Reclining Buddha At Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand


Wat Pho – the largest Wat or temple in Thailand is home to the wonderful giant gold-plated reclining Buddha statue. I had a very hurried visit to Wat Pho, which is actually a complex with many things to offer and many interesting structures inviting you. In the absence of leisurely time, I decided to spend time with the Buddha who is getting ready for his Mahaparinirvana in all his glory. You are not allowed with your shoes on inside the chamber of Buddha. But the funny part is you are not even allowed to keep it out. Instead, you are provided with shoulder bags in which you must carry the shoes with you.

Miniature Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho
Miniature Reclining Buddha

It defies my logic of why shoes should be kept out but as they say ‘do in Rome as the Romans do’, I carried on.

Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, Bangkok

Reclining Buddha from his feet
Reclining Buddha from his feet

The room that houses the reclining Buddha seems to be made to cover the statue. The statue just fits in with a small circumambulation path around it. You enter the temple from the side of Buddha’s head and his curls sitting nicely on his right arm is the first thing you see. The scale of his head hits you before you stretch your neck to take a look at his elongated body.

Eyes of Reclining Buddha

Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, Bangkok
Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, Bangkok

As you look closely at his fish-shaped eyes made of white mother of pearl lost in thought, they inspire you to go inside and reflect on the ‘Maya’ that this world is. I looked at his elongated ears and the three lines on his neck and started looking for ‘Mahapurush Lakshana’ or the signs on the body that mark the superhuman beings. I could see his Ushnisha or the protrusion on his head and Urna or the small protrusion between his eyebrows. Walked along his body till I reached his giant feet, another of the ‘Mahapurush Lakshanas’. The bottoms of his feet or the soles are again made in the mother of pearl and have the relevant iconography of Buddha embedded in them.

With too many tourists around, I could not look closely at the feet but now after looking at the close-up of the feet, I could see that both feet have similar signs. There is a roundel in the middle of the sole that in my opinion should be a Chakra or the wheel but it looks more like a lotus here. The rest of the sole is divided into rectangular parts with a sign in each of them. I could spot some but missed most. Need a monk or a Buddhologist to guide me through these.

Wall Murals at Wat Pho, Bangkok
Wall Murals

Back of the statue

The back of the statue is plain but it gives you the indication of Buddha’s robe that is not very evident from the front. Behind the head, Buddha’s head rests on two box-like pillows in blue color with rich glass mosaic work. You can not see the whole statue in one go. As there are pillars in front of it. This reminded me of a similar reclining Buddha image at Ajanta Caves that too is behind a row of pillars. Though it can be viewed in totality from the other end of the chaitya.

Paintings depicting Life of Buddha at Wat Pho, Bangkok
Paintings depicting the Life of Buddha

Buddha’s Life Stories

The walls of this hall and doors have stories from Buddha’s life painted all over. The colors used are dark with ample gold to highlight them. The Buddha can be identified with the Halo behind him. While for identifying the rest of the characters I needed to spend some more time there. The style of painting seemed somewhere between Thangka and Ajanta paintings. The pillars and the ceiling are also in intricate patterns that I would associate more with the Central Asian style of painting. The fact that stories adorn the walls and the decorative patterns on ceilings is another resemblance Wat Pho has with Ajanta paintings that also follow the same pattern.

Painted Door at Temple of Reclining Buddha
Painted Door at Temple of Reclining Buddha

There was a row of bowls kept for the devotees to put coins in. If I am not wrong this is an asking for a wish or saying thank you for a wish fulfilled ritual. Where you chant a mantra and keep putting a coin in each of these bowls something very similar to turning a rosary. The number usually followed is 108 like in a rosary.

The row of bowls to put coins offered to Buddha
The row of bowls to put coins offered to Buddha

Wat Pho complex

In the complex, I could see giant representations of the Garuda as the Dwarpala. Somewhere indicating that even in Thailand Buddha is seen as the incarnation of Vishnu. As Garuda is the vehicle of Vishnu and in typical Buddhist iconography, we hardly find its mention. There is a descendant of the Bodhi tree of Bodh Gaya in the complex.

I hope to go back to have a closer look at the complex sometime.

Recommend you to read the following Buddhist Tourism Places to visit.

Bodh Gaya – Where Buddha achieved enlightenment

Buddha’s Sarnath near Varanasi

Dhankar – Monastery, Fort & a village in Spiti valley

Modes of narration in Buddhist art

Gems of Mathura Museum

Rajgir – Host of Buddhist Councils

Sanchi & around


  1. Hi Anuradha Mam,

    I still remember this was the first sightseeing in Bangkok city tour and It’s really worth taking a look around the temple. Wat Pho also has good English speaking guides who will provide interesting information for around 200 or 400 baht. Guide told us temple is famed for its giant reclining Buddha that is 46 metres long, covered in gold leaf.

    Totally recommended for all Bangkok visitors .


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