WAT RAENG 2 (วัดแร้ง)
Wat Raeng or the "Monastery of the Vulture" is located on the city island in the
southwest area at Pratu Chai sub-district, west of
Somdet Phra Sri Nakharin Park (U-
Thong Soi 22). This area is still part of
Ayutthaya's Historical Park.

The temple was situated in between
Wat Pho Phueak / Wat Chayaram and Wat Maha
Saman. It is not clear whether or not this temple was situated within the city walls. On a
mid-19th century map, the monastery is drafted in the city wall, which is likely incorrect.
Wat Raeng was situated close to the
Wat Chayaram boat landing which stood in
connection with the
Ban Chi landing on the opposite side of the Lopburi River at that
time (at present the Chao Phraya River).

In situ is a mound largely covered in vegetation. Some excavation by the Fine Arts
Department had been undertaken prior our visit in 2009 as filled-in excavation pits were
visible that time.

Its historical background and period of construction are unknown.

The monastery is mentioned on a mid-19th century map in a more or less identical
position as mentioned on
Phraya Boran Rachathanin's map drafted in 1926.

The exposure of the corpse to vultures was a very ancient and widespread custom.
Quaritch Wales wrote it used to be the custom in Siam at some time before cremation,
to cut off part of the flesh of the corpse immediately after death, and offer it to the temple
dogs and vultures on gold or silver dishes. This was only done by the wish of the
deceased. It was given a Buddhist significance, and considered an act of great merit. It
ceased long ago to be the custom of royalty, and has been prohibited by law in the case
of commoners. [1]

The practice of exposing a corpse to the vultures was a very ancient one amongst the
Khmers, since it is mentioned in the History of the Leang, and it was also common
amongst the Malays, prior to the introduction of Islam. [1]

It existed in Siam till begin of the 20th century in its primitive form as a means of
disposing of the bodies of criminals and paupers. (1) De La Loubère wrote: “
Those that
have not wherewithal to pay the Talapoins, do think they do honor enough to their
dead parents, to expose them in the field on an eminent place, that is to say on a
scaffold, where the volturs and the crows devour them"
. [2]

This author is of the opinion that Wat Raeng was a kind of temple "specialized" in
exposing corpses in the open air and to let vultures and carrion birds consume the flesh.
The bones were then burned and the ashes scattered.

Footnotes:

(1) Even in these cases the bones were collected and either buried or burnt.

References:

[1] Siamese state ceremonies their history and function - H. G. Quaritch Wales, London
(1931).
[2] A New Historical Relation of the Kingdom of Siam - Simon de La Loubère
Translated by A.P.Kuala Lumpur : Oxford University Press (1986) - Page 125.
Text, maps & photographs by Tricky Vandenberg - July 2009
Reviewed April 2011, April 2012
(Excavation pit in location)
(Excavation pit in location)
(Exposure of corpses to the vultures)
(Extract of a mid-19th century map)
(Extract of Phraya Boran Rachathanin's map drafted
in 1926)
(Extract of a 1974 Fine Arts Department map -
Courtesy Dr. Surat Lertlum, Chulachomklao Royal
Military Academy)
(Extract of a 1993 Fine Arts Department map -
Courtesy Khun Supot Prommanot, Director of the 3th
Regional Office of Fine Arts)