The Wat Phra Si Rattan Satsadaram also known as the Wat Phra Kaew or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha is considered to be the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand and one of the holiest places in all of Asia. It can be found in Phra Nakhon District, on the grounds of the Grand Palace which is located in the historic center of the country’s capital city Bangkok.
The temple’s main attraction is the central phra ubosot or central building. It contains the legendary statue of the Emerald Buddha. The statue has a rich history as it apparently hails from India where it was created five centuries after Gautama Buddha reached Nirvana. It was placed at the Wat Phra Kaew temple during King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke or King Rama I’s reign, more precisely in the year 1782. The statue marked the start of the Chakri Dynasty, a line that still holds the title of king to this day.
The statue itself is 66 cm or 26 inches tall and is sculpted from a single dark green jade stone. The statue presents Buddha in the meditating posture while being sculpted in the style of the Lanna School that is prevalent in the northern part of the country. The statue can only be glanced at, while the only person that has permission to touch it is the Thai King. In fact the King and the Emerald Buddha are tied in a ceremony that involves the King changing the cloak around the Statue three times each year. The changes go hand in hand with the summer, winter and rainy season of the country while the symbolism of the ceremony is meant to bring good fortune for Thailand in each season.
While according to the legend the Emerald Buddha was made in India, the official data shows the first documented mention of the statue to come from Cambodia back in the 15th century. Since then the statue was documented to travel through Laos during the 16th century and Vientiane. It remained there for over two centuries before reaching its current residence in Bangkok in the 18th century.
According to the prophecy of Nagasena the Emerald Buddha brings prosperity to any country it resides in. Because of this, the Wat Phra Kaew temple which currently houses the statue is considered one of the holiest places in this part of Asia while the statue itself is thought to be the protector of Thailand.