WAT WORAPHO
Wat Worapho is located on the city island on the corner of U-Thong Road and Khlong
Tho (Khlong Chakrai Yai). It is directly west of the Royal Palace, but can only be
entered via U-Thong Road. It is an active monastery with monks.

The name “Wat Worapho” is also commonly applied to a restored ruin situated in the
protected park just south of this monastery. This deserted temple was originally named
Wat Wang Rakhang, and it now belongs to the Fine Arts Department. In contrast, Wat
Worapho is an active site that provides clerical services to the lay community. The two
places are also separated by a fence and a significant distance. Therefore, for the sake of
research, the two monasteries are considered separate entities. The name Wat Worapho
is applied to this small but active monastery; however, the link to Wat Wang Rakhang
should also be viewed for additional historical details.

Wat Worapho is currently under construction. Its primary feature is a sermon hall with
the usual number of sema stones. This ubosot has a large, gold-painted, meditating
Buddha image situated in a glass niche at its entrance. Its wooden doors and windows
are covered with black lacquer and gold-painted images of Siamese figurines or
geometric designs. Inside the ubosot are a large number of Buddha images. The walls of
this sermon hall are colorfully painted with murals depicting Buddha’s life. Wat Worapho
also has several living quarters for monks, a small bell tower, and a crematorium. Most
of the structures in situ are in the process of being built or renovated.

It is unclear when this temple was built, but the older ruin near it is associated with King
Songtham. The King served as a high ranking monk at Wat Wang Rakhang 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).  

The name Wat Worapho derives from renewed diplomatic relations with Sri Lanka
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 changed the monastery’s name to Wat Worapho.

Wat Worapo appears on
Phraya Boran Rachathanin’s 1926 map as a small square.
There is evidence that there might have been early attempts to set up a monastery on the
site of Wat Wang Rakhang; however, as the modern city grew, Wat Worapho was
pushed to its current location beside U-Thong Road. In the late 1950s, a road was
constructed by Field Marshall Phibunsongkram that passed in front of the old site
(Amatyakul 45-46). As a result, Wat Worapho was split from the Wat Wang Rakhang
and shifted northward. The monastery is not listed in the 1957 FAD Guide to Ayodaya,
but in the vicinity there were the Suriyat Wariwora Building and the Song Pu Building. A
teacher training school for men was located west of the monastery.

Wat Worapho appears on Jane Bunnag’s 1973 map of monk’s alms routes, and the
monks at this monastery walked on a route leading past the old distillery into the area
that would later become
Queen Sri Nakharin Park. She notes that the owners of the
private school were not expected to pay rent to the monastery but were required to do
helpful tasks such as reheat rice for the eleven o’clock meal and provide supplementary
food when food supplies were inefficient (Bunnag 122). Wat Worapho received the
majority of its funds from donations made by the Yellow Bus Company in Bangkok
(Bunnag 206). This monastery has managed to survive  to present times, and it may
become more popular after the current renovations are finished.
Text & photographs by Ken May - September 2009