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Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Chedi LuangWat Chedi Luang

Wat Chedi Luang

This very old monastery. in the center of Chiang Mai, was begun as a royal pavilion by King San Muang Ma, ninth in direct line from King Mengrai. It was begun in 1401 the year the King died.

At that time the Chedi was small. The King’s widow’s widow, after many vicissitudes-chief among them that of her son, King sam Feng Ken turning back to animism (raja kuta ) was not finished until 1438. Possibly the season Kin Sam Feng Ken allowed his mother to go on building was because some Burmese traders, camping out near Chiang Mai, said that the ghost of the King Kuna had appeared to them. The ghost told them to ask King Sam Feng Ken to raise a tower in a center of Chiang Mai which would be visible four kilometers from the city. It this was done, King Kuna’s spirit could rest in peace. The King made the Chedi 86 meters high and 54 meters wide. It was the largest monument in Chiang Mai.

In 1441 Sam Feng Ken was deposed and his son Tilokarat, came to the throne. He immediately brought back Buddhism and began repairing the Wats which had fallen into cecay. The King had a Minister of Works named Mun Dam Prakot. He was set to Buddhagaya to bring back plans for religious monuments. From this plan the great Chedi was enlarged, until it was 90 meters high and 70 meters wide at the base. The Chedi was constructed of brick and laterite, as can be seen by a close inspection of it. There are interesting elephant head decorations. There is a narrow terrace at the point where the circular Chedi begins to rise. It probably had four vaults each with a huge Buddha, two of which remain.

Also at Wat Chedi Luang is an immense standing of walking nine meters tall. It is thought to  been cast between 1438 and 1441 by the monk Pra Maha Sumana. He has already constructed four huge standing Buddhas in Lampoon before coming to Chiang Mai.
The Viharn was a triple roof with the gable showing Erawan, the three-headed elephant, in scroll and foliage. The Nagas at the entrance have recently been recently been repaired in a very striking manner. The undulation of the bodies run up the sides of the entrance and the tails entwine above the door. There are many small Chedis contraining relics. The Wheel of the Low appears at the entrance gate.

About 1545 during the regency of Princess chiraprapa there was an earthquake and a terrific thunderstorm which caused the Chedi to fall as it is today.

At the bidding of King Tilokarat, his Minister of Works brought the Emerald Buddha from Lampang to Wat Chedi Luang in 1468. It was resident here, and later in a temple specially built for it. That temple, which was on the present provincial office grounds, has since disappeared. In1547, Prince Jetta of Luang Prabang, who spent two years as Prince of Chiagmai, took the Emerald Buddha with him to Luang Prabang.

The Lak Muang or Sao Intra kin

At the left of the gate as we enter Wat Chedi Luang is a small built since 1940, replacing an older wooden building, which houses the Lak Muang or the tutelary Spirit of the City. It was established by King Mengrai as the Lak Muang and he called it Sao Intra Kin. It was built of brick and lime and is over 675 years old. At first it was at a temple on the grounds of the present provincial offices. Chao Kawila (1775) moved the Lak Muang to Wat Chedi Luang and repaired it in 1800. There was a great celebration when the Spirits were invited to take up residence there. It was held between the 8th and 9th month as that was the mast auspicious time. It is regarded as guiding the life of the city and guarding its fortunes. Every year there is a big celebration here.