Dem Bones, Dem Bones….a Buddhist Ossuary in Bangkok

Prayer Flags at the Chedi in Wat Prayoon, Bangkok

Prayer Flags at the Chedi in Wat Prayoon, Bangkok

In 1828 a rich coffee plantation owner donated the land for a new temple. King Rama III named the place Wat Prayurawongsaw. However, people today refer to it as Wat Prayoon. One evening the King watched as a melting candle formed a mountain of wax and decided that this was very auspicious. He called his favorite general in and they both looked at this pile of wax. This was before radio, television or electric lights so I guess a pile of wax could be entertaining in the right circumstances. Anyhow, the general knowing what side his bread is buttered on uses the mound of wax as a model to build a miniature mountain at the Kings newly named Wat.

Gravestones at the ossuary in Wat Prayoon, Bangkook

Gravestones at the ossuary in Wat Prayoon, Bangkook

At some point, some smart monk figured out that rich important people would like a place to keep the bones of their loved ones and relatives. The monks of Wat Prayoon had little miniature temples built on and around the mountain so that people could take their relatives bones off the top shelf of the closet and inter them in a fitting place.

This is very rare as Buddhist are cremated. The only cemetery’s that I have ever seen in Asia is for either the Chinese or Westerners and these are very few and far between.  Unfortunately on the day that my friend Barbara Weibel and I visited the Wat, they had closed the cemetery for renovation.  We were only able to stare through the fence and take a couple of photos

The Wat has been undergoing major renovation in recent years. The Chedi has been rebuilt and painted.  The interior brick dome has been restored and selected Buddha’s place in beautifully back-lit niches. It was a quite unexpected look for this old Chedi.

Bone storage at Wat Prayoon

Bone storage at Wat Prayoon

The Chedi is circled with a neoclassical colonnade that houses more bones in a miniature mausoleum. Truth be told they look more like post office boxes for the departed…one delivery and no return postage accepted.

PO Box for Bones at Wat Prayoon

PO Box for Bones at Wat Prayoon

If one overlooks the fact the whole place is one big mausoleum (which I have no trouble doing) then I can say honestly that I found this temple very light and cheery. With prayer flags flying and its crisp white exterior set against an azure blue sky… I felt the place lifted my spirits.

Temples as seen from the Chedi at Wat Prayoong

Temples as seen from the Chedi at Wat Prayoong

The rest of the Wat was very traditional with a large gold Buddha, a large glass case holding a reliquary with a part of Buddha (more on this at a later date).  They didn’t offer up what part of him they had and I was afraid to ask. There was a small museum housed next to the Chedi in a building that was the first library in Bangkok. Photos of the renovation and hundreds of little Buddha’s and amulets found during construction are housed here.  Not terrible interesting but it is free and one must go through it to get to the Chedi and the mausoleum so it is not hard to spend fifteen minutes checking it out.

The Wat is not hard to find it is at the end of the Memorial Bridge on the Thonburi side of the river. One can take the water bus to the bridge and walk across to the right side. Check it out if you have the time….

 

About Larry Bosco

In 2010 I had one of those “Is this all there is” moments and so in January 2011 I retired from Real Estate Appraising, sold off all my worldly goods and headed out as a solo traveler in search of a new place to live. Since then I’ve traveled around the world, made new friends and had many great adventures and some not so great. After staying almost a year in Cuenca, Ecuador I have headed back to South East Asia where I began the journey in 2011. Currently I am living in Chiang Mai, Thailand
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3 Responses to Dem Bones, Dem Bones….a Buddhist Ossuary in Bangkok

  1. Phyllis says:

    Larry, I continue to enjoy your interesting and informative posts along with the many stunning images. Thanks. Take care.

  2. Claudia Hammer says:

    Interesting! It looks like you are enjoying the camera because you have some interesting angles. I guess you are not going to leave your bones there.

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