Wat Phra That Lampang Luang

The Naga staircase leading up to the main gate

Wat Pra That Lampang Luang (Thai: วัดพระธาตุลำปางหลวง) is an early Lanna-style (Northern Thai) Buddhist temple, possibly the oldest religious structure in existence today in Thailand. Locally known as Wat Lampang Luang, this temple complex is located in the northern Thai province of  Lampang, just south of Chiang Mai.

The first word – wat- is the Thai word for temple.  Phra that, means Buddha relic (from phra meaning monk and that meaning essence). The third word, Lampang, is the name of the location in Thailand. The fourth word, luang, means great. Altogether, a loose translation, “Temple of Lampang’s Great Buddha Relic”.  The fame of the temple, and its preservation throughout the centuries is mainly due to the belief that Buddha once visited here about 2,500 years ago and donated a lock of his hair, which is now enshrined in the temple’s chedi.

The Viharn Nam Tam structure of this temple complex is believed to be the oldest surviving wooden religious building in Thailand dating back to the 16th century. The main gate of the temple was constructed in the late 15th century. The temple was built on the site of an 8th century fortification, called a Wiang , used to protect the main transportation routes to the then feudal city of Lampang.

A pair of guardian lions and  a steep naga stairway lead up to the impressive entrance gate. The main prayer hall, Viharn Luang, stands close inside the main entrance. At the back of the Viharn Luang sits a massive gilded ku (throne) sheltering the main Buddha image, known as the Phra Chao Lang Thong, cast in 1563. On either side of the Ku are throne-like pulpits, sometimes used by monks but more often used to house other Buddha images on important ceremonial days. Behind the main prayer hall stands the 45 meter tall chedi. The chedi was originally decorated with copper and bronze sheets. Over the centuries, the these have oxidized into a variety of green and blue shades.

Flanking the chedi on the south side is another prayer hall known as the Viharn Phra Phut, a small chapel built in 1802 with a beautifully carved fascade. Behind the Viharn Phar Phut is a tiny tower-like structure, the Ho Phra Phuttabat that a Buddha footprint sculpture. This building is generally open only on important festival dates and may never be entered by women!

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Below is a video tour of a few of the major temples in Lampang, the first of which is Wat Phra That Lampang Luang.

 

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