The Wat Suthat is located in Sao Chingcha Square in Bangkok. It is also known as the Temple by the Giant Swing because of a very large swing standing on its front. It enshrines the Buddha Phra Sri Sakyamuni or Sisakayamunee among locals. The temple is also the home of Brahman priests directing Buddhist rituals for bounty harvests.
Until the 1930s, the giant swing was used as part of an annual ritual to thank the god of Shiva for bounty harvests and to ask for blessings on the next crop. Young men will swing as high as 75 feet to grab with their teeth a sack of gold tied to a pole. It was a ceremony that caused such a lot of injuries and deaths that it was banned by the monarch. The red brown frame made of teak wood was the only thing that remained of the giant swing.
The Wat Suthat was built in the 18th Century during the reign of King Rama I and was only completed in 1847 during the reign of King Rama III. It was said to be constructed solely to house the Phra Sri Sakyamuni Buddha image, which is 25 foot tall and thus one of the biggest in Bangkok. The bronze Buddha came from the Sukhothai province of Thailand by boat and was promptly displayed in the temple when the sermon hall was completed.
The Wat Suthat complex stretches to a total area of 10 acres. Inside are the temple and the monk’s living quarters. The main hall called the Wihan where the Buddha is enshrined is surrounded by 156 Buddha images lined against the wall of its covered walkway in the inner courtyard. The wall of the Wihan has wall paintings depicting the Jataka Tales or the 24 previous lives of the Buddha, while the columns show scenes from the history of Bangkok. The column nearest the door on the right depicts scenes of the first Westerners who came to Thailand, then called Siam.
Each of the 156 Buddha statues is adopted by a believer sponsor for a departed loved one and its base or the wall next to it may contain the ashes of their departed. Also, the base where the Phra Sri Sakyamuni Buddha sits contains the ashes of King Rama VIII. At the lower part of this base, there are also 28 Chinese pagodas that represent the 28 Buddha that were born on the earth.
The Wat Suthat also enshrines two other Buddha images: the Phra Buddha Trilocachet in the Ubosot or the Ordinary Hall and the Phra Budhha Setthamuni in the Sala Kan Parien or the Meeting Hall. It’s probably one of the many temples in Thailand where you don’t have to worry about being included in other people’s pictures because it isn’t crawling with tourists, which perhaps is part of its charm. The grounds of the temple are peaceful and quiet. When you visit, be sure to observe dress codes common in all temples of the country. Wear respectable clothes and take your shoes off upon entering the shrine.