Commonly known as the marble temple, Wat Benchamabophit is one of Bangkok's most beautiful attractions. Embodying an impressive, modern style of Thai architecture, Wat Benchamabophit is a royal temple hosting a beautiful Buddha statue. With red carpets, polished marble and stained-glass painted walls - Wat Benchamabophit is a unique, yet beautiful Thai temple!
Wat Benchamabophit holds great religious importance in the hearts of the local community of Thailand. Unlike most of the other temples in Thailand, people from the community come here early in the morning to make offerings to the monks lined up on Nakhon Pathom with their bowls. The temple has also been an essential part of Thailand’s history and houses a replica of a highly revered Buddha statue. King Rama V spent his days as a monk at this temple before his coronation. Apart from that, the temple appeared in the famous reality TV show The Amazing Race 9, and its façade is on the reverse side of the Five Thai Baht coin.
As the name suggests, the ordination hall / Ubosot of Wat Benchamabophit is covered on the outside with white marble imported from Italy. The entrance is marked by four marble pillars and two statues of lions on either side of the gate, guarding the temple. As you enter the hall, a long aisle will lead you to the altar where the central Buddha statue is placed. The multi-tiered roof of the ubosot with elegant chofahs at the top end and the intricate gold carvings is a unique example of Bangkok architectural style. Do not miss the gothic shaped glass windows stained in yellow and white which further enhance the beauty of the temple, and complement the murals on the wall depicting several important Thai stupas.
2. Phra Buddha Chinnarat
A giant bronze statue of Buddha in ‘subduing Mara’ position, outlined by a golden frame sits against a bright royal blue background in the main Ubosot of Wat Benchamabophit. It is a copy of the highly revered image of Phra Buddha Chinnarat in Phitsanulok province. The ashes of King Rama V, who himself presided over the casting of the model in Bronze, are buried beneath the bronze Buddha statue.
3. Gallery/Cloister Surrounding the Ubosot
The cloister surrounding the Ubosot enshrines 52 images of Buddha, representing different image styles of Thailand, i.e. Dvaravati, Lopburi, Sukhothai, Ayutthaya. Although the monastery is a common feature of Thai temples, what sets Wat Benchamabophit apart is that unlike other temples, every image here is different. Some photos are seated while others are standing, with different postures and hand gestures. Some of these images are original images brought from different parts of the kingdom and abroad, while some are copies of the important Buddha images.
4. The Bodhi Tree
Don’t forget to pay a visit to the Bodhi tree which stands right behind the sanctuary of Wat Benchamabophit. It is believed that this tree was brought as a gift to King Rama V from Bodh Gaya in India where Buddha attained enlightenment.
5. Song Dharm Hall
This hall was constructed in 1902, at the behest of Queen Saovabha Phongsri in the memory of her late son, Royal Crown Prince Vajirunhis. You will find Thai decorative motifs, the royal emblem of the crown Prince, and depictions of Prince Siddhartha’s life on different pediments of the structure. Today, the hall is used for organising certain annual events and lying in state of the bodies of royals and dignitaries during funeral ceremonies.
There is a canal that separates the Wat Benchamabophit temple compound from the monk quarters, and three red coloured bridges can cross it. Notice the floral-design iron-cast fences with lotus bud-shaped tops, on both sides of the canal and the 12 Chinese figures that decorate the bridge approaches. Also, don’t forget to take a short stroll through the colourful monk quarters.
A trip to Wat Benchamabophit is usually clubbed with a visit to the Dusit Garden Palace, which is a part of the marble temple’s history and situated just across the street. Built by King Rama V towards the end of the 19th century, the vast complex of the Dusit Palace is dotted with houses a dozen palaces, royal mansions, and throne halls between beautiful gardens and lawns. The former Royal gardens named Khao Din Wana were transformed into the Dusit Zoo in 1938.
Architecture of Wat Benchamabophit
Made of Italian marble, the Wat Benchamabophit is a unique example of modern Thai architecture with European influences. The marble pillars, courtyard, and the two singhas (lions) guarding the gate of the bot gleam with polished white stone from Carrara’s quarries. Instead of a central wihaan or chedi, significant in the older temple complexes of Bangkok, Wat Benchamabophit has different smaller buildings displaying various European features like the red carpets, gold-on-white motifs adorning the walls, stained-glass windows etc. The main bot contains a Sukhothai-style Buddha statue against the backdrop of a royal blue wall. The courtyard behind the bot features 53 Buddha images showing different mudras, making it an excellent place for observing Buddhist iconography.
Wat Benchamabophit History
Wat Benchamabophit was built on the site of an old temple, but little is known about its origins. Its modern history dates back to 1826, during the reign of Rama III when a Revolting Prince of the Kingdom of Laos moved his troops to Khorat plateau to attack Bangkok. It was at that time when King Rama III set up defences around the old temple, and the site soon became the headquarters of the chief commander of the central armies. The troops were defeated at the Khorat plateau itself, and the Chakris emerged victoriously. To express their gratitude, King Rama III and his four brothers restored the temple and erected five pagodas in front of it. Later, Rama IV renamed it as 'Wat Benchabopitr' meaning the temple of five princes and princesses.
At the end of the 19th century, King Rama V had the Dusit Garden Palace built. Two old temples which fell within the precincts of the Garden palace were destroyed. To compensate for this destruction, the King ordered a complete restoration of Wat Benchabopitr. The temple was constructed using Italian marble, and it was designed by Prince Naris, half-brother of the King. The temple was renamed to 'Wat Benchamabophit' meaning the temple of the fifth king.
Best Time to Visit Wat Benchamabophit
The best time to visit Wat Benchamabophit is during the Buddhist festivals of Magh Puja that takes place in February and Vishakha Puja that takes place in May when you will be able to witness the evening candlelight processions around the bot. Visit the temple in the morning to avoid crowds.
Follow the dress code which requires men to wear long pants and short-sleeved or long-sleeved shirts (no tank tops or sleeveless shirts). Women must wear skirts or pants extending to their knees, and should not wear a top that reveals bare shoulders. You will be required to take off your shoes before entering the temple.
Photography is allowed in any area of the complex.
Beware of scammers who talk tourists into buying fake gemstones. Hundreds of tourists have fallen for the lofty discounts these scammers offer. Never buy gems or jewellery from a shop you're taken to by a tuk-tuk. If someone walks up to you to talk about a "jewellery-related promotion" or "Government tax-free jewellery export", they are most certainly trying to scam you.
Carry a guide book/map and avoid getting fooled by the tuk-tuk drivers and men offering a 'free tour' of the place for their own benefits.
How To Reach Wat Benchamabophit
Wat Benchamabophit is located on the intersection of Thanon Rama V and Thanon Si Ayutthaya. The speediest and most convenient way to get there is by a metered Taxi, whereas BTS and Express boat are cheaper options. The temple is two kilometres east of Thewet express boat pier, and three kilometres west of Phaya Thai BTS Skytrain station, any taxi/tuk-tuk driver on Sri Ayutthaya will help you reach Wat Benchamabophit.