One of the must-see items when visiting Bangkok is the gigantic, 32-meter (105 feet) tall Standing Buddha.
While it is unknown exactly when this site was first used as a temple, it has been recorded that a temple called Wat Rai Phrik was already standing here when Bangkok was first founded in 1782. It has been estimated that Wat Rai Phrik was built during the beginning stages of the Ayutthaya Period, which lasted from 1351 to 1767.
After Rama I founded Bangkok in 1782 he restored Wat Rai Phrik and renamed it Wat Intharam. That temple and the grounds remained mostly unchanged until 1867 when King Mongkut (Rama IV) ordered the creation of the Standing Buddha. This structure was complete in 1927, a full 60 years after it had been started. Perhaps part of the reason it took so long is that between 1910-1925 King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) ordered renovations to be done on the temple. Once those renovations were complete the temple was renamed Wat Indharavihan (also called Wat Intharawihan), which is what it is known as today.
The Standing Buddha is also known as Luang Pho To (also called Luang Por Tuad), a famous and highly revered Buddhist monk who was born in 1582. He mastered his Buddhist training at an early age and was ordained as a monk at age 12. Legend has it that he could calm storms, turn seawater into fresh water, solve complex puzzles that scholars were stumped by, perform miracles and possessed psychic powers. It is said that after his death he visited many people in their dreams and continued to bless people through the miracles he performed through their dreams. Soon after his death the Thai people began making amulets and statues in his image – he is usually depicted as an old man seated in meditation and hunched over.
Aside from the Standing Buddha, there are many smaller Buddha statues. I’ve read that some are further replicas of Luang Pho To, but was not able to figure out which ones were him and which were other monks. No matter who the statues are of, they are all in honor of the good deeds and strong devotion the monks exemplified in their lives. In 1964 and 1967, the current King of Thailand, King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), Queen Sirikit and their children covered the forehead and the topknot of the Luang Pho To image with gold leaves, though none of the reports I’ve read about those events say whether it was the giant statue or one of the smaller ones.
As with most other Buddha statues, the Standing Buddha contains relics of the Buddha. Inside the topknot of Buddha lies relics of the Buddha found in Sri Lanka, which were a gift from the government of Sri Lanka and placed there by Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn (only son of King Bhumibol) in 1978. Since the Standing Buddha is in honor of such a revered Buddha and contains relics of the original Buddha, Buddhist people visit the temple complex every day to make offerings at the feet of the Buddha statue, bring flowers and other items and burning incense sticks. It is believed that the Standing Buddha possesses the power to bless worthy devotees with success.
Since to Buddha relics were placed in the topknot there has been only one other change made to the Buddha. In 1982, when Bangkok celebrated its 200th birthday, restoration works were carried out and the Standing Buddha was decorated with Italian golden mosaics. No other changes have been made to the Buddha.
The area around the Standing Buddha and the actual temple aren’t visited as much as the Standing Buddha, but they’re worth looking at. Click the images to see them bigger and to read the captions.
Inside Wat Indharavihan
Wat Indharavihan temple complex
How To Get There
The temple is located on Thanon Wisut Kasat close to the Rama VIII bridge over Chao Phraya river. You can either get there by taxi/tuk-tuk or take the Chao Phraya express boat to Rama VIII pier. The temple is about half a mile from the pier.
Admission & Hours
The Wat Intharawihan is open daily from 8:30 am until 8 pm. Admission is free.
We visited towards the end of the day and there were only two other people there. I’ve read that this is one of the less-visited temples (by tourists), so you could probably visit at any time of the day and not be surrounded by tons of other people.