Visiting Wat Chedi Luang Temple

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If you get a chance to travel to Chiang Mai let’s take your time to drop by Wat Chedi Luang. This temple is one of the most attractive destinations in this peaceful city.

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Overview

Wat Chedi Luang‘s massive chedi (pagoda) was built sometime between 1385 and 1402, during the reign of King Saen Muang Ma, 7th ruler of the Mengrai dynasty and is a distinctive feature of the Chiang Mai skyline. At its peak, the chedi measured 60 metres across at the square base and 80 metres tall and was once the home of the Emerald Buddha, Thailand’s most sacred religious relic.

Damaged during an earthquake in 1545, the chedi’s height is reduced to nearly half of its original size yet it is still an impressive structure. In 1992, the Fine Arts Department finished restoration work around the chedi, bringing back the naga (water serpent) staircase on each of its faces and wonderful statues of elephants adorning the base. The actual work on the chedi itself, however, was never quite complete, leaving it in its present state.

Wat Chedi Luang (via limkimkeong.com)

What to see in Wat Chedi Luang

On Wat Chedi Luang’s premise are several structures of great cultural significance, including the city pillar (Intakin), main wiharn housing the principal Buddha image and a giant gum tree guarding the temple’s entrance. According to ancient Lanna beliefs, the city pillar is erected at the epicentre of the city, to mark the centre of the universe, which in the past was the Lanna Kingdom.

Dwarfing the city pillar shrine is one of the three gum trees believed to protect the city from all ills. Legend has it that if this tree ever falls, a great catastrophe will follow. On important Buddhist holidays, such as Visakha Buja, Wat Chedi Luang is where worshippers convene for the evening candle procession. A special pulley system allows visitors to leave offerings and prayers atop the chedi during the day. The temple is located on Phra Pokklao Road and is easy to find, since the chedi is one of the tallest structures in the old city.

The main sanctuary is a revered standing Buddha statue, known as Phra Chao Attarot, flanked by two disciples. There are more chapels and statues in teak pavilions at the rear of the compound, including a huge reclining Buddha and a handsome Chinese-influenced seated Buddha barely contained by his robes. The daily Monk Chat under a tree in the grounds always draws a crowd of interested travellers.

Wat Chedi Luang (via limkimkeng.com)

 If you enter the compound via the main entrance on Th Phra Pokklao, you’ll pass Wat Chedi Luang’s other claim to fame. Housed in a striking mon·dòp–like chapel is the Làk Meuang, or city pillar, allegedly raised by King Mengrai himself when Chiang Mai was founded in 1296. The pillar is known locally as Sao Inthakin, and it was previously enshrined at Wat Inthakin, around the corner on Th Inthawarorot. Buddhist rules dictate that only men can enter the pavilion to view the pillar. The gateway to the shrine on Th Phra Pakklao is flanked by yaksha (guardian demons) and Lanna warriors are depicted in bas relief on the gates.

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