Nestled in crowded grounds next to a parking lot near Chinatown, there’s a temple known for its unique permanent residents other than the monks

By Morgan Thanarojpradit originally published at www.thebigchilli.com

From the outside, Wat Chakrawat could be another temple that disappeared into the background
but few realise how truly unique and ancient this temple really is.

The legend of the one-eyed croc

When Ayutthaya was the capital of Siam, there were many crocodiles living along both sides of Chao Phraya River. One infamous crocodile is the man-eating beast people dubbed, ‘Ai-bod’ (One-eyed in Thai). Famous for terrorising the people living along both sides of the river, this crocodile was known to hunt as far as Saphan Phut, killing many in his wake. Finally, the men went on a hunt for the beast. They chased him into Wat Chakrawat (known as Wat Sam Pluem at the time) and found it hiding under one of the monk’s houses.

 

However, the monk asked for the crocodile’s life as alms and the people were happy to oblige provided the crocodile were kept safely away from the community. Then a pond was dug underneath the monk’s house and a strong fence was raised around it to make sure the crocodile will never harm anyone again. You can still visit Ai-bod today at Wat Chakrawat. He’s stuffed and laid on a stand overlooking his living pond mates with a permanent smile. If you are lucky, you will be able to witness the monks gingerly spray down the crocodile pit.

The temple

Affectionately known as the Crocodile Temple for its unique permanent crocodile residents, Wat Chakrawat also houses exceptional samples of 19th-century architecture. On the left of the entrance, there’s a stairway leading to a platform housing a mondop topped with Khmer-style prang. The mondop houses a beautiful Buddha footprint shrine. Presented as a royal temple in 1835 by Chao Phraya Bodindecha (Sing Singhaseni), one of the most prominent political and military figures of the early Bangkok-Rattanakosin Kingdom, to King Rama III, the temple still houses one of the largest communities of monks and novices in Bangkok to date. The older part of the temple offers a peaceful atmosphere. On one side, a new section is being built to look like a giant termite mound or cave-like texture with a black shape on a wall that’s referred to as the ‘Buddha’s shadow’ covered with gold leaf offerings from the visitors. Next to this was a sitting gold Katyayana Buddha statue. Two-century-old wihaan stood in the middle of the temple’s ground. The exterior walls decorated with intricate gold Thai patterns on faded black walls. Parts of the building are being renovated where some bricks are exposed and the paint chipped. Also featuring are several Khmer-style prangs around the temple and one has a small Chinese-style house on the wall surrounding the prang.

How to get there

LOCATED in Chinatown’s western reaches, Wat Chakrawat covers a large area between Chakrawat Road and Maha Chak Road. The easiest way to reach Wat Chakrawat is by boat (from Saphan Taksin Pier) to Ratchawong Pier. The temple is just a short walk from there. Go straight on Ratchawong Road and turn left on Anuwong Road. Keep walking until you are on Maha Chak Road and the southern entrance to the temple, the alley makes a sharp turn to the right.

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