A stunning temple in Bangkok with white pillars and golden and red peaks, the Marble Temple, or Wat Benchamabophit as it called by the Thais, is situated close to the Dusit Palace in Bangkok. In Thai, the name means, “The Temple of the Fifth King” and it is considered to be a mix of traditional Thai and Western architecture. It is reputed to be one of the finest examples of Thai craftsmanship anywhere in the country. This temple doesn’t seem to get as much tourist traffic as some of the others, but it is absolutely beautiful, and I can’t recommend it enough.
A New Temple
In the scheme of things, this is a new temple. Built in 1899, it was intended to be a source of religious heritage for future generations. The main statue of Buddha is a replica of one in the province of Phitsanulok. (This statue is much revered; the original plan was to move it to Bangkok, but it caused so much upset that a replica was built.)
The temple is built of white marble – white Carrana marble, imported from Italy which is supposed to represent Buddha’s purity and the devotion of people to Buddha. There are straight, round columns at the front of the building. The roof has four tiers (most Buddhist temples have two or three), and the building is also oblong. Unusually for a Thai temple, there are stained glass windows.
Inside, it has cross beams of gold and the typical lacquer that we see so often in Thai art work. At the entrance to the Ordination Hall, there are two marble lions.
In the cloisters at the rear of the temple, there is a row of 53 Buddhas, they are not only from Thailand, but also other Buddhist countries – 33 of them are original, the others are replicas. This is perhaps the most important collection of depictions of Buddha in one place, from different periods and styles. Each of these statues has a brief description at the base, in both Thai and English.
The Marble Temple is a Royal Monastery, the grounds of which cover about twelve acres. The temple is open from 9 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon. Unusually, the monks do not go out in the morning to offer alms, the locals come between 6 and 7 am.
There is a canal running through the grounds, where you can buy fish or turtles – you are supposed to buy them and set them free, which is good luck. There are seats dotted around in the grounds where you can sit and just relax and take in the ambience.
This is a working temple, so if you visit early in the morning, you will hear the monks chanting, but, as such, the usual rules of engagement apply – dress modestly, take shoes off prior to entering the temple, and don’t pose in front of statues of Buddha or with the monks. All in all, the Marble Temple is a wonderful place to visit; I do hope you enjoy it.