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Wat Chiang Man, Chiang Mai Overview

Built in 1296 CE during the inception of Chiang Mai, Wat Chiang Mai is the oldest temple in the city. It has two decorated viharns, which contain the oldest and highly venerated Buddha images. The temple is decorated with elaborate golden structures and intricate engravings. The compound also has a scripture library called the Ho Trai, and a lovely lotus pond.

A quiet oasis of splendid structures the temple was the first of many built by Mangrai in his new capital of the Lanna Kingdom. Wat Chiang Man is known for its various Buddha statues and its intricate designs, engravings and murals. The lotus pond and the library calm and give peace to the visitors. The temple is also one of the most revered by devotees and is often visited during Songkran Festival.

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Attractions in Wat Chiang Man

The Buddha statues are the main attractions of Wat Chiang Man. The Phra Sila Buddha statue depicts Buddha standing and taming an elephant or Nalagiri. The origin of the statue is debatable, where some believe it to come from India, whereas, others from Sri Lanka. The statue is believed to have the power to bring rain and is an important place of worship at the end of the dry season.

The Phra Sae Tang Khamani is also known as the Crystal Buddha. It is 10cm tall statue made of crystal quartz. The statue is believed by some experts to be brought by Queen Jamadevi in 662 CE and transferred to the temple by Mangraj after he conquered the Queen’s kingdom at Lamphun. The statue having survived through the conquest is also revered and believed to protect against disasters. The statue today has a wooden base covered with gold and a golden canopy which were later added in the 19th century.

Another Buddha statue stands in the Main or larger viharn. This statue of Buddha with an alms bowl has an inscription of the year 1465 CE on the base, which makes it the oldest statue of the Lanna Kingdom.

The other attractions of the temple include the Chedi Chang Lom, the viharns, Ubosot, the Ho Trai or temple library and the lotus pond.

Structures in Wat Chiang Man

The temple complex consists of a number of structures. Here is taking a look at them.

1. Chedi Chang Lom 

The Chedi is an important structure and also the oldest part of the temple. The Chedi Chang Lom also called the Elephant Chedi consists of a square base with the second level surrounded by 15 life-size elephant sculptures. It appears that the elephants are carrying the weight of the structure on their backs. The gilded top Chedi contains the relic chamber.

2. Large Viharn 

Renovated in the 1920s the large or main viharn is where the oldest statue of the Buddha is found. An impressive front that is decorated with carvings in gold, the viharn has beautiful murals on its wall and some exceptional glasswork designs.

3. Small Viharn

This structure contains the two most important statues of Buddha, the Phra Sila and Phra Sae Tang Khamani. The stairs leading into the viharn are guarded by Nagas, the snake creatures.

4. Ho Trai 

The temple library is located south of the Chedi. The red balcony structure is home to old manuscripts and scriptures. The library is built on a high brick base to avoid flooding.

5. Ubosot 

The ordination hall or ubosot dates to the 19th century. The frontal façade is magnificently decorated in wooden carvings. The exact date when the city of Chiang Mai was founded, April 12th 1296 is mentioned on a stone stele found in front of the ubosot.

Festivals Celebrated at Wat Chiang Man

Wat Chiang Man is a revered where devotees come throughout the year. However, the Songkran Festival is an integral part of the temple celebrations.

The Songkran Festival is the Thai New Year Festival. But it is celebrated at the end of the dry season by worshipping the Phra Sila statue. It is believed that the statue has rain giving powers and hence the Songkran Festival is celebrated with much fervour at Wat Chiang Man. Devotees line up at the temple to offer prayers during the Songkran Festival that falls during mid-April.

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