Wat Phra That Hariphunchai

Wat Phrathat Hariphunchai

Table of Contents

Red house with giant gong
Bell tower at Wat Hariphunchai

Wat Phrathat Hariphunchai: introduction

One of the most sacred temples of North Thailand

 
Wat Phrathat Hariphunchai (วัดพระธาตุหริภุญชัย) is a Buddhist temple in Lamphun, a town about 30 kilometers from Chiang Mai. The temple is located close to the Mae Kuang River within the old walled town of Lamphun. The name translates to “Temple of the Sacred Hariphunchai Relic”. Phra that, means Buddha relic (from “phra” meaning monk and “that” meaning essence). This is one of the most sacred and interesting Buddhist temples in North Thailand.
 
At any given time of the day you can observe local people donate and give hommage to the many Buddha images in this temple. You can easily spend hours at this temple as there is so much to see. There are several viharns, galleries with statues of monks and of the Buddha, two museums and an ancient Mon-style chedi. Please dress and behave respectfully and keep distance from other people. Wat Hariphunchai is one of my favorite temples in North Thailand where I keep coming back.
Golden chedi with dark skies
Wat Hariphunchai in the rainy season

History of Lamphun

Lamphun is one of Thailand’s oldest cities dating back to at least the 9th century. It was the capital of the Mon Kingdom Hariphunchai. Allegedly the king of Hariphunchai constructed a chedi to house a hair of the Buddha in 897. This chedi was where now the central golden chedi of Wat Hariphunchai is located. King Athitayaraj aka Adityaraja constructed the temple around this chedi in the year 1044, according to information at the temple. In other sources mention the year 1150 as the correct date of the foundation of the temple.

Small building in a Buddhist temple
Ho Tham, the scripture library

The Chedi Suwanna

The unusual pyramid-shaped, 46 meter high Chedi Suwanna, dates back from the 11th century, according to information at the temple. The design of the chedi is in the Dvaravati- or Mon-style. It is similar to the chedis of Wat Kukuk aka Wat Chamathewi and of Wat Chedi Liam at Wiang Kum Kam, Chiang Mai. The Chedi Suwanna is a brick stepped pyramid with Buddha statues in niches.
Brick chedi
The Suwanna Chedi at Wat Hariphunchai
Brick tower with Buddha Wat Hariphunchai
The Suwanna Chedi

The Viharns of Wat Hariphunchai

There are several viharns with Buddha statues at Wat Hariphunchai. The main viharn houses a 15th century Lanna-style Buddha image. A violent storm in 1913 completely destroyed the original viharn, which was probably a wooden building. In the 50th anniversary of the Ayudhya Bank museum, at the back of the temple compound, there are several old photos that show the destruction after this storm. They then constructed the current building.

There are also viharns for the Phra Chao Daeng and Phra Chao Than Jai Buddha images. The viharn Lavo contains statues of the Buddha and of Queen Chamathewi and King Athitayaraj. Lavo refers to the Kingdom of Lavo that was centered on Lopburi. Queen Chamathewi came from Lavo.

Destroyed Buddhist temple
Wat Hariphunchai after the storm in 1913. The wooden viharn has been destroyed. Source: Sampanthawong Museum, Lamphun
Buddhist temple
The main viharn of Wat Hariphunchai nowadays

The museums of Wat Hariphunchai

On the temple compound there are two museums. The 50th Anniversary of the Ayudhya Bank Museum is a huge building with interesting artifacts, Buddha statues and old pictures. The Phra Muang Kaew museum is much smaller. It is more or less a corridor with exhibits on both sides. There are temple ornaments, statues and ancient scripture boxes in which palm leaf documents were stored. Apart from these museums there are galleries with Buddha images and statues of monks. There is so much to see in Wat Prathat Hariphunchai. We even haven’t mentioned the ancient bell tower and the Singha Gate.

colorful boxes
Dharma Cases of the Phra Muang Kaew Museum
Statue of a Buddhist monk at Wat Hariphunchai
Statue of the monk Kruba Srivichai at Wat Hariphunchai

The religious and symbolic center of Lamphun

Wat Hariphunchai is more than the most important Buddhist temple of Lamphun. It is also the location of religious events. Opposite the temple is the local handicraft market and on every Friday late afternoon there is a Walking Street market in front of the temple. Every year in September the Salak Yom Festival takes place at Wat Hariphunchai. I attended this event for the first time in 2012.

What was a two day event has now become a four day event. The dates are based on the lunar calendar and thus differ each year. During this festival, which is a tradition of the Tai Yong people, meters high donation trees dot the temple compound. It is a spectacular sight. We will publish the dates of 2021 as soon as possible on this site.

Wat Hariphunchai features in all our Lamphun tours and is one of the Things to do in Lamphun.

Colorful pillar at a temple
Donation trees at Salak Yom festival
Monk with colourful pillars
Salak Yom at Wat Hariphunchai in 2020