Grand Palace Bangkok
Grand Palace Bangkok
- The Grand Palace (including Wat Phrao Kaeo) is the major tourist attraction in Bangkok. This complex was created in 1782 and comprises the Royal residence, the Royal Monastery of the Emerald Buddha, its surrounding Galleries depicting the paintings of the scenes from the Ramakien (the Thai version of the Indian epic of the Ramayana), the Outer Court, the Inner Court and the Central Court.
- The complex was designed and constructed during the reign of absolute monarchy (which ended in 1932). It was the religious and administrative centre for the Kingdom. The architecture is dominated by religious and royal symbolism to convey and enforce the sacred nature and power of the monarchy.
Grand Palace Bangkok
- The design of the Palace follows that of the former Palace of Ayutthaya. The Central Court of the Grand Palace was formerly the royal residence of the Chakri kings. Not all of this complex is open to the public but a walk around the outside is worthwhile. The throne hall in neo-French Renaissance style with traditional Thai styled tiered roofs and spires are impressive. The mix of Chinese porcelain and stone statues, Khmer, European and Thai architecture styles makes for a unique blend on an impressive scale.
- Everywhere are dotted works to proclaim in symbolic form the majesty and authority of the King based on Brahmanic ideas and those of Mahayana Buddhism. Spires emulate Mount Meru or the universe of the gods. These spires are supported by garudas, some supporting Phra Narai (who in human form descended to earth to help humans and relieve them of suffering), these symbolise the mythical animals within the Himavamsa forest surrounding Mount Meru and the king's association with Phra Narai. The frequent use of the Naga (a mythical serpent which protected Buddha) symbolises the Naga in its role of protecting Buddha as here also protecting the King. All the symbolic references in art are derived from India and support and entrench the political authority of the system of government.
- It is actually a compound of structures at the centre of Bangkok. It was the official abode of the Thailand’s kings since 1782. Until 1925, the king, his court as well as his majestic government were established on the lands of the palace. Inside the walls of the palace a number of royal rituals as well as state events are held every year. The palace is among the most admired tourist attractions inside Thailand.
- When he shifted the capital city from Thonburi to Bangkok, King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke ordered construction of the palace in 1782. A number of new structures and buildings were added all through successive reigns, particularly during the King Chulalongkorn’s reign. The king, the Royal Family and the government have shifted to other abodes since 1925. By 1932 all government organisations relocated out of the palace after the ending of monarchy.
- The palace compound is more or less rectangular in shape, and is spread over an area of 218,400 square metres, encircled by 4 walls. It’s located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River in the Phra Nakhon District. It is bordered by Thai Wang Road to the south, Sanamchai Road to the east, Maharaj Road to the west and Sanam Luang and Na Phra Lan Road to the north.
- Grand Palace consists of many courtyards, gardens, pavilions set around open lawns, halls and buildings. It’s divided into a number of quarters: the Siwalai Gardens quarter, the Inner Court, the Chakri Maha Prasat Buildings, the Middle Court, the Outer Court with many public buildings and the Emerald Buddha’s temple. Currently the Grand Palace is partially open to the general public like a museum, but it is a working palace, with numerous royal offices still located inside.
- King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke started construction of the palace in 1782. He made a decision to shift the seat of power from Thonburi to Bangkok.
- The new palace was constructed between Wat Mahathat to the north, Wat Pho to the south and the Chao Phraya River along the west. Previously a Chinese community occupied this area but was relocated. today, the area is known as Yaowarat (Chinatown).
- Initially the palace was completely built from wood due to paucity of funds and materials. During the next few years, the king replaced wooden structures with masonry, rebuilt royal residences, throne halls, gates, forts and walls. The royal chapel was included in this rebuilding which would contain the Emerald Buddha.
