Wat

Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat, Phitsanulok

Wat : The term Wat refers to a group of religious buildings generally enclosed by a wall with gateways. According to artistic importance, the principal religious buildings in Thailand are : the Phra Chedi, the Bot and Vihara, the Phra Prang, the Mondop and Pra Sat. The other structures architecturally not very important are : the Kuti, Ho Trai, Sala Kan Parien, ordinary Salas and Ho Rakhang. One Wat may contain some of these structures, essentially the Bot, or all of them.


Wat Chang Lom, Sukhothai

In general, likewise in all other eastern countries, with the exception of the Bot or of the Vihara, whose plan is conceived as a single unity within its enclosing gallery, the rest of the monuments are added time by time without special consideration of the general planning. But on account of the contrasting forms of the large Bot or Vihara with the slender pinnacle of the stupas or the solid vertical mass of the Phra Prangs and also because the variety of colouring of these structures, the resulting effect is always harmonious.


Wat Phra Kaeo, Bangkok

We have cited the enclosing walls of the Wats with gateways. These gateways give matter for a comparative reference with the Indian architecture, comparison very instructive to understand the origin, direct or indirect, of certain features of the Thai architecture. The Thai gateways have such a variety of designs that one could say each Wat has a proper type. At large in these gateways we notice reminiscences of Indian forms. Some old specimens such as those of Wat Phra Dhat in Lampang or those of Wat Phra Kaeo (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) of Bangkok resembling closely the Indian gopuram.


Phrathat Hariphunchai Pagoda and small Wiharn, Wat Phrathat Hariphunchai, Lamphun

A more original design of gateway and more harmonious with the rest of the Thai architecture, is the type of Wat Benchamabophit and of Wat Mahathat of Bangkok. This type may have one or three openings-with a triangular arch enriched with the universal 'Naga motif' harmonizing in this way with the main structures which have always triangular gables.


Wat Chetuphon or Wat Pho, Bangkok

A later design is that of Wat Pho in Bangkok : its superstructure having the shape of the royal Thai crown, is enriched with ornaments in porcelain. The design of the crown as well as the enrichment with pieces of ceramic is common in the later period of Bangkok. The emphasis of the curve of the outline and the exaggeration of the ceramic ornamentation are features of an art in its declining period.