WAT RAKHANG (วัดระฆัง)
Wat Rakhang is located directly west of the Royal Palace. It is part of a park that
includes three restored ruins including
Wat Worachetharam and Wat Lokaya Sutharam.
It is easiest to access this site via the western side of
Khlong Tho. The monastery is
partially visible from the road.

This restored temple ruin is also referred to as Wat Worapho, but a second monastery
nearby shares the same name. The latter temple is located directly north of this site
beside U-Thong Road. For this research, the two monasteries are considered separate.
Wat Worapho is a small but active temple with monks. Wat Rakhang is a large ruin
situated within a protected zone. There is significant space and a fence separating the
two. For these reasons, this report retains the restored ruin’s original name of Wat
Rakhang. Additional details can be found at the link for Wat Worapho.

Wat Rakhang is an enormous ruin with many structures in situ. Its primary stupa is a
Khmer-influenced prang that has eroded from the point of its relic chamber. This prang
has staircases in all the cardinal directions, but its defining characteristic is heavily
redented corners. There are a total of nine indents on each side. There is also a large
sermon hall south of the prang. This has an east/west alignment, and it is distinguished by
its high foundation layers with staircases at the front and back. The colonnades and altar
are visible on top. There are also several small chedi in situ that are in various styles and
condition. The collapsed stucco of a late-period prang can be seen on southeastern
corner of this sermon hall.

The area north of the prang also has several structures. One is a large sermon hall  with
some of its walls and part of a chedi intact. There is a clear trace of a gallery around this
sermon hall, including some small fragment of Buddha images. Further north is a two-
tiered chedi with a staircase on its eastern side. This has a terrace that allows
worshippers to walk around it three times. Its bell shaped chedi has an octagonal base,
and the relic chamber portion is slightly tilted. Even further north is the ubosot. This has
an east/west alignment toward Khlong Tho (
Khlong Chakrai Yai). There are several
sema stone marking the building boundaries, and the altar had five images. A large statue
of Buddha in the Taming Mara pose is in great condition. It has the full stucco and a very
detailed crowned head. In addition, there are still traces of a moat surrounding Wat
Wang Rakhang, but this has been partially covered by a road.

It is unclear when Wat Rakhang was originally built, but its history is first associated with
King Songtham. The King served as a high ranking monk at this monastery under the title
of “Phra Phimontham Anantapricha” He was revered as a Buddhist scholar, which
enabled him to form a clique of nobles and disciples. This support allowed him to leave
the monkhood to claim the throne from the one-eyed King Si Saowaphak (Kasetsiri &
Wright 195).

Royal Chronicles mention a “Monastery of the Bell” in relation to such an event. After
King Ekathotsarot died (sometime around 1610-1611), Si Saowaphak inherited the
throne. A man known as Phra Si Sin received a special religious appointment because he
became expertly versed in the Three Vedas scriptures and various Royal manuals while
ordained as a monk at the Monastery of the Bell. Phra Si Sin used his esteemed position
to form a secret plot to siege the throne. As a result, King Si Saowaphak was executed
with a sandalwood club at
Wat Khok Phraya (Cushman 207-208).

King Songtham’s religious interests included the Singhalese sect’s practice of venerating
Buddha footprints. When a Buddha footprint was discovered in a forest at Saraburi, the
King went on a great pilgrimage to see it and make merit. The connection between the
Buddhist customs of Sri Lanka and Siamese monks would continue in relation to this
monastery.

Burmese warfare resumed in 1662. Enemy troops tricked Siamese soldiers in a battle
led by Si Ratcha Decho. The Burmese sent in a decoy army that pretended to withdraw
to their stockade in defeat. Si Ratcha Decho led his army of 500 soldiers into the trap
while riding a white horse. Despite their noble attempt to fight back, Si Ratcha Decho
and his soldiers were captured and tied up. King Narai asked the Royal abbot of the
Monastery of the Bell, Phra Phimon Tham, who was skilled at divination, to predict the
status of Si Ratcha Decho. The Royal abbot foresaw that the military leader would free
himself from capture and gain a victory over the Burmese troops. When the Royal abbot’
s prediction came true, King Narai praised him and presented him with holy rewards
(Cushman 280-284).

