from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Wat Phra Sri Mahathat , meditation temple in Bang Khen , North Bangkok
Angkor Wat in Cambodia

A wat ( Khmer វត្ត vott ; Laotian ວັດ , vat ; Thai วัด , [wát] ) is a walled building complex in the Buddhist countries of Laos , Cambodia and Thailand , which mainly serves religious purposes.

To the subject

The term wat is derived from the Pali word āvāsa (place of residence, abode) and from the Sanskrit word avasatha (village, school, house). The translation of a Buddhist monastery is problematic for three reasons: firstly, a wat serves religious and lay people alike; second, there are examples without any monastery district (such as Wat Phra Kaeo in Bangkok ); Thirdly, Hindu and Christian institutions , among others, also bear the name Wat , at least in common parlance. Perhaps would the community center a more appropriate name, because a Wat also serves as a meeting place and as a school for destitute children. In German, the terms temple and temple complex have become widely used.


Virtually every Laotian, Cambodian and Thai village has a wat at the center of Buddhist life; larger cities are home to numerous wat , Bangkok for example over 400, all of Thailand 30,678 (as of 1998).

A wat is financially supported by the population, by wealthier patrons as well as by poorer community members, because donations are a traditional form of religious income . Thai Wat , whose names begin with Rat, Racha- or Maha-, often introduced by the syllable Phra, were donated by royal highnesses or guard highly revered cult objects.

In rural Thailand, a wat is often a religious center and elementary school, clinic and (herbal) sauna , meeting point and community center, retirement home and short-term accommodation for guests, with the resident bhikkhus (monks) and mae chis (white-clad female lay people, the eight or ten precepts ) serve as staff in one or more of these roles.

Wat Tham Krabok 140 km north of Bangkok, for example, is world-famous for its successful treatment of drug addicts, Wat Phra Baht Nam Phu near Lop Buri is an important hospice for AIDS sufferers .

Wat architecture in Thailand

The architecture of the wat has an eventful history; there are often great differences in layout and style, but all examples are based on a common basic structure.

With a few exceptions, a wat consists of two different parts, the Phutthawat and the Sanghawat .


The Phutthawat (Thai: เขต พุทธาวาส ) is the area dedicated to the Buddha, which generally consists of different buildings enclosed by a wall ( Kampheng Kaeo ):

  • Chedi (Thai: พระ เจดีย์ , Sinhalese: dagoba ) - a mostly bell-shaped tower tapering towards the top, sometimes accessible and covered with gold leaf.
  • Prang (Thai: พระ ปรางค์ ) - the Thai adaptation of the temple towers that the Khmer built in the historical Angkorreich , often found in temples from the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya periods.
  • Bot or Ubosot (Thai: โบสถ์ or พระ อุโบสถ ) - prayer hall and holiest area of ​​the wat , where the monks hold their ceremonies; the consecrated area is marked by landmarks, the Bai Sema .
  • Wihan (Thai: พระ วิหาร ) - a meeting room for monks and believers.
  • Ho Trai (Thai: หอไตร ) - the library building , here the holy scrolls ( Tipitaka ) are kept; The cubic mondop (Thai: พระ มณฑป , pronounced Mon-Dop) is a special design .
  • Sala (Thai: ศาลา ) - an open pavilion as a place to linger, a shady meeting place for pilgrims.
  • Sala Kan Prian (Thai: ศาลา การเปรียญ ) - a large, open hall where lay people can listen to sermons or attend their daily religious classes, literally: hall where monks study for their Prian exam .
  • Ho Rakhang (Thai: หอ ระฆัง ) - a bell tower that wakes the monks and calls them together for the morning and evening ceremonies.
  • Phra Rabieng (Thai: พระ ระเบียง ) - an inwardly open gallery often surrounds the central sanctuary.
Typical crematorium in a Thai wat
  • Additional auxiliary buildings are built depending on local needs, such as a crematorium or a school.

The buildings can have characteristic decorations, for example chofas .


The Sanghawat (Thai: เข ถ สังฆ วา ส ), on the other hand, is the living area of ​​the monks. He, too, is shielded from the worldly surroundings by a wall. Here are:

  • Kuti (Thai: กุ ฎิ ) - the monks of a wat live in individual houses, the largest is reserved for the abbot.
  • A Sanghawat can also include a Hor Rakhang (bell tower) or even a Sala Kan Prian (preaching hall).

