History of the Temple
Wat Molilokayaram Rajaworawihan
By Phra Medheewaraporn (Sutas), The Abbot.
Wat Moli Lokayaram is a royal temple of the second tier, which is known as “Rajworawihan”. This 300-year old temple was built in the Ayudhaya period. When King Taksin established the Thonburi Kingdom, he incorporated this temple and Wat Arun into his palace boundary. During his reign, there were therefore no monks residing in the temple and was considered as the temple within the palace as usually practiced in the Ayudhaya Kingdom. This temple was widely known during the Thonburi period as “Wat Tai Talad” which literally means the temple behind the market. This temple stretches for 5.1 acres and situates behind King Taksin’s old palace on the western side of the Chao Praya River, which is called Thonburi.
The oldest structure of this monastery is the Assembly Hall or Wihan which was built in the Ayudhaya period and later King Taksin used it for storing salt in Thonburi period. It is sometimes called “Phra Wihan Chag Klua” in Thai, which means a salt storage. This hall is characterised with the Thai-Chinese architecture covering with ceramic roof tiles and gable spires and ridges decorated with stuccowork. The hall was separated into two chambers. In the smaller rear chamber stands a large image of seated Lord Buddha in the attitude of subduing Mara named “Phra Parames”. The front larger chamber contains several sacred Buddha images on the middle pedestal, each of which has very beautiful Buddha characters. Wooden doors and windows were beautifully carved with gilded lacquer art. This assembly hall has a magnificent unique rare character and is very worth seeing
In the reign of King Rama I, the capital city was moved to the other side of the Chao Praya River, which was called the Pra Nakorn east bank or the Main City. He ordered his son, Prince Isarasundhorn, who was later King Rama II, and HM. Queen Amrindramard (Nak) to restore this temple and build a new Ubosot or chapel, respectively. The chapel is covered with the ceramic roof tiles with timber gable spires and their ridges, lacquered and decorated with stained glass. The wall and the ceiling inside the temple are painted in the traditional Thai print. Wooden doors and windows were beautifully carved with gilded lacquer.
The Principle Buddha Image in the Temple, named “Phra Buddha Molilokanadh”, is a bronze Buddha image in the attitude of subduing Mara having the front lap width of 2 metres with very beautiful Buddha characters. This image is very sacred and has been respected by the kings and Thai people since early Rattanakosin period.
King Rama II renamed this monastery “Wat Buddhaisawan” or “Wat Buddhai Sawan-yawas Worawihan”, which implies the close relationship with the royal family. Almost all of his sons, including Kings Rama III and IV and HM Vice King Pinklao, had their elementary study here.
King Rama III had restored the whole temple and again renamed it “Wat Moliloksudharam”.
He built Somdej Hall in 1843 AD for the statue of his teacher, Somej Phra Buddhakosajarn (Kun), who not only taught him at his early age but also his First Ordination Teacher when he was ordained. This sacred place has two storeys, i.e the ground base and the upper hall. The ground floor stands the bronze statue of Somdej Phra Buddhakosajarn (Kun) and is the foundation of four Lankan style stupas, which are believed to keep the top knots, called Moli in Thai of Kings Rama III and IV. And that is how the name of the temple was derived. Both sides of the hall have two staircases to the upper floor and the front tunnel stands the sculptural footprints of Lord Buddha.
The timber Tripitaka Hall was also built in his reign with very beautiful gilded black lacquer art on doors and windows. It is worth seeing very much.
King Rama IV built a new chamber for the abbot, a Chanting Hall and subsequently a larger Central Hall serving both chanting and dining purposes. He restored the chapel by allowing his royal emblem of the mythological elephant with the royal canopy be placed on its gable. It is very likely that the present name of the temple –“MoliLokayaram” was given in this reign.
King Rama V had renovated the monastery library (The timber Tripitaka Hall) and gave monks Kathina, a Buddhist festival which comes at the end of Vassa, the three-month rainy season retreat for Theravada Buddhists for many times.
King Rama VI ordered this royal temple as the second tier, which has been known as Rajaworawihan ever since.
Wat Molilokayaram was usually visited by the kings, i.e King Rama V, King Rama IV and the present King Rama IX especially during the annual robe-presentation ceremony following the end of the rains retreat. HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn visited the Tripitaka Hall on the 12th January 1998.
This old temple embodies much significance to the Chakri dynasty and our nation in many ways. Thus, the Department of Arts has registered this temple as one of the national historical sites.