Bangkok City Pillar Shrine is housed within a small complex on the opposite side of the road to the Grand Palace in Bangkok.
Although seldom visited by foreign tourists, Bangkok’s City Pillar Shrine has a very important place in the history of Bangkok and Thailand as a whole and as a place of worship, steeped in legends and prophesies that have shaped modern Thailand.
About Bangkok City Pillar Shrine
Bangkok City Pillar Shrine was erected in 1782 at exactly 06:45 on the 21st April. The shrine was the first building in Bangkok created by the new King of Thailand, King Rama I, to mark the transfer of the capital to Bangkok.
Founding of Bangkok
The shrine predates the nearby Grand Palace and the many new temples created in Bangkok by the first ruler of the Chakri Dynasty and in this respect the creation of the shrine marks a definitive point in time when Bangkok was founded as a city.
City Pillar Shrines in Thailand
The Bangkok City Pillar Shrine was the first city pillar shrine, or lak mueang, to be established in Thailand. Nearly every province in Thailand now has a city pillar shrine in its major town or city. City pillar shrines symbolise the founding of a spiritual community in tandem with the founding of a physical community.
According to ancient tradition they also are also the place that the city’s guardian spirit resides making them something akin to spirit house serving a whole town or city with local residents regularly bringing offerings and coming to pray for help from the guardian spirit.
The tradition started by Rama I is that a city pillar shrine consists of a pole of acacia wood inside which is placed a horoscope of the city or town’s future.
Curse of the Chakri Dynasty
The Bangkok City Pillar Shrine is, however, unique amongst city pillar shrines in that it has two city pillar shrines. The reason for this relates to the ‘Curse of the Chakri Dynsasty’ which predicted that the current lineage of Thailand’s Royal Family would end 150 years after the founding of Bangkok.
According to legend when the first wooden pillar was being installed at the auspicious time of 06:45 on the 21st April 1782 four snakes crawled into the pit where the pillar would be erected. Conscious of the need to complete the task at the time considered auspicious the Brahmin Priests simply buried the snakes in the pit along with the base of the wooden pillar.
These events were considered very inauspicious and following some later unfortunate and worrying events the consensus opinion among the Royal astrologers and fortune tellers was that the Chakri Dynasty had been cursed and would end in 150 years. As the years went by since 1782 and the 150 year deadline loomed successive Kings of Thailand became increasingly worried about the prophesy and started undertaking good works to try to lift the curse.
Installation of a Second City Pillar
The installation of a second pillar at the shrine together with an upgrade to the buildings in the shrine by King Rama IV in 1852 was part of this. King Rama IV hoped that by reinstalling the shrine it would undo the curse. Efforts to lift the curse intensified as the 150 year period was coming to an end with later Kings remaining unsure that the efforts of King Rama IV had been sufficient to lift the curse. The most significant of these being the completion of the Rama VI bridge in 1927 which the Royal Court believed would bring harmony by linking the new capital of Bangkok with the old capital of Thonburi thereby symbolically re-establishing the city.
End of Absolute Monarchy in Thailand
The Chakri Dynasty still continues today, however, in 1932 (exactly 150 years after the founding of the city of Bangkok as predicted) a group of Army Officers rebelled against the Thai Royal family ending absolute monarchy in Thailand.
Location of Bangkok City Pillar Shrine
- Bangkok City Pillar Shrine is located 950 metres walking distance from Wat Suthat Thepwararam.