Classification of Buddhist temples in Thailand

In Thailand, Buddhist wats are classified as follows:

  • Royal Temples ( พระ อาราม หลวง ) - There are only about 100 royal temples in Thailand. Your full name usually contains the following syllables: Ratchaworamahawihan ( ราชวรมหาวิหาร ) Ratchaworawihan ( ราชวรวิหาร ) Woramahawihan ( วรมหาวิหาร ) or Worawihan ( วรวิหาร ). They can be divided into three classes:
    • Royal Temples First Class ( พระ อาราม หลวง ชั้น เอก )
      • renovated by the king,
      • rebuilt by the king,
      • often own a chedi with a Buddhist relic (in Thai Maha That - มหาธาตุ or Phra That - พระ ธาตุ )
      • old temples, around 50-100 years old,
      • other old temples in the care of the state or Buddhist organizations.
    • Royal Temple Second Class ( พระ อาราม หลวง ชั้น โท )
      • built by the king's children,
      • built by noblemen (Khunnang, ขุนนาง ) who were given a royal title.
    • Third Class Royal Temples ( พระ อาราม หลวง ชั้น ตรี )
      • built by more distant relatives of the king or by other nobles.
  • Wat Rat ( วัดราษฎร์ ; translated as 'ordinary', 'civil' or 'people's temple') were built / donated by non-royal or noble believers. Today only a few (<12) monks usually reside here.
  • Samnak Song ( สำนักสงฆ์ ) are all other Buddhist centers that are not officially registered with the Sangha. In addition, a Samnak Song does not have an ubosot , the building for the consecration of monks that is fenced off with sacred landmarks ( Bai Sema ) .

It is the pious wish of every Thai Buddhist, be it the king or a simple man, to build a temple and support it according to his means, alone or together in a community of like-minded people. The Buddha already spoke of Uddesika-cetiya ( Pali for "indicative memorabilia and replicas"; Thai Utthesik Chedi ), which means to establish great religious merit (Thai Bun - บุญ , Pali: puñña ; see also Tham bun ).

The kings of Ayutthaya sponsored public temples ( Wat Luang ) from their personal possessions. Wealthy aristocrats subsequently built additional monasteries ( Wat Raad ) in order to give their entire family an additional reputation. Finally, the community of all believers still supports these temples today by either placing their daily bread in the form of rice and ingredients in the alms bowl for the monks or donating funds for renovation work.

After Bangkok was declared the new capital of Siam in 1782 , this custom continued. King Rama I had enormous reserves of manpower at his disposal; it is said that no fewer than 20,000 workers were employed on the expansion of Wat Pho during his reign .

In addition to royal patronage, the maintenance of royal temples was traditionally the responsibility of the nobles and ambitious members of non-aristocratic circles. In the past, slaves were sometimes even “donated” to keep the monastery grounds and its buildings in order. However, this practice was stopped during the reign of King Chulalongkorn , who gradually abolished slavery in Siam.

It was not uncommon for a wealthy family to maintain more than one temple. The preferred temple was then mostly close to the family residence, while a second, more distant wat was perhaps supported due to the personality of the abbot, who was famous for supernatural powers and could heal diseases.

In addition to religious merit, there are other motives for starting a temple:

  • to provide a permanent place for the monks to live, study and meditate,
  • to create a place to worship images of the Buddha ,
  • create a place where boys can learn to read and write; in earlier times, monasteries were the only public educational institutions in rural Thailand.

All of these motives ultimately boil down to the acquisition of merits, even if the monasteries in Thailand also have social functions. Many aspects of Thai life, including religious architecture, have their origins in religious devotion, which is inextricably linked with everyday life.


Golden Buddha statue, Wat Traimit , Bangkok

A typical wat is a social center and as such also a venue for festivities. At the Thai Ngaan Wat or temple festivals, the atmosphere can be exuberant. They take place regularly on special days, such as on the anniversary of the Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death (called Wisakha Bucha , full moon in May) or on the anniversary of the Buddha's first sermon to the 1250 monks (called Makha Bucha , full moon in February). There are open-air cinema screenings, theater shows or rock concerts with more or less professional musicians; sometimes fireworks are set off.

Another typical festivity is the ngaan sop or cremation ceremony , in Thailand more a reason for joy than mourning. In the country, a ngaan sop often includes a lively procession with a band from the home of the deceased to the temple.


  • KI Matics: Introduction to the Thai Temple . White Lotus, Bangkok 1992. ISBN 974-8495-42-6 .
  • Clarence Aasen: Architecture of Siam . Oxford University Press 1998. ISBN 983-56-0027-9 .
  • No Na Paknam: The Buddhist Boundary Markers of Thailand . Muang Boran Press, Bangkok 1981 (without ISBN).
  • Rita Ringis: Thai Temples and Temple Murals . Oxford University Press, New York 1990. ISBN 0-19-588933-9 .
  • HRH Prince Damrong Rajanubhab: A History of Buddhist Monuments in Siam . Bangkok 1929, translated into English by Sulak Sivaraksa . The Siam Society, Bangkok 1962.
  • Karl Döhring : Buddhist Temples of Thailand . Berlin 1920, reprinted by White Lotus Co. Ltd., Bangkok 2000. ISBN 974-7534-40-1 .
  • Joe Cummings: Thailand . Lonely Planet Publications, Hawthorn 1999. ISBN 0-86442-636-4 .

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Thailand at a Glance - The Prime Minister's Office. Archived from the original on November 4, 2012 ; accessed on November 29, 2015 .
  2. Wat Tham Krabok