statue of Buddha in the late U-Thong design. The critical figure is the Buddha in the attitude of subduing Mara with approximately 14.20 meters of the lap and 19.20 meters high. The stucco with gilded Buddha image which known locally “Luang Pho To” means the giant Buddha recognized the venerable symbolic object of the Ayutthaya Kingdom since the establishment of the kingdom. According to the Ayutthaya Chronicle composed by Luang Prasert Aksornniti recorded that the statue of Buddha was cast in 1325 or 26 years after King Ramathibodi I (King U-Thong) founded the U-Thong Dynasty and established the Ayutthaya Kingdom. Unbelievably, when the Ayutthaya Kingdom about to collapse, illustrated in The Testimonies of Ayutthaya that the notable giant Buddha inside the ordination hall of Wat Phanan Choeng had tears dropped amazingly.
Well, Luang Pho To or officially Phra Buddha Trirattana Nayok is one of the most respectful Buddha images among the local and foreigners. Notably, the Chinese know the model as “Sam Pao Kong.” Additionally, the vast number of believers of both Thai and Chinese come to the temple to pay homage the Buddha image, and the temple organizes 4 significant events annually that welcome numerous of the visitor, which are;
4 significant events:
- Songkran Festival (13 April), a considerable happening that the visitors will pay homage and do the triple circumambulation (walk with lighted candles in hand around the Buddha image). The event is five days continually.
- Bathing and Wrapping the robe to the Buddha image. The event sets on the 8th of the waning moon in April. The Buddha image will be bathed and replaced a new gown that lasts for a year. And the old robe will be torn in pieces and distribute for the devotees to bring home for luck.
- Ting Krajad Custom or Chinese Play Festival in the ninth month. The Chinese Opera and other shows performing at the event with the crowded of visitors. It could say that Ting Krajad Ceremony at Wat Phanan Choeng is the most significant event this Chinese custom in Thailand.
- The Chinese New Year, another significant event of the temple. The royal sanctuary will open for the visitors to pay respect to the Buddha image and other sacred things inside the monastery complex all day and night. The event organizes continually for 5 days.
2. The Three Buddha Images
The remarkable Buddha images enshrined inside the ordination hall of Wat Phanan Choeng is another highlight of the place. There are three figures of the Buddha – gold, stucco, and copper alloy. The gold Buddha is bronze with about 1.5 meters wide of the lap and 2 meters high in the estimate. The gold Buddha is dazzling with the gilding appearance. Amongst them is the stucco figure of Buddha in the Ayutthaya art with about 2 meters wide of the lap and 2.5 meters in height, while the copper alloy one is Sukhothai design with 1.5 meters wide of the lap and 2.5 meters high approximate. It mentioned that the gold and the copper alloy Buddhas disclosed the actual appearance accidentally. Previously, both images were covered with the plaster resulted in they looked like the stucco images in general. Possibly, the prior the failure of Ayutthaya Kingdom, the citizen of Ayutthaya concerned about the safety of the sacred images, then they white-washed the statues and made the fresco with the pattern just like to make another Buddha image – robe, face, and hair to conceal the valuable figures. Later, the plaster covered the Buddha images cracked and reveal the gilded Buddha within and then both Buddha images respectful invited to enshrine inside the ubosot of Wat Phanan Choeng at last.
3. Chao Mae Soi Dok Mak Shrine
The notable sacred shrine located in the north of the image hall of Luang Pho To. The Chinese style architecture is nearby the Pa Sak River where enshrined the statue of Princess Soi Dok Mak or better known among Chinese “Chou Sae Near.” The female guardian spirit is the tragic love story of Princess Soi Dok Mak who held her breath from displeasure by her husband “King Sai Nam Phung” that he did not come to pick her up at the ship to enter the royal residence as he mentioned. After her death then the king commanded to invite her corpse to practice the cremation at Laem Bang Kaja and the venue to set the crematorium later became the royal temple called “Wat Phranang Choen” or currently is Wat Phanan Choeng.
Each day, lots of people come to pay respect and make a wish to Chao Mae Soi Dok Mak for fortune, especially love.
Besides indulge to the beauty of the classic architecture and devote to the holy images, the visitors also can enjoy feeding the fish next to the river, as well as the local gift, food, and snack that lined orderly at the front of the compound.
Traveling to Wat Phanan Choeng
Wat Phanan Choeng opens to the visitors daily between 7.00am – 6.00pm.
To go to the temple is convenient from Bangkok, drives on Asia Road (highway number 32) and turns left at the intersection to enter Ayutthaya. Then, keep driving to see Chedi Wat Sam Pluem Circle and follows the left lane for about 1.5 km more. So, you will spot Wat Yai Chaimongkol on the left and go straight on about 3 km, the destination is on the right hand.
The tourist may hire the long-tail boat from the ground behind the parking at Chandrakasem Palace where is the east of Ayutthaya Town. The boat cruises along Pa Sak River to the south that passes Ayutthaya Ship Boatbuilding Industrial and Technology College, Wat Phanan Choeng Woravihara, Wat Phutthaisawan, Portuguese Settlement Ayutthaya, Wat Chaiwattanaram, Wat Kasattrathirat Woravihara, and Phra Si Suriyothay Chedi.