Wat Phra Kaew, often referred to as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, is situated in proximity to Bangkok's Royal Palace. The temple has the distinction of being the most venerated shrine of Buddhist worship in Thailand. The centrepiece of the temple is the Emerald Buddha, a dark green-coloured statue measuring about two feet in height. No-one may approach the statue except for the King of Thailand, who performs important rites at the temple at certain times of the year.
Many people believe that the Buddha statue originated from Sri Lanka, but expert art historians are of the view that the statue was created in Thailand in the 14th century. There is no doubt that the statue has experienced a tumultuous history. Legend has it that it was concealed in a monument in Chiang Rai, but was revealed by a flash of lightning in 1434. The prized statue was acquired by various monarchs before being placed in its present location in Bangkok.
Encircled by walls extending more than a mile, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha houses samples of the finest Buddhist architecture, sculptures, decorative crafts and paintings found in Thailand. The Buddha statue rests on top of a massive gold altar at the temple's centre. The dark statue of rather small dimensions is composed of green jasper or jadeite; the word ‘emerald' refers only to the colour of the statue.
The Thai King performs the rite of costume change three times each year, attiring the statue in a crown and jewellery (for summer), a golden shawl (in winter) and a gilt robe and headdress (for the rainy months).
The elaborate central shrine encases the Buddha statue, while the interior walls are embellished with murals in the Ayuththaya style portraying the life of the Buddha. Door panels are adorned with precious mother-of-pearl decorations.
The temple complex also features numerous pavilions and other monuments, notably three pagodas in varying modes of Buddhist architecture. One of these is a stupa in the Sri Lankan style, housing ashes of the Buddha.
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