Wat Phra Kaeo is a highly revered shrine of Bangkok and is the only monastery in Thailand that does not house any residential monk. Rather, the place serves the function of a personal chapel of the royal family. The tradition of building a temple in the palace compound has been observed as early as the Sukothai period. So, when King Rama I shifted his capital to Bangkok in 1782, the Wat Phra Kaeo saw erection in the eastern section of the royal precincts of the Grand Palace. The monastery, along with the Grand Palace, today presents one of the most magnificent architectural spectacles for Thailand visitors.
Aside from its structural beauty, the temple is popular for yet another
reason. The main Ubosoth (Ordination Hall) houses the venerated image of
the Emerald Buddha, considered as a form of amulet by the Thais.
Therefore, the temple is also known as 'The Temple of the Emerald
Buddha'. However, unlike the name, the dark green image is not made of
emerald, but green jadeite or jasper. This 2-ft tall statue of the
Buddha is perched high atop a gilded altar and holds tremendous
religious implication for the Thais.
The hall in which the statue is enshrined contains Late Ayutthaya-style
murals, depicting the various phases of Buddha's life, the cycle
beginning with the birth of the Buddha, emblazoned in the middle of the
left wall. The surrounding porch of the main altar is equally
magnificent and the door panels are detailed with beautiful
mother-of-pearl decorations. Besides, three pagodas flank the north of
the Ubosoth. There is also a sacred black stone statue of a hermit
towards the west of the hall, frequented by devotees seeking good
The surrounding walls depict various scenes from the Ramakian and the
five-meter high giants (yaks) and monkey kings inside the temple area
are equally noteworthy. Besides, one of the most important highlight is
the costume-changing ritual, where the King changes Buddha's robes three
times a year. During the summer, the statue is decked with a crown and
jewelry. In the winter, a golden shawl drapes the statue and during the
monsoons, it is covered in gilded robe of a monk. Thus, with its
religious significance and dazzling beauty, Wat Phra Kaew finds place as
the holiest of all shrines in Bangkok.