Phra Pathom Chedi in Nakhon Pathom has the tallest chedi tower in Thailand, and also lays claims to being the oldest Buddhist Temple in South East Asia, although this point is open to debate.
- Opening hours:
- Temple complex: 07:00 to 20:00
- Museum: 09:00 to 16:30, except for Mondays and Tuesdays when the museum is closed.
- Entrance Fee:
- Temple complex: 50 THB (foreigners)
- Museum: 50 THB (foreigners)
About Phra Pathom Chedi
One of the most interesting features of Phra Pathom Chedi, also known as Phra Pathommachedi which roughly translated means the ‘the first chedi’, is its history.
The future King Rama IV of Thailand, Prince Mongkut, came across this temple in 1831 during his time as a monk. As is still common today, Buddhist monks in Thailand often undertook long journeys on foot and it is during one of these journeys that Prince Mongkut found the Phra Pathom Chedi hidden by overgrown jungle. The Prince, being a learned man, quickly realised the historical significance of the temple and sought funds from King Rama III to restore it.
Rebuilt by King Rama IV of Thailand
His request was denied, and the Prince waited 20 years for his ascension to the throne to commence the restoration of the temple. The project took 17 years and was only completed after King Mongkut’s death. The focal point of the restoration of the temple was the construction of a 120 metre tall chedi tower, along with a range of other new temple buildings.
The chedi is in the centre of Nakhon Pathom City and is its most striking landmark. Around the base of the temple are four shrine halls, each with notable statues of the Lord Buddha. The temple also has a large ordination hall, a prayer hall and a museum established in the 19th Century to display artefacts discovered at the site.
Age of the Temple
Whilst the Phra Pathom Chedi is definitely old, exactly how old is a matter of debate. Other temples in Thailand, for example Wat Phra Mahathat in Nakhon Si Thammarat, are also strong contenders for being the oldest Buddhist temples in Thailand although their early history is as a matter of local legend and belief to the same extent as that of the Phra Pathom Chedi in Nakhon Pathom.
Fact versus Theory
For this reason, it is helpful to divide accounts of the history of the Phra Pathom Chedi into two categories, known and conjectured:
- Known History: Nakhon Pathom was the principal city of the Dvaravati Empire in Thailand from the 6th to 8th Centuries. Dvaravati culture was heavily influenced by India and they believed in Buddhism. The style of chedi they were most likely to have built would have been a wide semi spherical shape monument as was common in India. The city fell to Khmer regime in the 11th Century who installed a Khmer style prang, which is what Prince Mongkut found in the 19th Century and built over to create the chedi that stand today. The Pagan Empire of Burma invaded the area in the latter part of the 11th Century and the ancient city of Nakhon Pathom was left in ruins thereafter until repopulated on the orders King Rama V at the end of the 19th Century.
- Conjectured History: A common belief, without much in the way of supporting archaeological evidence or references in historical texts from the period, is that a temple was established on the site in 325 BC on the orders Indian Emperor, and devoted Buddhist, Ashoka. The further claim is that in 193 BC the first chedi in South East Asia was built where the Phra Pathom Chedi now stands in the style of the famous Great Stupa in Sanchi, India. This stupa is first mentioned in Buddhist texts from near the end of the 7th Century, however, it’s not clear when it was built and archaeological evidence from the site only dates back to the 4th Century. This means the temple may have existed before the Dvaravati Empire but we cannot be sure who established it.
Location of Phra Pathom Chedi
- Phra Pathom Chedi is located 52.8 km by road from Bangkok.