- King Rama I ordered his men to go to the old city of Ayutthaya in order to locate more material for these constructions. They were asked to dismantle and remove as many bricks as they could. They started by taking materials from the walls and forts. The bricks were merged into the walls of Bangkok as well as the Grand Palace itself. In 1785, the king arranged a full customary coronation ceremony after the completion of the ceremonial halls of the palace.
- The Grand Palace is divided into 4 main courts: the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the Inner Court, the Middle Court and the Outer Court. Access and functions of each of these courts are clearly defined by laws. The Outer Court constitutes the northwestern area of the Grand Palace.
- From 1782 to 1932 it was both the country's religious as well as administrative centre. The guard posts, extensive forts and high whitewashed castellated walls of the palace represented those of the walls of Bangkok itself and for that reason it was considered as a city within a city. To establish order and hierarchy a special set of Palace Laws were formulated to govern the people.
- For the king's use, new palaces were built elsewhere by the 1920s. These included Dusit Palace, built in 1903 and Phaya Thai Palace built in 1909. The Grand Palace was gradually replaced by other Bangkok residences as the main residence of the monarch as well as his court. This move out of the palace was completed by 1925.In spite of this it continued as the official and ceremonial place of residence of the monarchy. A revolution in 1932 replaced the old system of government with a constitutional monarchy.
- At present it is still a centre of the monarchy and serves as a gallery and tourist attraction.
- The Outer Court of the Grand Palace is located to the northwest of the palace. Entering through the main Gate, the Emerald Buddha’s Temple is situated to the left, with a number of public buildings situated to the right. These buildings include the Office of His Majesty's Principal Private Secretary, the Bureau of the Royal Household, the information centre and the headquarters of the Grand Palace. Within the court other important buildings include the Sala Sahathai Samakhom, used for meetings and important receptions. By 1925, all government departments and workers had emptied the site and all the buildings were transformed for use by the Royal Family.
Temple of the Emerald Buddha
- It is a royal chapel located inside the Palace. It is a chapel but is referred to as a Buddhist temple incorrectly. It was built in 1783 as per the ancient tradition. The famous Emerald Buddha is in the temple.
- A series of walled monasteries, with 7 different gates surround the temple on 4 sides. The Wat Phra Kaew compound is segregated from the living houses of the kings. Structures and buildings of different styles are there within these walls for different purposes, showing the varying architecture during the different reigns of the kings. In spite of this, most of the buildings inside strictly abide by traditional Thai architecture. The setting up of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha dates to the very setting up of the Grand Palace as well as Bangkok itself.
- It is the biggest and most important court. The court is thought to be the main part of the Grand Palace and is in front of the Amornwithi Road that cuts right across from east to west. The court is further divided into 3 groups of 'Throne halls' and one Siwalai Garden quarter.
Phra Maha Monthien group
- It is a group of buildings is situated approximately at the centre of the Middle Court, therefore at the centre of the Grand Palace itself. The customary Thai style building group is surrounded by a low wall, because once this was the sleeping and residential place of kings. Therefore it’s considered as the most important set of throne halls in the whole of Grand Palace. All buildings inside the Maha Monthien are inter-connected to each other and face north. These buildings are arranged from front to back with the public reception hall at the front side, ceremonial halls in the middle and residential halls at the rear.
- Since King Rama II all Royal coronations have taken place inside the walls of this building group. The original buildings contained only the Phaisan Thaksin Throne Hall and the Chakraphat Phimarn Throne Hall. Later on King Rama II carried out main constructions which included the Amarin Winitchai Throne Hall as well as other extensions. Later during his reign he added the Narai Chinese Pavilion and the Sanam Chan Pavilion. King Nangklao (Rama III) renamed the buildings to Maha Monthien. He carried out main renovations and spent most of his reign living in these buildings. Later 2 arch-ways at the west and north side of the walls were added by King Rama IV. These are called the Thevetraksa and Thevaphibal Gate respectively. Two portico extensions to western and eastern sides of the Amarin Winitchai Hall were added by King Vajiravudh (Rama VI). Since then most buildings remain as per original plan, with infrequent repairs before important anniversaries like the Bangkok Bicentennial Celebrations in 1982. The complex is closed to the general public except the Amarin Winitchai Throne Hall.
