Wat Phra That Hariphunchai is the main temple, and the major tourist attraction, in the town of Lamphun in Northern Thailand.
Wat Phra That Hariphunchai is a large temple complex featuring elements dating from many periods and different civilisations. Wat Phra That Hariphunchai is open every day from 06:00 to 18:00 and admission costs 20 THB for foreign visitors. The on site museum, however, is closed on Mondays and Thai public holidays with shorter opening hours, from 09:00 to 16:00.
About Wat Phra That Hariphunchai
Wat Phra That Hariphunchai is believed to have been founded in 1150 by the reigning king of the Hariphunchai Kingdom. The site is significant because according to legend it was the location of the place of the first ruler of the Hariphunchai Dynsasty, Queen Chamadevi. The Hariphunchai Kingdom was a remnant of the Dvaravati Empire which ruled over much of Thailand from the 7th Century to early 12th Century until being militarily defeated by the neighbouring Khmer Empire.
The Hariphinchai Kingdom was also invaded in the late 13th century by King Mengrai of the Lanna Kingdom, and as a consequence what remains today at Wat Phra That Hariphunchai is a mix of Dvaravati and Lanna styles of architecture.
The most famous features of Wat Phra That Hariphunchai are its two chedi. The central chedi, and the larger of the two, is a golden Lanna style chedi built in the mid 15th Century. The chedi is believed to have been built on top of a 9th Century chedi which encased an important Buddha relic. The metallic covering on the chedi is copper plates subsequently painted gold.
From a historic perspective, the more interesting of the two chedi at Wat Phra That Hariphunchai is the Suwanna Chedi, which was built slightly earlier on in the 15th Century. The Suwanna Chedi is 46 metres tall and the interesting thing about it is that it is built in what is variously termed the Mon or Dvaravati style. The Suwanna Chedi is quite different to any other chedi you will find in Thailand, except one other similar chedi which is at Wat Chamadevi located a few kilometres away from Wat Phra That Hariphunchai.
The art and culture of the Dvaravati culture is notable amongst the different groups which have ruled Thailand through the ages for being heavily influenced by Indian culture, and they were most likely primarily responsible for the Buddhist religion taking hold in Thailand. The Suwanna Chedi has an Indian influenced designed with five levels, each smaller than the one below and each with 12 niches, three on each side. The niches each most likely contained statues, however, all but a few of these statues now remain in place.
The next most significant structure at Wat Phra That Hariphunchai is it’s large assembly hall which was built in 1925.
Despite being a more modern temple building the assembly hall Wat Phra That Hariphunchai has many traditional design features associated with older Lanna style temples including highly intricate gold reliefs on wooden panelling.
The focal point of the inside of the assembly hall at Wat Phra That Hariphunchai is the large seated Buddha statue known as the Buddha with sharp shins. The statue was cast in 1489 and used to be housed in the assembly hall that previously stood on the same spot as the current building.
One of the many features to look out for on a visit to Wat Phra That Hariphunchai is the wall murals on both the inside and outside of the assembly hall. These large painting depicts important scenes from the life of the Lord Buddha, including the Buddha’s first sermon after gaining enlightenment delivered at Saranath near Varanasi in India.
Wat Phra That Hariphunchai is large temple complex with a number of other smaller buildings. Next to the main chedi is the Viharn Phra Chao Lawo, which features a frontage decorated in red and gold. In addition to this there are three further assembly halls: the Viharn Phra Chao Daeng, the Viharn Than Chai and the Viharn Phra Chao Pan Ton.
It is well worth exploring all of these temple buildings at Wat Phra That Hariphunchai as each features its own Buddha statues and more intricate wall murals.
Another significant feature of Wat Phra That Hariphunchai is its 19th Century library, known as a Ho Trai, used to store the Buddhist holy books, the Tripitaka. The design of the Ho Trai at Wat Phra That Hariphunchai is remarkably similar to the design of the Ho Trai at Wat Phra Singh in Chiang Mai. Both library buildings are made of teak and mounted on three metre high stone bases to protect the delicate and precious old manuscripts from floods, insects and rats.
Wat Phra That Hariphunchai has so many artefacts the temple has even opened a museum to display what can’t be housed in the many buildings in the temple complex. The museum has displays with some of the older artefacts that have been discovered on the site, some of which of believed to date back to before the current temple was established. This small museum has two floors but not in the much of information in English about what it is that is being displayed.
Wat Phra That Hariphunchai is full of further points of interest and curiosities. Wat Phra That Hariphunchai has its own reclining Buddha statue and several imprints of the footprint of the Lord Buddha in various sizes.
Of the many statues at Wat Phra That Hariphunchai of particular note is the statue representing the Lord Buddha as being very thin. This is an unusual statue because the Lord Buddha is normally depicted as having a much fuller figure. The image of an emaciated Buddha is most likely intended to portray how he might have looked nearing the end of the 49 day meditation which culminated in his achieving enlightenment.
Location of Wat Phra That Hariphunchai
- Wat Phra That Hariphunchai is located 2.8 km by road from Lamphun Railway Station.