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Wat Pratat Doi Sutep

Wat Pratat Doi SutepWat Pratat Doi Sutep

Wat Pratat Doi Sutep

This temple is one of the ore most shrines in Chiang Mai, if not all Thailand, Doi Sutep is about 3,500 feetbove sea level. The building of the road up the mountain was inspired by a monk, Pra Sri Wichai, an abbot of Lampoon who is now venerated as a saint. It was said that his feet never touched the ground but that he walked just above it. The road was build by the voluntary labor of devote people desiring to make mert. Members of Survey Department gave their vacationa to survey the road. It was literally dug out of the mountain by and was finished in May 1935 – five months and twenty two days. It is now kept in excellent condition by the Roads Department.

At the time King Mengrai founded Chiang Mai, Doi Sutep was already auspicious place and this was a factor in locating the city – in the shadow of the mountain.      

Wat Sutep was built byKing Kuna (1355 – 1385 or 1367 – 1388) sixth in descent from King Mengrai. The name comes rom a hermit, Setep-rusri. According to one legend this hermit built Lampoon and then invited the Mon Princess, Chamtewi of Lopburi, to come and be the ruler in 654. He finally retired to Sutep. The temple was built.
During the reign of King Kuna Ceylonese Buddhism began to take hole in this area and spread through the Kingdom of Lanna Thai superseding animism. At that time there was contact between monks here and monks in Ceylon and India. Many monks at Sutep were very learned and wrote chronicles of the period. One of the monks, Pra Thaematin Mahathera, was the chairman of the committee that revised the Tripitaka at the 8th Buddhist Council held at Wat Chet Yod in 1477.
At the time of King Kuna there was a monk named Pra Maha Sumana inLampoon who had come from Sukotai at the invitation of the King. He set up his residence at Wat Pra Yun in Lampoon. The monk brought with him a relic f Buddha which he had found. Part was put into Wat Haripoonchai in Lampoon and the other part he gave to King Kuna. The relic miraculously divided itself into two parts, each part as large as the original. One part was placed at Wat Suan Dawk. The other part was placed at the back of a white elephant. King Kuna vowed that he would build a Chedi wherever the elephant came to rest. The elephant was turned loose at Wat suan Dawk gate. It stared up the mountain, rested at Pa Lat, where ruins of a shrine and sala may be seen, then climbed on up to the present site of Wat Sutep. King Kuna built a Chedi for the relic in 1383. The elephant died nere here and a little Chedi was built to mark the spot where he was buried.

There are 348 steps leading up to the temple. There are 48 steps to the platform at the beginning of the steep ascent. On the right hand side of this terrace is a statue of Torance the earth goddess wringing water from her hair. The two seven headed nagas which guard the staircase are coming out of Makaras. The rippling bodies of the serpents, which form the balustrade of the stairway, are covered with new glazed tile of brown, green and yellow. The stairs are lined with frangipani trees growing outside the balustrade. Quarters for monks and chis (nuns) can be seen either side outside the wall. Two giants guard the entrance to the monastery.

There are six entrances to the cloisters. The two most used by visitors are the west entrances on either side of a bust of Pra Sri Wichai, Sheltered by a portico. The left hand entrance is guarded by two celestial armed temple guardians; the other by the four – armed elephant god, Pikanes. Beside the left hand entrance is a shrine to Sutep – reusi showing the hermit in meditation. Beside the shrine of the hermit is a shrine to the white elephant that carried the precious relic, recognized by the figure of a white elephant.  

The gable end of the chapel has a design of foliage and flowers in gold and blue. Under the eaves are panels of angels in red and gold. The gables of the entrances also have designs of foliage and flowers.
The Chedi, which is 32 meters high and 12 meters wide, is of pleasing proportions. It is covered with copper or brass plates overlaid with gold. The excellently proportion umbrella at the top has five layers of gold. There are urns of golden flowers at the four corners of the square base of the Chedi. It is surrounded by a red and gold iron fence in a spear design. Outside this is a low wall which has an artistic little shrine at the center of the four sides. There are exquisite little shrines at the four of the fence.  

Beside the corners f the wall are those ornaments peculiar to northern Thailand – beautiful large umbrellas of gold “in an elaborate design. The Chedi has unfortunately been strung with electric lights instead of floodlit.

There are two chapels breaking the cloisters at the cardinal points. The largest chapel in which services may be held is the western one. It contains a large seated Buddha. There are many pictures on the walls, and the ceiling is decorated with Christmas tree ornaments.
The cloisters have been decorated with murals of a very recent date, so they do not have that mellowness that time will give them. On the red cloister doors are large figures of celestial temple guardians in gold. Beginning at the right side of the western chapel the paintings are:

            A picture of Indra on his three – headed elephant. Erawan.