- The central entrance to the hall is the Thevaphibal Gate nevertheless, the central entrance is reserved exclusively for the king, other people should enter through the 2 other doors on either side. Chinese-style sculptures, including legendary lions and warriors guard the gate.
- Phra Thinang Amarin is the northernmost and forward building of the Maha Monthien buildings. The throne hall was built in Thai style as a royal audience chamber, for welcoming foreign representatives and for carrying out important state businesses and ceremonies.
- The big throne hall stands on a 50 centimetre high base, the roof is covered in orange and green tiles. The pediment is ornamented with a painting portraying the Hindu god Indra. The main central door is reserved for royalty, while other people should go in through the adjacent side doors. There are 2 rows of square columns, six on the right and five on the left decorated with Thai floral designs inside the hall. The coffered ceiling is ornamented with glass mosaic stars.
- The shape of the golden throne is like a boat having a spired pavilion in the centre. This raised pavilion symbolises Mount Meru, the centre of Hindu and Buddhist cosmology. The throne is ornamented with coloured stones and enamels and as well as garuda and deva figures.
- Another throne called the Phuttan Kanchanasinghat Throne sits in the front of throne. The huge Royal Nine-Tiered Umbrella, an important symbol of Thai kingship tops the throne. The different tiers represent the king's prestige and power that extends in 8 directions. The final and 9th tier symbolises the central direction sinking into the earth. The throne consists of multi-layered squared platforms, all covered in gold with a seat in the centre. The throne is used for the 1st royal audience of each king's reign as well as for annual birthday parties in addition to other royal parties. King Rama II received John Crawfurd (the 1st British Envoy to Siam in nearly 200 years) in 1821 from this throne. The Governor-General of India Lord Hastings sent Crawfurd to Bangkok to discuss a trade treaty.
- Phra Thinang Phaisan is a ceremonial functions hall in which the most important state and religious ceremonies are held. It’s the main location where royal coronations are performed at the start of each king's reign. On 5 May, 1950 the last coronation ceremony was held here for King Rama IX. Earlier the hall was a private reception hall and living place of King Rama I. Here he regularly hosted meetings and dinners for his closest ministers and other reliable courtiers. After his demise the hall was transformed into a ceremonial place. The long rectangular hall is ornamented in rich murals portraying scenes from Hindu and Buddhist mythology.
- The hall contains 2 thrones. The Octagonal Throne is placed in the eastern part of the hall. This abnormally shaped wooden throne is in the shape of an octagonal prism and is ornamented with golden lacquer, topped by a white 7 tiered umbrella. It’s used during the first part of the coronation ritual where the king is anointed with holy water, just before the crowning ritual; all Chakri kings have gone through this old ritual.
- The Phatharabit Throne is across the hall to the western side. This throne is a golden chair having a footstool with 2 high tables to its sides. The throne is topped by one more Royal Nine-tiered Umbrella. During the main part of the coronation ritual this throne is used. The king crowns himself. Then Royal Brahmins present the objects of the regalia, each reminding him of his duties as a king. The objects include the Royal Slippers, the Royal Fan, the Royal Flywisk, the Sword of Victory and the Great Crown of Victory.
- Besides being the setting of these important rituals, the hall contains the Phra Siam Thevathiraj figure. This figure was made during the rule of King Rama IV. It exists as the representation of the nation to use as a palladium for worship. The golden figure shows a standing god, dressed in royal regalia, putting on a crown and holding a sword in its right hand. The figure is approximately 8 inches tall, and is contained in a Chinese-style cabinet in the centre of the Phaisan Thaksin Hall. Other figures of the same scale are also there representing other Hindu gods and goddesses. The figure was once worshipped virtually daily; today however only religious ceremonies are held to worship the figure during times of great disaster.
Inside the Grand Palace Grounds