Wat Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai’s most famous temple
Wat Doi Suthep is without a doubt Chiang Mai’s most famous temple, located on the mountain called Doi Suthep. It is a sacred site to many Thai people. The temple is 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) from the city of Chiang Mai. From the temple, impressive views of Chiang Mai can be seen. The original founding of the temple remains a legend and there are a few varied versions. The temple is said to have been founded in 1383 when the first stupa was built. Over time, the temple has expanded, and been made to look more extravagant with many more holy shrines added. A road to the temple was first built in 1935.
According to legend, a monk named Sumanathera from the Sukhothai Kingdom had a dream. In this vision he was told to go to Pang Cha and look for a relic. Sumanathera ventured to Pang Cha and found a bone. Many claim it was Gautama Buddha’s shoulder bone. The relic displayed magical powers: it glowed, it was able to vanish, it could move and replicate itself. Sumanathera took the relic to King Dhammaraja, who ruled Sukhothai. The eager Dhammaraja made offerings and hosted a ceremony when Sumanathera arrived. However, the relic displayed no abnormal characteristics, and the king, doubtful of the relic’s authenticity, told Sumanathera to keep it.
The White Elephant
King Kue Na of Lanna heard of the relic and bade the monk to bring it to him. In 1368, with Dharmmaraja’s permission, Sumanathera took the relic to what is now Lamphun, in northern Thailand. Once there, the relic broke into two pieces. The smaller piece was enshrined at a temple in Suandok. The king placed the other piece on the back of a white elephant which was released into the jungle. The elephant is said to have climbed up Doi Suthep, at that time called Doi Aoy Chang (Sugar Elephant Mountain), stopped, trumpeted three times, then dropped dead. This was interpreted as an omen. King Nu Naone immediately ordered the construction of a temple at the site.
Born in 1878 (BE 2421). Ordained as a novice at 18 and as a monk at the age of 20 at Wat Phrathat Doi Tae, Lamphun province. He was the spiritual leader of over 5,000 true believers and disciples, inspiring them to build an 11 kilometer road up to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai. The road, now known as Kru Ba Srivichai road, he was completed in 5 months and 25 days. He passed away on 20 February 1938 (BE2481).
Tours of Chiang Mai a la Carte in which Wat Doi Suthep features: