Window to Chiang Mai Thailand
Mudplaying with Elephants
See location at Google Maps: Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep
(km. 14. Srivichai Road)
Polite dress is required for the inner sanctuary. Loose clothing is available at the entrance free of charge. The inner sanctuary is open to visitors 08:00 - 17:00. Mini-buses to Doi Suthep wait on the west corner of the Chang Phuak Gate and on Maninopharat Road and outside the main gate of Chiang Mai University.
See location at Google Maps: Minibus to Doi Suthep (CMU) Minibus to Doi Suthep (Chang Puak)
According to legend, the temple site was chosen by an elephant carrying a holy relic. Originally the relic was to be enshrined at Wat Suan Dok in 1371, but it split in two. The second piece was placed on the back of an elephant which proceeded to climb Doi Suthep, stopping twice.
After three days the elephant finally reached a level piece of ground, circled three times, knelt down and then died. A hole was dug at the site for the relic, which was then covered with a chedi over seven meters in height.
Until the road was built in 1935, pilgrims had to walk up the mountain and then up more than 200 steps on the long naga stairway to reach the temple. This stairway was originally constructed in the mid-16th century in the reign of Phra Mekuti. Like the rest of the temple, the stairway has since been renovated several times.
Small tiles inscribed with the names of donors and the amounts given have been built into the walls just above each step.
The inner walled sanctuary is surrounded by a lower terrace. From this level there is an excellent view over Chiang Mai and valley. The faithful like to ring the bells and gongs round the base of the sanctuary. A statue of the elephant commemorates the founding of the temple.
The inner sanctuary is one of the classic sights of Chiang Mai. A gold plated chedi lies in the middle of a square marble tiled courtyard. The chedi reached its present height of over 16 meters in 1525 in the reign of King Muang Kaew. A railing surrounding the square base of the chedi encloses a walkway for devotional rounds of the chedi (women may not enter this). Parasols, symbols of royal regalia, have been placed at the four corners of the chedi.
The courtyard took its present shape under Chao Kawila in 1805. It is lined by a cloister which contains Buddha images and murals depicting the life of the Buddha. In the middle of the east and west sides of the cloister are two ornate viharn. The inside walls of both are covered with murals. The murals of the eastern viharn show the legend of the elephant and the relic, while those of the western hall show the Vessantara Jataka. Devotees go to the western viharn to receive blessings and lustral water from monks sitting on a dais.
On the south and northern sides of the cloister, smaller shrines are the subject of much veneration. Thais prostrate themselves and then shake a holder with 28 sticks to see which one falls to the ground first. A fortune reading for each of the numbers may be found in a cabinet nearby.
The power of the chedi and the sanctuary attract many visitors who are invited to make merit. The sanctuary contains numerous boxes for donations to worthy causes, such as the education of the needy.