WAT HANTRA (วัดหันตรา)
Wat Hantra is located off the city island in the northeastern part of the city. This
monastery can be very difficult to find by road because it is situated in a sparsely
populated area with few landmarks or businesses around. The easiest way to reach it is
by boat via
Khlong Hantra (the old Pa Sak River). This temple was named after this
beautiful countryside canal.

Wat Hantra is an active monastery with Buddhist clergy providing religious services to
the lay community. For this reason, it has the standard building required for such a
temple (ordination hall, sermon hall, crematorium, bell tower, funeral chedi, and monks’
quarters). These building are mostly designed with the Bangkok style. The ordination hall
was built in an east/west axis, and it faces away from the canal. It has an elaborately
decorated gable with golden adornments of mythological figures and a background
comprised of mirrored tiles. The altar is adorned with seven golden Buddha images.
These have been manufactured in a design associated with the Bangkok period. The
primary Buddha image sits in a Taming Mara pose. The walls of the ubosot have been
colorfully painted, and a large mural behind the altar makes it appear as if Buddha is
meditating in the shade of a Bodhi tree. There are metal gates serving as doorways, and
Buddha images have been folded into its shape.

Wat Hantra’s primary chedi is situated in front of the ordination hall. It had been painted
gold and has multiple levels leading up to its spire. It has redented corners even at the
relic chamber, which resembles a bell. A Buddha image stands outside between this
chedi and the ordination hall. Several statues of elephants have been placed around it.
There is also an old bell and a carving of an ancient soldier on the premises of Wat
Hantra.

In addition, behind the ordination hall, there are remnants of an old temple from the
Ayutthaya period. One structure resembles part of a wall and an arched gate. This has
been converted into a shrine with Buddha images and a colorful painting of Buddha
delivering a sermon. A Bodhi tree has grown over a second brick and mortar
construction that could have been a chedi. These structures are viewable from the canal.

There is not much known about this temple’s history. The structures in situ suggest that it
was created in the Late Ayutthaya period and renovated after Bangkok became the
capital city. Several revered monks have lived at Wat Hantra over the years. However,
Wat Hantra is most closely associated with King Borommakot, who reigned from 1733-
1758. King Borommakot ruled during a time of extended peace, so he occupied soldiers
and commoners with the renovation of many old temples. Much of this work was done
in the northeastern part of the city. This probably included the development of Wat
Hantra. In reflection of this historical fact, a large monument to King Borommakot has
been constructed in front of the ordination hall and is facing the road.

There is evidence that Wat Hantra had been connected to
Wat Kudi Dao by a small
canal running in an east/west axis. This makes a lot of sense. King Borommakot
ordained as a monk at Wat Kudi Dao, where a highly esteemed delivered his sermons.
The King made many restorations to Wat Kudi Dao while he was there (and his brother,
King Thai Sa, did the same at nearby
Wat Maheyong). It is quite likely that King
Borommakot expanded the canal to reach the old Pa Sak River slightly in front of Wat
Hantra. This canal has since been buried partially to create roads. As a result, a very
beautiful hidden lake has formed near Wat Maheyong. This lake has become an
important bird refuge for the city.
Text & photographs by Ken May - September 2009
View of the ubosot
Main Buddha image in the ubosot
Part of an old structure?
Murals in the ubosot
Statue of King Borommakot
Addendum

The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya mentions at least twice the Hantra Monastery or
the Hantra village, translated by Cushman as the “Village of the Division of the Seal”. The
Royal Autograph version learns us that King Borommakot (r. 1733-1758) left the Royal
Palace in a Royal Barge procession to dedicate this monastery in the month of June
1738. A celebration festival was held for three days in which alms were offered to the
monks. On the third day of the celebrations, elephant tusk fights were held, but
interrupted by a heavy rainstorm. [1]

Reaching 1100 of the Royal Era, the year of the horse, tenth of the decade, during
the sixth month, His Majesty the Supreme Holy Lord of the Realm went in holy
royal procession with a formation of military barges to dedicate the
Monastery of
the Division of the Seal
, had a festival to celebrate the holy temple held for three
days, and offered appropriate alms articles to the holy monks and clerics in great
numbers. On that day which was the last [of the festival, the King] had elephants
brought out to tusk fight with each other and a great storm developed, rain falling
heavily. After the affair was completed His Majesty returned and entered the Holy
Metropolis.

It was also in the vicinity of Ban Hantra that Phraya Tak - the later King Taksin - broke
through the Burmese encirclement end 1766, in his escape to the south, after having
encamped at
Wat Phichai. [2]

As soon as it began to rain hard, forming an auspicious moment propitious for
victory, the Phraya of Kamphæng Phet accordingly led the brigades of his army
forth from the stockade at the Monastery of Victory and marched his army along
toward the
Village of the Division of the Seal. Just as it was getting dark,
meanwhile, the brigades of a Burmese army, having learned [about his flight],
managed to advance in pursuit and catch up with him, and they faced and fought
each other in capable fashion. The Burmese army, being unable to withstand [his
army], retreated and went back.

A unfold segment of a carved wooden door belonging to a monastic building of Wat
Hantra featuring a warrior riding a Kylin (1), is displayed at the
Chao Sam Phraya
Museum [3]. Four old Chinese bells with dragon and fish designs inclusive Chinese
inscriptions were found on the premises of the monastery. The bells arrived probably with
junks from China and are evidence of a thriving business between China and Siam. The
bells can be admired at the
Chan Kasem Museum in Ayutthaya.

Wat Hantra is located in Geo Coord: 14° 21' 47.09" N, 100° 36' 15.94" E.

Footnotes:

(1) The Kylin (also spelled Kirin, Kyrin, Qilin, Qyrin) is an animal out off the ancient
Chinese mythology sometimes called the "Chinese unicorn". It is a hoofed creature
somewhat like a deer, with horns on the head, scales over the body and an ox-tail. The
animal was believed to spit fire and to roar like thunder. The Kylin was one of the "Four
Divine Creatures", the other three being the phoenix, the turtle and the dragon and was
ranked second of the latter. It was considered a celestial and benevolent animal of
longevity in ancient times; the mount for a god and a symbol of auspiciousness. [Ref: http:
//traditions.cultural-china.com]

References:

[1] The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman (2006) - page 433 /
Source: Royal Autograph - Dedication of the Monastery of the Division of the Seal.
[2] Ibid - page 514 / Taksin Decides to Flee to the East.
[3] Namchom Phiphithaphan Sathan Haeng Chat Jao Sam Phraya - Krom Silpakon
(2000) - page 99.
[4] Namchom Phiphithaphan Sathan Haeng Chat Jantrakasem - Krom Silpakon - page
172/173.
Text & photographs by Tricky Vandenberg - April 2010
Update May 2014
(Chinese bell from Wat Hantra at
Chan Kasem Museum)
(Carved door from Wat
Hantra at Chao Sam
Phraya Museum)
(Part of an old structure?)
(Murals in the ubosot)
(Statue of King Borommakot)
(View of the ubosot)
(Main Buddha image in the ubosot)
Extract of a 1993 Fine Arts Department map
(Extract of a 1993 Fine Arts Department map -
Courtesy Khun Supot Prommanot, Director of the 3th
Regional Office of Fine Arts)