Wat Chedi Luang was built in 1391 during the reign of King Saen Muang Ma. He intended the structure to house the ashes of his father, Ku Na. Appropriately; the site was designated as a 'ku luang', which houses ashes of royalty instead of a chedi, which house relics of the Buddha.
The massive structure was expanded over the centuries, until it reached its final form in 1475, when King Tilokaraj made it the home of the Emerald Buddha, the most important cultural treasure in Thailand. At one point the structure was 144 feet wide and 282 feet tall. Unfortunately, the pagoda was heavily damaged in the 1545 earthquake during the reign of Queen Mahadevi.
The Emerald Buddha remained here for about six years after the earthquake, whereupon it was brought to Luang Prabang (in today's Laos) by King Setthathirat, who ruled Chiang Mai for a short period in the years following in 1556.
The viharn, or worship hall was built in 1928, is a much newer structure decorated with naga (water snake) and peacock motifs. The standing Buddha image inside is known as the Phra Chao Attarot. Made of a combination of brass alloy and mortar, the image dates back to King Saen Muang Ma (r.1385-1401).
The hall to the south near the entrance gate from main viharn contains the Inthakin City Pillar. Here in Chiang Mai, people from the city, its suburbs and all over Northern Thailand will flock to pray, and pay respects, at the city's Inthakin Pillar. Throughout Thailand, people will pray for a rainy season which will nourish the rice crop and ensure a health harvest.
Statues in small shelters surrounding this building are homes of guardian spirits.
A week long ceremonies will be from May 24 until May 30.During this time, hundreds of people will attend the Inthakhin either in formal procession or as families or as individuals. Paying respect and praying at the Inthakhin Pillar is not a Buddhist ceremony (the Pillar predates organized religions) but essentially is for everyone to wish for happiness for all people.
The Pillar is sited within its own walk-in shrine which is only opened during this 7-day ceremony (visitors please note -- the Pillar can not be seen at any other time of year). Any male may enter the shrine to see and to pray. An attire and attitude of respect is essential. Ladies are not permitted to enter the shrine but may view through the entrance portals. In the area surrounding the Inthakhin Pillar Shrine, thousands of candles and incense sticks will burn and there will be ritual washing of a Buddha image with lustral water. People will queue to file past the shrine and will lay gifts of flowers and fragrant herbs at many points circling the shrine.
Chao Kawila, moved the Inthakhin Pillar to its present site from Wat Sadoe Muang in 1800. He built statues of the kumaphan under shelters to the north and south of the main entrance to the temple. He also planted the three large Yang trees from Sri Lanka. According to legend, the tree nearest the City Pillar will protect Chiang Mai as long as it is not cut down.
The Inthakhin Pillar -- while not exactly in the geographic center of Chiang Mai is certainly at the heart of the people --remains a potent symbol of fertility to all the generations, young and old, of North Thailand. As a visitor to our northern city, you are welcome to join, or observe, the ceremonies. The Inthakhin Pillar -- within the precincts of Wat Chedi Luang -- is another fascinating part of Chiang Mai and the ancient culture of Lanna Thai.
Other buildings in the compound include the Lanna campus of the Mahamakut Buddhist University (This is the northern campus for monks of the Thammayut sect, a reformist sect founded by King Mongkut (Rama IV r.1851-1881, who was dissatisfied with the established Mahanikai sect in the late 1830's). To the west of the chedi is a viharn with a reclining Buddha and the Sangkhachai Buddha.
Video tour of Wat Chedi Luang Chiang Mai Thailand
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