1st panel. A story from the Vessanandorn Chadok.
2nd panel. The birth of Buddha at Lumbini park.and the first seven steps which turned to lotus blossoms. Buddha at that time was Prince Siddhatta of Sakya. His mother’s name Maya. and he was born from her side.
3rd panel. Hermits foretelling what the child would be either a universal monarch or a Buddha.
4th panel. Prince Siddhatta shielded from the sun watching his father. the King of the Sakya. performing the plowing ceremony.
5th panel. The betrothal of Prince Siddhatta to Princess Yasotara.
6th panel. Prince Siddhatta sees the four signs that disturb him : an old man. a sick man. a skeleton and a monk.
7th panel. Prince Siddhatta takes a last look at his wife and his infant son.Rahul. before he flees the palace to become a monk.
8th panel. On his white hourse. Prince Siddhatta leaps over the city wall and escapes. his falthful horseman clinging to the horse’s tail. One of evil Mara’s henchmen tries to prevent him from doing his good deed.
9th panel. After leaving his kingdom. Prince Siddhatta cuts off his hair.
10th panel. Following the path of austerity. fasting. Indra ( the green figure ) plays music to cheer him up.
Then follows a picture of Pra Buddhabat at Saraburi. Picture of a well – to – do farm house.
11th panel. The morning of the day of Enlightenment. Nang Suchada Buddha some food.
12th panel. After eating. Buddha puts the golden bowl in the water and it floats upstream.
13th panel. Tempted by evil Mara. Buddha called to Tornace to witness to the fact that he has made 700 benefactions in a previous existence. She responds by an earth quake and. wringing water out of her hair. washes Mara and his evil hordes away.
14th panel. Buddha sits under the bodhi tree awaithing Enlightenment.
15th panel. After Enlightenment. Buddha remains near by for seven weeks. During one of the weeks it rains. A coiled naga holds him above the ground and shelters him with its hood.
16th panel. Sitting under a Mimosops “ maigate ” tree. elderly women offer food to Buddha. He is visited by four angels who tell the women to attend his wants.

Picture of the ruined towers of Ayadhya.
Picture of Buddhagaya in India where Buddha received Enlightenment.
Picture of Lumpini in Nepal where Buddha was born.
Picture of the deer park in Benares where Buddha first preached.
Picture of Kusinara. India. where Buddha died.
Picture of sacred Chedi in Nan.
Picture of the famous Chedi in Nakorn Panom.

17th panel. Buddha preaches to the five monks whom the had know before. and sets in motion the wheel of the Low.
18th panel. The deer in the deer park at Benares. Additional disciples join Buddha. The order is growing.
19th panel.  Pimpisan gives Veluwan monastery to Buddha.
20th panel.  Nanta, following his wedding. escorts Buddha out of the city. He carries Buddha’s begging bowl for him.
21st panel.  The meaning of this panel is obscure.
22nd panel. Rahul. Buddha’s son become a novice.
23rd panel. Tewatat. a cousin of Buddha. out of jealousy. tries to kill Buddha by turning loose a rouge elephant.
24th panel. Toranee. the earth goddess. punishes Tewatat by dragging him down to one of the 108 hells.
Picture of Chedi Lieum. the square Chedi at Nakorn Panam. Picture of Wat Mahatat at Nakorn Sritamarat.
25th panel. Nang Wisaka gives a monastery to the order.
26th panel. Funeral pyre of Buddha’s father. the King of the Sakya. Indra offers the light for the fire.
27th panel. Women to establish an order of nuns. Buddha reluctantly permits it.
28th panel. Buddha performs a miracle when he appears in a multitude of forms simultaneously.
29th panel. Buddha takes food at the home of the blacksmith. Chuna. The pork made him ill.
30th panel. Budha dying. He is lying between two Sal trees at Kusinara. India.
Picture of the great chidi at Nakorn Patom.
31st panel. Kassapa. a discriple. came kate. after Buddha’s death. Buddha permits his feet to show outside the coffin so that Kassapa can eorship him. Then the cremation takes place.
32nd panel. TheBrahamin priest. Doma. prevents the eight kings from quarreling over Buddha’s relics. He divides the relics among them.

Outside the cloisters to the north is a small Bot which has been restored recently. It replaces a very old  one. It is a glittering little building in red and gold and blue. The front gable shows the Wheel of the Low. Over the door it’s a gorgeous peacock. The door shows Visanu as pra Narai-one his manifestations. The carving on the shutters is very fine. the faces are usually good. The rear gable is in panels. typically northern Thai style. The boundary stones show the Wheel of the Low.

The white Elephant Mcnuments
They were built by King San Muangma to commemorate the loyalty of two friends who saved his life while fighting with Ayudhya.The King was on his war elephant when it stampeded and the howdah crash to the ground. These two loyal followers. Ai Aab and Ai Yepracha. their names deserve to be remembered. between them carried the injured King to safety. The King created these friends Lord of the Left Elephant and Lord of the Right Elephant and caused these monuments to be raised to them.

The elephants have names. The one facing north is called Phaya Prab Muang Marn Muang Yak. The elephant facing west is called Phaya Prab chakrawarn. In 1797 Chao Kawla ordered the elephants repaired in their stalls as they are today. There is also a painting recording this incident in the palace at Bang Pa In.