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Wat ched Yod (Seven – Spires Temple)

Wat ched Yod (Seven – Spires Temple)

Wat ched Yod (Seven – Spires Temple)
This temple is located on the high way not very far from the museum. Before entering the Wat we will pass between two embankments. On the left was the scene of the cremation of King Tilokarat in 1487. On the right is a ruined Chadi on a plat form. a monument to king Tilokarat constraining his ashes. This was built by his grandson and successor, King Yod Chiang Rai about 1489. The style is that of the great Chedi at Wat Chedi Luang but on a small scale.

There are two theories about the building of Wat Ched Yod, one that it was built by King Anoratha Mangchaw of Burma. The other is that it was built by King Tilokarat beginning in 1455 with the planting of a young Budhi tree, layered from the Bodhi tree in Ceylon that was from the original tree in Buddhagaya under which Buddha sat enlightment. The King scouted around to find a suitable place to plant the tree and selected the present spot because it was on high ground yet near water.

The King then decided it would be beneficial if, from the Bhodi tree, the stations taken by Buddha during the seven weeks following the Enlightment were memorialized. These were :

  1. The Adamantine Seat under the Bhodi tree where Buddha sat motionless for the first week.
  2. His stance. A place not far to the northeast where Buddha stood and gazed at the Bhodi tree for the second week.
  3. The cloister where Buddga paced back and forth from his standing point to the Bodhi gtree, for the third week.
  4. The jewel house to the north. This was miraculously built to shelter Buddha during the fourth week, while he was formulating the Aphidhamma.
  5. The banyan tree to the east near goatherd’s hut. Here Buddha sat for the fifth week, and resisted Mara who tried to tempt him to abandon his way.
  6. The pond to the east. From here the King of the Nagas came to raise Buddha from the ground on his coils and spread his seven-headed hood above him to protect him from a storm during the sixth week.
  7. The Minusopa tree under which he sat, the last week, and on the 49th day received a Myrobalan fruit from the god Indra.

            From the Bodhi tree these places were located and shrines erected. Each contained an image of Buddha performing the action commemorated. These have since disappeared. The site of the pond still exists and four other places can be located.

The main sanctuary was a copy of the shrine at the Buddhagaya in India. The King’s Minister of works, Mun Da Prakot, who built the great Chedi Luang, also had the plans for the Buddhogaya shrine. Some experts think that Mun Dam Prakot did not goon the way to India but got his plans in Pagan, where the Burmese had copied the shaine about 1060. Some years after the planting of the Bodhi tree in 1455 the shrine was built (1476).

The shrine is built of laterite, brick, and plaster. There is a square plinth on which is a square terrace. The main object on the terrace is what remains of a pyramid. At the four corners are four smaller pyramids. There is a small room at the base of the center pyramid and women are requested not to enter it. At the eastern end of the structure on the lower terrace, are two round stupas.   

Decorating the exterior walls of the square Chedi are angels, both standing (about 9ft. high) and sitting (about 4ft. high), doubtless Khmer influence fromSukotai. It is not know how many figures adorned the pyramid. Remains of seventy have been found of which forty-one are still on the walls. A Viharn was built but it has since disappeared.
In 1477 King Tilokarat called the 8th Buddhist Council at Wat Ched Yod. It lasted a year and was for the purpose of revising the Tripitaka. He built a special temporary council chamber, a mondop, in order not to inconvenience the monks in residence. He also built a library to house the manuscripts. King Tilokarat died at the age of 78 in 1478.
In 1510, King Muang Keo built a Bot in which monks could be ordained. Before setting up a boundary stones, Tilokarat’s widow and his great grand son, eleventh in direct descent from King Mengrai, has a golden Buddha cast. It was a seated Buddha but as tall as King Tilokarat’s height when standing. It was not a solid image but the amount of gold used equal the weight of King Tilokarat. This was not uncommon practice in India. The Aga Khan, some years ago. used to do it for charity. Solid gold plates were welded together into what must have been the crowning glory of the Bot.

In 1518 King Muang Keo (1495 – 1525) built the principal Viharn at Wat Chet Yod. In 1522 he had a fine golden pavilion built to house a Buddha brought from Cambodia. In 1525 the King moved the sandalwood image from Wat Suan Dawk. He also had another sandal wood Buddha, made by King Senpu of Chiangsan about 1331, brought to Wat Chet Yod from Wat Suan Dowk. Some authorities believe these to be the same image. In other words this monastery became the most splendid in Lanna Thai.

King Muang Keo died in 1525 and was succeeded by his oldest son, King Muang Kes Klao. The new King continued to give pre-eminence to Wat Chet Yod and reaired the library. At his death (1533) a small reliquary was built at the monastery for his ashes.

When Lanna fell to the Burmese in 1556, Wat Chet Yod was neglected and the jungle took over. While the Burmese were not in the habit of attacking monasteries, Wat Chet Yod was in their line of March and they may have despoiled it of its gold.

The ruins have always excited admiration because of traces of its former grandeur and the prestige relating to it.