Wat Mahathat Ayutthaya or 'Temple of the Great Relic', erected in the early period of 1374 and founded in the early 18th century, is one of the oldest Buddhist temples of Bangkok. During the Ayutthaya period, it was known as 'Wat Salak'. However, King Rama I renamed it as 'Wat Phra Sri Sanphechayadaram' and later changed its name to 'Wat Mahathat'. Though most parts of the temple are in ruins, it forms one of the most venerated shrines of Bangkok, frequented by Thailand visitors round the year.
Apart from being a revered shrine, Wat Mahathat also serves as the
headquarters of Mahanikai sect of Buddhism. Thus, the place forms the
nerve centre of Thailand's largest monastic order and is designed as the
learning institute for monks belonging to that sect throughout Southeast
Asia. Actually, the institute is a brainchild of King Rama V, who
inaugurated it to provide education to monks of Mahanikai fraternity, in
the same way as Maha Mongkut Ratchawitthayalai was established for monks
of Dhammayattika fraternity.
Located near the famous Grand Palace, the sprawling temple compound is
home to Vipassana Meditation at Buddhist University, which is the most
important center for the study of Buddhism and meditation. Besides, on
weekends, numerous amulet stalls set on the temple grounds makes it very
popular among tourists interested in collecting traditional charms and
talismans. Nevertheless, the most popular draw of the place is 'the face
of the Buddha' tucked in the trunk of an old tree.