Wat Bowonniwet Vihara Ratchaworawiharn (วัดบวรนิเวศวิหารราชวรวิหาร), or Wat Bowon/Boworn for short, is an important royal Buddhist temple in Bangkok's Phra Nakhon district. The temple, whose current abbot is the kingdom's Supreme Patriarch, belongs to the Thammayut Nikaya school of Thai Theravada Buddhism and has been a temple of patronage for kings of the Chakri dynasty. Its ordination hall enshrines the famous Phra Phuttha Chinnasee Buddha image.
Wat Bowonniwet was built in the reign of King Rama III, by Somdet Phra Woraratchao Maha Sakdipollasep. In 1923, during the reign of King Rama VI, the nearby Wat Rangsi Sutthawat and Wat Bowon were combined into one temple.
In 1836, during his monkhood, the future King Mongkut (Rama IV) arrived at the temple and became its first abbot. Rama VI and Rama VII also resided at the temple as monks for a time, as did King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Enshrined in the ubosot is the Sukhothai-era bronze Phra Phuttha Chinnasee Buddha image (พระพุทธชินสีห์) in the attitude of Subduing Mara. The image was moved from Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat in Phitsanulok. Behind it is Phra Suwannakhet (Phra To) from Phetchaburi. In front of the Chinnasee Buddha are images of three former princely abbots of the monastery. Also found in this hall are the distinctive and unique murals painted by well known Thai painter, Khrua In Khong, during King Mongkut’s reign.
Behind the ubosot is the large chedi. To the south of the chedi, facing east, is another Buddha image, Phra Dighayumahamongol, affectionately known as Luang Por Dam (Venerable Black Father) due to its dark color before gilding. Behind it is the Vihara Keng, decorated with murals of scenes from Romance of the Three Kingdoms and housing four Buddha images that represent former abbots of the temple. In another hall to the south is the Phra Sri Sasada Buddha image and a small but beautiful green stone Buddha from the Dvaravati period.
In a connecting room is the Phra Saiya Reclining Buddha. Cast in the 14th or 15th century, this gilded bronze image was placed in Sukhothai's Wat Phra Phai Luang, and subsequently moved to Wat Bowonniwet in the early 19th century. Prince Damrong Rajanuparp, Thai Historian and son of King Mongkut, wrote in Legends of Important Buddha Images, "this reclining Buddha image excels all others in beauty."
To the west of the ubosot is an open pavilion enshrining a twin Buddha footprint (two left footprints rather than a pair) dated 1426 and thought to be from Sukhothai. Carved from a huge block of stone, the footprints are often covered in money left by meritmakers who try to stand coins up on their edges in the carved grooves of the designs.
Other highlights at the temple are the Sala Dang (Red Pavilion), Bodhi Tree, Sukhothai-style Walking Buddhas, Laterite Buddha, and a variety of the stone "Chinese dolls" that were used as ships' ballast in former times.
The temple is on Phra Sumeru Road, a few minutes' walk from Khao San Road and Ratchadamnoen Klang, where the aircon bus 511 runs to Sukhumvit.
Sources: Wat Bowonniwet, The Arts of Asia, Lonely Planet Thailand.
Updated: March 6, 2012.