The temple of Wat Mahathat was founded in the 18th century, even before the founding of Bangkok (1782). It has been considerably altered over the years, most notably by the young Prince Mongkut who would later become King Rama IV of Thailand.
Today, the temple is the headquarters of the Mahanikai school of Buddhism, Thailand’s largest monastic order. It’s used as a center for monastic learning for members of the school who come from all across Southeast Asia. The temple is also home to the Center for Vipassana Meditation at Buddhist University, and is one of several in Bangkok that offers classes in meditations. Some programs are taught in English.
Originally built to house a relic of the Buddha, Wat Mahathat is one of the oldest shrines in Bangkok. The temple is tucked away on the grounds, surrounded by a confusing layout of schools, offices, and other buildings. When you come to the entrance to the inner courtyard, push your way through the door. It tends to be closed to keep out the noise of the surrounding environs. The courtyard is packed with statues and relics, with an out-of-place garden of tall palm trees pushed to the back.
Next to the temple, vendors gather every Sunday for Bangkok’s largest amulet market, where they peddle religious amulets, talismans, charms, and traditional medicine. All of the amulets have a different purpose: to restore health, to bring great wealth, or to keep enemies away, for example.
Know Before You Go
The Temple is located near Sanam Luang Park, between the Grand Palace and the National Museum. Enter on Mahathat Road.