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LEXICON

 

 

Wat Doi Suthep (วัดดอยสุเทพ)

Thai. Temple in North Thailand, built at a height of 1,053 meters on the hill of Doi Suthep, 14 kms to the West of the city of Chiang Mai. This very popular temple is named after Sudeva, the Pali name of a hermit who lived on the mountain prior to the construction of the temple and which translates into Thai as Suthep. The temple has a staircase of 306 steps with naga handrails (fig.) and offers a panoramic view of the city (fig.). According to legend the temple was built on the location where a White Elephant which transported relics of the Buddha (fig.), circled three times and then died. These relics had been discovered by the Ceylonese monk Sumanathera in Sri Satchanalai as he traveled frequently between this city and Sukhothai to spread Theravada Buddhism. It was told the relic performed a miracle upon its discovery by starting to glow. King Dhammaracha of Sukhothai asked for the relic, but when he saw it and it didn't perform any miracle, he told  Sumanathera to keep it. Later when King Keua Nah (fig.) ruled over the northern kingdom of Lan Na he invited Sumanathera to Chiang Mai. The latter left for Chiang Mai in 1369 bringing the relic with him and the king went out to welcome him, meeting the monk as far out as Lamphun. Because the monk liked the place so much he stayed there for two years, in Wat Phra Yeun. In 1371, he then moved to Wat Suan Dok (fig.), a temple-monastery in Chiang Mai specially built for himself and the relic. The monk was highly respected by the king who bestowed him the title of Phra Sumanapupah Rattana Maha Swami, a high ranking ecclesiastical title. When it was discussed to built a new pagoda to house the relic, it was discovered that the relic had been miraculously split in two, with one part being of the same size as the original relic. The smaller relic was subsequently enshrined in a newly completed pagoda in Wat Suan Dok, where it remains today; the other half of the relic was put on the back of an auspicious White Elephant that carried it out through the city's Hua Viang Gate, which was later renamed Pratu Chang Peuak or White Elephant Gate. The elephant climbed the hills to the West of the city and Wat Doi Suthep was built on the exact spot where the elephant circled three times and died. A statue of the elephant stands at the temple's entrance and the golden chedi of Wat Doi Suthep is currently depicted on 50 satang coins (fig.). In 1935, the highly respected former abbot of Wat Ban Pang in Lamphun, Kruh Bah Sri Wichai (fig.) had the first motor road to the temple built by his followers, who saw in him (fig.) a bodhisattva. The temple's full name is Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep Raja Worawihaan.