Diplomatic relations with Sri Lanka were renewed during the reign of King Borommakot
(1733-1758). At this time, the Buddhist religion in Sri Lanka was suffering and there was
a severe shortage of monks. Therefore, the Siamese king fostered ties by sending forth
monks and clerics to ordain noble youths and perpetuate Buddhism. They were taken to
Sri Lanka by a Dutch merchant on a ship named Olankha. King Borommakot received
the Singhalese embassy and presented them with gifts and appropriate rewards. The
Singhalese prostrated themselves before the King and rendered homage. When the ship
was ready and loaded with articles of royal tribute, the Thai embassy along with 14 holy
clerics departed (Cushman 452). It is generally believed that the Singhalese embassy
presented King Borommakot with a special tree in gratitude for sending these Siamese
monks. This tree was planted, and the King then changed the temple’s name to Wat
Worapho.

Royal Chronicles also mention that heir apparent Phra Racha Kosapan came from the
village of the Monastery of the Bell. In 1741, King Borommakot had this heir appointed
to the position of Deputy King (Cushman 434). Phra Ratcha Kosapan, also known as
Prince Krommuen Seppakdi, never made it to the throne. Instead he was executed by
King Uthumporn who claimed it instead (Garnier 144-145). Another prince in line to the
throne, Thep Phiphit, took refuge as a monk at
Wat Phanan Choeng before being exiled
to Sri Lanka (Cushman 471).

Readers should note that there is another monastery on the city island that goes by the
name
Wat Ho Rakhang (Monastery of the Bell Tower). It is possible that some of these
historical events may have taken place at this second temple instead.
Text & photographs by Ken May - September 2009
Remains of a chedi
Twelve-rabbeted-angled chedi which is typical of King Prasat Thong's reign
More brick work
Buddha image at Wat Rakhang
Remains of a monastic building
Addendum

The site is indicated on a mid-19th century map in an identical position as on Phraya
Boran Rachathanin's map drafted in 1926. The mid-19th century map indicates the
existence of a chedi. On the latter map the monastery is called Wat Borom Phot
(วัดบรมโพธ), while on PBR's map it is called Wat Worapho (วัดวรโพธ์)

During the reign of King Ekathotsarot (r. 1605-1610/11), Phra Intharacha (the eldest of
three sons by a first class concubine) (1) was in the priesthood at
Wat Rakhang holding
the rank of Phra Rachakhana and bearing the title of Phra Phimontham  Anantapricha.
The latter would size/ascend the throne of King Si Saowaphak (r. 1610-1611?) and
become known as King Song Tham. This period of history is very vague and there are
different historical interpretations. Prince Damrong wrote it was thought that the Wat
Rakhang mentioned here, to be the temple now called
Wat Choeng Tha. [1] [2]

Wat Rakhang or the
Monastery of the Bell is located in Geo. Coord.: 14° 21' 26.65"
N, 100° 33' 15.81" E.

Footnotes:

(1) Called Phra Sisin in the Royal Chronicles and known as Phra Phimontham. Phra
Phimontham left the priesthood, revolted, gathered his adherents, seized the royal palace
and put Somdet Phra Si Saowaphak to death. [1]

References:

[1] Our Wars with the Burmese - Prince Damrong Rajanubhab (1917) - White Lotus,
Bangkok (2000) - page 203 & 367.
[2] Discovering Ayutthaya - Charnvit Kasetsiri & Michael Wright (2007) - Toyota
Thailand Foundation - page 195.
Addendum, maps & photographs by Tricky Vandenberg - April 2011
Updated April 2015
Buddha head excavated in situ and displayed in the vihara of Wat Mongkhon Bophit
Buddha head excavated in situ and displayed in the vihara of Wat Mongkhon Bophit
(Buddha image at Wat Rakhang)
(Remains of a chedi)
(More brick work)
(Twelve-rabbeted-angled chedi which is typical of King
Prasat Thong's reign)
(Remains of a monastic building)
(Buddha head excavated in situ and
displayed in the vihara of Wat Mongkhon
Bophit)
(Buddha head excavated in situ and
displayed in the vihara of Wat
Mongkhon Bophit)
(Photographs by Somchai Pattanavaew)
Detail of a 19th century map
(Detail of a 19th century map - Courtesy of the Sam
Chao Phraya Museum - map is orientated S-N)
(Detail of Phraya Boran Rachathanin's map - Anno
1926)
Detail of a 2007 Fine Arts Department GIS map
(Detail of a 2007 Fine Arts Department GIS map -
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Department - 3th Region)