Wat Phra That Hariphunchai, The Great Chedi of Lanna

Wat Phra That Hariphunchai is  located in the heat of Lamphun city, about 28 kms southeast of Chiang Mai. The temple has long been regarded as an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists especially for those who were born in the Year of the Rooster. The main chedi houses a hair, crown of a skull, chest and finger bones of Buddha.

Wat Pratat Hariphunchai
Wat Pratat Hariphunchai

Legend and architectural background

According to a legend, the Buddha once visited the town nearby and one local villager offered him a myrobalan [a cherry plum]. The Buddha ate the myrobalan, placed its seed in the earth and predicted that in the future a man would build a town and a great golden chedi on that spot. Later on, the town was really built there and was named Harinphunchai Nakhon and the chedi was named Pratat Hariphunchai. (Literally, Hari means myrobalan, Phunchai means Eating and Nakhon means City.)

Golden Tree in front of the main viharn
Golden Tree in front of the main viharn

The temple was built during the reign of King Athittayarat, a descendent of Princess Chamma Devi, around 1440 BE. He had a strong faith in Buddhism and supported the religion by introducing Buddhist practice to his city.

Main chedi inside
Main chedi inside the precincts

The temple has been passed through many restoration and amendment. Originally, the top of chedi was built in a rectangular structure, but then during the reign of Phraya Mengrai, it was changed to a Lanka bell-shaped structure. The form seen today is the masterpiece of King Tilokkarat of Chiang Mai city. He combined the Burmese-Phukam style and the Lankan Bell-shaped architecture together and created a unique Lanna style. Later on, this special architecture was adopted as the principal model for other chedis throughout the Northern region under Lanna Kingdom. If you have been to Wat Pratat Doi Suthep in Chaing Mai, you will recognize the pattern.

Viharn Phra Chao Thunjai
Viharn Phra Chao Thunjai

Highlights

According to Thai history and archaeology, Phratat Hariphunchai is one of the Eight Great Grand Chedis (Jom Chedi). The title is given to those chedis that have prominent and outstanding features. In addition to the main chedi, there are other fine design and well preserved Buddhist architectural examples located in the complex.

Phra Chao Thunjai Buddha image
Phra Chao Thunjai Buddha image

 

Ho Trai, which houses the sacred Tripitaka scriptures, is a large base two-story building located next to the moon shape bell tower. The ground floor of the building is made of bricks painted in red, while the top floor is made of woodwork with fine detailed carving. This Ho Trai resembles the inside of Wat Phra Singh in Chiang Mai. It is believed to be a popular model of the Lanna Kingdom.

Ho Trai

Elegant Ho trai building from rear and front view
Elegant Ho trai building from rear and front view

 

On the right side of Pratat Hariphunchai is a five-tiered, square-based chedi made of laterite and brick called Pathumvadi Chedi or Phra Suvarn Chedi. The chedi was built by Princess Pathumvadi, wife of King Athittayarat. It is believed that Princess Pathumvadi replicated the construction style of Chedi Kukut inside Wat Chama Devi. Each tier of the chedi is lined with standing Buddha images, which nowadays, is only left a few. The top tier is covered with golden brass. Inside the chedi houses an important Buddha image called “Phra Pem”.

Of interest in this temple is this square-based chedi revealing connections with The Mahabodhi Temple, in Bodh Gaya, India and the standing Buddha image style resembles those found at Ananda Chedi, Bagan, Burma. It points to the influx and combination of Buddhist arts in this region.

Pathumvadi Chedi
Pathumvadi Chedi

 

How to get there and best time to visit

Phratat Hariphunchai is located in the heart of the city close to Methi Wuttikorn School on Inthayongyot Road. You can go there by private taxi, motorbike or bicycle.

The temple opens daily during daylight hours. Every year on the full moon of the 6th Lunar month (Visakha Bucha Day), there is a ceremony for worshipers to sprinkle water onto Phrathat Hariphunchai.

Opening Hrs. : 07.00 – 18.00

Wat Prathat Haripunchai in an evening
Wat Prathat Haripunchai in an evening

Writer’s Note:

If you walk around, you will see a lot of rooster statues or figurines around Phratat. Of numerous temples found in Thailand, this is unusual for consistently displaying a single animal symbol. Some of these statues belong to the temple but most of them are from the worshippers as a symbol of faith and commitment towards Phratat.

Rooster statues around the temple
Rooster statues around the temple

 

Inside the Wat Phratat Hariphunchai area, there is a booth selling tram tickets for the city round-trip tour. Apart from visiting Phratat Haripunchai, you will also be able to visit other important temples and historical sites around the city. The tram operation time is 9am and 1pm but tourists should check the tram running schedule in advance. Sometimes it can be fully booked from reserved tour groups. There is no English-speaking guide, only a local speaking tram driver does the talking.

Tourist tram
Tourist tram

 

Located not far from Chiangmai, Lamphun is very easy to access and normally on list as the side trip itinerary for those visited the North either for the pilgrimage or leisure trip. There is a regular air-conditioned coach leaving on the opposite side of Warorot Market or locally known as Kad Luang in Chiang Mai. It takes approximately less than hour to arrive the center area of Lamphun. If you have time, spend the night out here to slowly absorb the ancient city atmosphere, if not, a one day trip is definitely worth adding to your itinerary.

 

Story and photo by Wanweena Tangsathianraphap

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