Since the first day of January, time seems to slip by faster than ever. I could hardly catch up with all my chores and list of things to do. So, it was a nice break to visit the Temple of Dawn or Wat Arun during the first week of January to pay respect to the Buddha statues and to get some good vibes from the river and blessings from the Buddha statues. We took the express boat from Sathorn Pier to enjoy the scenery and nice weather; we arrived at Wat Arun within ten minutes.
I was so glad that the temple’s Ordination Hall and Phra Prang (Pagoda) were opened to the public despite the news of a second coronavirus pandemic in several areas in the city. There were many people visiting the temple as most Buddhists believed that paying respect to the Buddha statues during the new year days would be very suspicious for their life. It was good to see people enjoying themselves in the sunshine and queuing up to pay respect to the Buddha statues in the Ordination Hall. Six months ago, this temple was looking very lonely and sad; seeing young people and families walking around taking selfies suddenly cheered me up and gave me hope for a brighter future.
We went to perform our customary ritual in the Ordination Hall. This temple used to be under the patronage of King Taksin as his palace was close by this temple. So, this temple was like his shrine room where King Taksin used to spend hours in meditation. This temple becomes like a holy grail for those people who felt strongly indebted to and respectful of King Taksin. He did the impossible task of gaining independence from Burmese rule with very small armies of volunteers and his loyal soldiers under only nine months.
As the old capital of Ayutthaya was completely burned down and looted during the war. King Taksin established a new capital city on the left side of Chao Phraya River which was called Krung Thonburi. His palace was very small and modest as he did not want to spend money on building grand palaces after the war. Nowadays, the Royal Thai Navy headquarter is located in the ‘Old Palace’; the navy has a special attachment to King Taksin as hundreds of locally hand-built boats played a large part in the beginning of his quest for independence. There are various stories and mysteries surrounding the Old Palace and the old Fort by the river. Some staff had told me old spirits dressing in traditional Thai costume could still be seen among the old trees in the palace. The Old Palace is opened to the public once a year. So, people often come to Wat Arun to pay respect to King Taksin statue in this temple.
Two different paintings of the artists’ impressions of King Taksin from old people’s description and supposedly old missionary’s drawings. But we still don’t know what King Taksin looked like! As he was a son of Chinese immigrants living in Ayutthaya, his complexion should be quite pale. Most statue makes him looking too much Thai with high forehead and thick dark eyebrows. I wish I could look at him through my crystal ball.
The crowd got larger so we had a quick walk around Phra Prang or Pagoda. The Jedees or satellite features looked so nice under the golden sunshine. We did not have the time to climb up those steep steps as I had a plan to show my friend a very special site at Wat Hong, two kilometers away from Wat Arun.
We walked past the Main Hall of Wat Arun and the monk’s quarters at the back towards the narrow lane which led to the entrance of the Old Palace; now under the patronage of the Royal Navy. The light was getting dimmer as the sun was setting by the river. The atmosphere was very quiet and forlorn as we were the only two strangers walking along empty lanes. We caught a cat on top of the doorway; perhaps he could levitate with cat magic.
Our goal was to visit Wat Hong (swan temple) with the special sacred pond and King Taksin Shrine. There were so many stories surrounding King Taksin in this temple as he used to spend hours meditating in the main hall until he thought he attained enlightenment and became a Buddha. One version of history told stories about the King forcing people and monks to treat him like a Buddha; he punished those people who refused to pay respect to him including monks. His madness was so bad that he was arrested by his own best friend, the top military leader, and sentenced to death in the ground of the Old Palace. His blood dripped on the earth after the beheading. People took the bloody earth to build the shrine at Wat Hong.
The modern new shrine in contrast with the old wooden Taksin Shrine.
Most army officers and high ranking policemen revered this temple and Taksin Shrine. Somehow this place is full of magical power and sacred objects. The pond inside the temple with natural spring water has been a place for patriotic pilgrims who appreciate King Taksin’s bravery and sacrifice in gaining independence with few followers at the beginning. King Taksin used to perform bathing ceremony at this sacred pond before marching into the battle field. Both the top military and police chiefs became ordained as monks here after their retirements last October.
The atmosphere around the pond was very weird and strangely timeless. The trees there are very old with various invisible beings guarding this pond. I felt we were being watched all the time there. There was a chanting ceremony at the small hall by the pond. It was getting dark so we had to make a move back to the pier for the express boat. The monk who found this pond also found a magic stone on the pond.
To my surprise, this stone has been put on display near the pond. We paid our respect to the Shrine, the pond and magic stone. I didn’t touch the stone as it was not allowed. But I stretched my arm out to receive some energy from the magic stone. My friend waited for my reaction before stretching out her hand towards the stone. She could feel the heat from the stone whereas I could feel the flow of energy. We thanked the stone for giving us energy and blessings. We knew we had to visit this temple again with plenty of time to get in touch with this mysterious place where time seemed to stand still. There are other interesting antique Buddha statues inside the Ordination Hall with historical stories fitting for another post.
We walked back to Wat Arun in darkness and managed to get the express boat back to Sathorn Pier. Watching night time scenery along the river made me feeling rather disoriented by the sense of time and space. One moment I was drawn back to scenes of historical importance over two hundreds years ago with so many questions on my mind about the real truth concerning King Taksin’s final days of his life. I have two friends from the south of Thailand who are descendants of King Taksin; he was supposed to be smuggled out to the south to live quietly until his death. There are at least two versions of this story and I would never know which was the true version. The past does continue to haunt the new dynasty of Siam and Thailand. I would love to gaze into my crystal ball and review the past events surrounding King Taksin’s brief reign of the country. On the other hand, it might be better to let go of the past. Coincidentally, I was recently informed by a reliable source that King Taksin was sentenced to death by the Fort at the river bank.
Wishing you peace, good health and prosperity.
Stay warm and cheerful.