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Wat Chedi Luang - Wat Phra Dhatu Chedi Luang and Chiang Mai City Pillar Shrine
Wat Chedi Luang - Wat Phra Dhatu Chedi Luang and Chiang Mai City Pillar Shrine are centrally located inside the old walled and moated city od Chiang Mai
We visited the Grand Pagoda or Phra Dhatu Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai in December 2007 and were awe inspired by the massive brick and stucco temple building built in a combination of Thai and Sri Lankan styles between the 1380s to 1410s with its gold Buddhas, elaborate Naga staircases and guarding elephants. We were on the site for well over an hour as there is so much to see and explore.
There are a number of English language information text pieces around the Wat as well as a free 'Monk Chat' area, open from 13.00 to 17.00 daily, where you can obtain information about this important historic site, a monk's life and Buddhism in general.
The Wat Chedi Luang in Chiang Mai is about 60 metres square at the base wide and has a present day height of just over 55 metres, originally it was around the 80 metres mark and must have been a really fantastic sight when complete. This historic ruin underwent some heavy restorative work in the late 1990s but is deteriorating still and you would be pushed to see where the work was carried out.
The site is a popular Buddhist pilgrimage temple where on certain high days devotees can 'wash' the Buddha relics enshrined, by operating a pulley driven water container that pours water over the top of the shrine, this adds to the erosion by the elements of the fabric of the building. The Emerald Buddha housed in the Grand Palace in Bangkok was once enshrined here for almost 80 years. The reason it was moved was that the main structure partly collapsed due to an earthquake in 1545. Currently, from what we can gather, the Grand Pagoda enshrines the Buddha 'Chalerm Raj'.
The reclining Buddha or Pha Buddasaiyat facing the Grand Pagoda is an old Buddha statue of gilded brick and plaster, believed to have been created during the reign of King Phra Muang Kaeo (1487 - 1517), the eleventh monarch of the Mang Rai Dynasty. The head of the reclining Buddha statue is orientated towards the south and faces the ancient Grand Pagoda. The reclining Buddha measuring almost 9m long and 2m high is housed in an open sided pavilion built under the supervision of the Venerable Phra Buddhisophon the abbot in 1955.
The Little Northern Stupa, close to the Lanna Buddhist University Headquarters and administration block in known to date from the same era as the Grand Sanctuary.
The Little Northern Stupa was restored in 1993 and still it is not known what the stupa commemorates but it is a handsome structure standing just less than thirteen and a half metres tall, topped with a gilded brass parasol.
The Yang Tree or Bodhi Tree that is adorned by locals was planted during the establishment of Chiang Mai in 1796 when the city of Pasang was abandoned as the capital of Lanna by Prince Kawila (1781 - 1815). This could be the tallest Bodhi Tree in the Kingdom.
Phaya Yakkharaj or southern pavilion, built in 1800 on the instruction of Prince Kawila, houses the mythical guardian 'Yaksha' destined to protect the Inthakhin or City Pillar Shrine of Chiang Mai city, there is a second pavilion housing a similar guardian close by.
The City Pillar Shrine, one of the main reasons there is a Wat here today, itself is not an elaborate affair as in most cities and you have to seek it out. The only indication of its importance is the small sign above the northern door. Unfortunately for us, the Chiang Mai City Pillar Shrine was locked on the day of our visit.
Items annotated (TAT)
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