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Wat Ku Kut aka Wat Chama Thewi
The Wat Ku Kut is a temple in Lamphun, also known as Wat Chama Thewi, Wat Chama Devi, or Wat Camadewi. It is, after Wat Hariphunchai, the most revered and famous temple of Lamphun.
The temple is named after Queen Chama Thewi, who founded Lamphun in the 8th century. There are different versions of the timing of the foundation of this temple. Some people think it dates back to the 8th century, others think the year of foundation was around 1150 when Lamphun was the capital of Hariphunchai. Monks at the temple believe the temple dates back to the 8th century and that is also the information on plaques.
The oldest structures in North Thailand
The famous chedis of Wat Chama Thewi might be some of the oldest structures in North Thailand. According to a monk at the temple, the temple compound was cut in half by road 1015. It stretched out beyond this road. In the viharn are two collages of old pictures of the two chedis, that show them standing in the middle of nowhere. There are no other structures. Until the big restoration by the monk Kruba Srivichai in 1936-37, Wat Ku Kut was in a very poor state.
The two Mon-style chedis
The most interesting and significant structures of Wat Ku Kut are the two chedis: the Suwannad Chang Kot Chedi aka the Mahabol Chedi and the Ratana Chedi. These are “Mon-style” chedis. The design is pyramidical. At every step of the chedi, there are niches, that contain a Buddha image. This design originates from the Mon-Dvaravati period (6th-11th century). You can find chedis in a similar style at Wat Hariphunchai in Lamphun and at Wat Chedi Liam and Wat Phuak Hong in Chiang Mai.
The Suwanna Chang Kot Chedi
King Adityaraja of the Hariphunchai Kingdom might have built the Suwan Chang Kot Chedi to commemorate his victory over a Khmer army around the year 1150. Not long afterward an earthquake damaged the chedi after which the kingdd rebuilt the chedi. This kind of chedi is exemplary for Mon Dvaravati architecture. Its design is pyramidical: the base is square. On each side of the diminishing tier, it has a shrine with three standing Buddha images. Allegedly these images were cast in 1218.
The Ashes of Queen Chama Thewi
The Suwanna Chang Kot Chedi is 21 meters tall. According to information at the temple, this chedi contains the ashes of Queen Chama Thewi. A monk told me that there was a golden lotus flower at the top of the chedi. Burmese forces removed it centuries ago, according to the monk.
Much smaller is the second chedi which is next to the assembly hall. Its name is Ratana Chedi, which means “gem chedi” in Thai. This chedi is 11,5 meters tall. It contains standing Buddha images in niches as well as seated images. There seems to have been a container with relics at the top of this chedi but I haven’t found any evidence of this yet.
The viharn of Wat Ku Kut
During the years 1936-37 a major restoration of the Wat Ku Kut took place. Followers of the “monk-engineer” Kruba Srivichai built the viharn. A picture at the small museum at the back of the compound shows the monk posing in front of the chedi with a large group of monks. On the right, we can see the viharn under construction.
The viharn is visible in pictures Edward Hutchinson took in the late 1930s. It is a Bangkok-style building with a Lanna-style roof. Inside the airy viharn is a large Buddha image on a pedestal. ddOn the upper part of the walls are beautiful murals depicting scenes from the history of Hariphunchai and Queen Chama Thewi. There are also collages of old photos of the two chedis on display.
Other structures at the temple
Quite remarkable is an artificial cave with three statues of “ruesi”, hermits who live in the forest. It is not easy to define what a reusi is. They are the holders of the natural laws and sciences, which have been passed down over the millennia.
The ubosot is a nice central Thai-style building with a Lanna-style roof. It is usually closed. In front of the ubosot is a small, white stupa with images of Kruba Srivichai in a niche. This stupa contains the ashes of the legendary, highly revered monk. A bit further is a wooden building that houses the Kruba Srivichai Museum.
The Kruba Srivichai Museum
At the back of the temple, the compound is a small museum dedicated to the “monk-engineer” Kruba Srivichai, the Patron Saint of Lanna. Not far from the temple there is the Srivichai bridge over the Ping River, named after the highly revered monk. Next to the bridge, there is also a statue of the monk.
The museum looks like the living quarters of the monk, whose followers helped restore numerous temples in North Thailand. They also constructed the road to the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in 1935. A picture at the museum shows Kruba Srivichai posing with a group of monks in front of the Mahabol Chedi.
References of this article
I have visited the temple numerous times over the last couple of years. I have spoken to monks at the temple. Much information comes from these conversations, information boards at the temple, and from the Kruba Srivichai Museum.
I also consulted these books:
- David Wyatt and Aroonrut Wichienkeeo, The Chiang Mai Chronicle, Chiang Mai 1995
- Sarassawadee Ongsakul, History of Lanna, Chiang Mai, 2005
- Michael Freeman, Lanna, Thailand’s Northern Kingdom, Bangkok, 2001
- Photograph Collection 28 of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland.
Some facts about Wat Ku Kut
Wat Ku Kut aka Wat Chama Thewi is located on Chama Thewi road, road no 1015, west of Lamphun, about 1,5 km from the old city wall. Entrance is free. The temple is open from 0600 until 1800 every day.
There are still samlors (bicycle taxis) in Lamphun. You can find them at the Central Market and at the hospital which is next to the temple. We have included the temple in all our Lamphun tours such as the Saturday tour to the Buffalo Market, the Explore Ancient Lanna tour and the combination tour of Doi Inthanon and Ancient Lanna Cities.