Meditating Beneath Metal Spires

If only one of two historic monuments were to be saved from the wrecking ball based purely on antiquity, cultural relevance or singularity, which factor do you think should take precedence?

In a city full of Wats, the sacrifice of a heritage Art Deco theater to expose yet another Wat concealed behind it for years, and one of later vintage, was understandably controversial.

But the Loha Prasat (Metal Castle) in Bangkok, modeled on the ruins of the 3rd century Sinhala Lohaprasada or Brazen Temple – whose blueprint was said to have been drawn with red arsenic on linen by monks who had received divine inspiration – isn’t your typical Buddhist Wat. 

Metal Castle, Bangkok

Conceived by King Rama III in 1846, and not completed until 1972, it is the only one of its kind in Thailand. And the last of the three in the Buddhist world with solid cast iron roofs – (possibly) a 2500 year old monastery in Srivatti in India apart from the aforementioned Brazen Palace – that is still standing.

The multi-tiered pyramidal structure that began as a Chedi or stupa attached to the Wat Ratchanaddaram, comprises five concentric squares with alternate levels topped by 37 ornate metal spires that symbolise the 37 virtues leading to enlightenment.

It has since been transformed into a meditation center.  Spare, modern and conducive to reflection. Its maze of corridors framing views of mini altars. Its backbone, the central spiral staircase, symbolically elevating us to a higher state…..in this instance the topmost sanctuary with the relics of the Buddha.

Along the way each narrow landing begs exploration, where little alcoves with polished red oxide floors invite us to linger. To be  mindful. To breathe……

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Until next time………happy travels, no matter where life takes you.

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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on instagram.com/theurgetowander

79 thoughts on “Meditating Beneath Metal Spires

  1. How beautiful. You posed a very difficult question. Though, I am inclined to favor antiquity – if something survives that lone, it tells a lot about the skill, culture, nature, and everything else of the people who conceived the idea and made it real. the structure, having survived that long, deserves to survive some more – to honor art, culture, and those who built it.

    Any structure can meet a certain need and purpose, but not just anything can meet the need for a people to connect with their past in a most genuine way. 🙂

  2. Excellent photos – peaceful, calming. I especially love the red oxide floors. I agree, Madhu. Some of these structures need to be preserved because of their architecture, their historical significance, etc.

  3. Of course, if the obscuring structure had been a religious building, there would have been an even greater outcry but I think the question is better rephrased in terms of overall town planning, or amenity. From the look of your second shot – they’ve probably made the right choice. Removing the theatre has opened up an entire precinct, as well as displaying the obscured temple, creating beauty and a new urban space.

    Its’ pedigree nothwithstanding, I loved the sense of lots of individual vignettes and private places – a lovely little temple.

  4. What a great place to meditate. You take really beautiful photos Madhu.
    I don’t think one can answer your question. Its like the question in the book/movie “Sophie’s Choice” when she had to chose which of her children to save.

    1. Thank you Rosie. That question was meant to underline the dilemma 🙂 Breaks my heart when people go around demolishing precious structures with impunity.

  5. Madhu, what an amazing gallery – stunning photos (again) – love how you have played with angles and light – my pick has to be two this time .. View of Wat Ratchanaddaram, because of the light between the building & Cho Fa roof finials, where the modern world is in the background. Absolutely stunning job.

    1. Appreciate the compliment Viveka 🙂 I loved those roof details. and the modern city hazily lurking in the background, heightened the tranquil feeling somehow!

  6. I really had no idea that Loha Prasat was inspired by the Brazen Temple. It’s really interesting to learn that two separate places that I know are actually more connected than I thought.

    1. Fascinating isn’t it? But try as I might, I was not able to pinpoint the original one in India. The location seems right, but the actual monastery is a blind alley. Shall have to hunt it down 🙂

    1. You…struck dumb??? That is hard to believe! Thanks Meenakshi 🙂 Hope you have fully recovered.

    1. Thank you dear Soma. I wouldn’t wan’t to choose either, but I hope our planners ponder these alternatives when faced with similar situations.

  7. Amazing pictures and equally interesting story, isnt it something like Babri masjid story we had here in India, demolishing an old building to rescue an ancient one…! Thank you for sharing.

    1. First off, welcome to my blog Piya 🙂
      As for your question, not at all!
      Neither of these were ancient and both had little religious significance. The only connection might perhaps be the political motivation of the Chakri kings to wipe out any reminders of the brief military reign that sent them into exile.
      What monument did the demolition of the Babri Masjid save? Should we then demolish the Taj Mahal to expose the Shiv temple that it was allegedly built over? Where does one draw the line? And who decides cultural significance?
      There are any number of churches built over mosques, built over temples, across the world that are revered for their historical importance without bringing religion into play.
      Apologies for the rant Piya, particularly on your first visit here, but this is a sore point with me. The way it was done was a scary precedent that I hope never gets repeated…ever.

      1. Dear Madhu,

        First of all my apologies for touching the sore spot. What I meant was purely in terms of architecture (I am a Landscape and Architectural photographer) and didn’t really think on the religious or political terms. Ram janam bhumi buried under the babri masjid! I can imagine now, how sensitive this must be. While, I don’t know how glorifying the temple was or is today, I do know the decision to break on old mosque even from a neutral architectural point of view seems wrong to me.
        Once again, apologies for the discomfort caused, but I enjoyed reading your thoughts on it. I will be back for more.

        Regards,

        Piya

        1. Nothing personal Piya, and no offense meant or perceived. I do tend to overreact to any issue concerning religious fundamentalism!
          Look forward to seeing you around 🙂

  8. Lovely photos of a very special place, Madhu 🙂

    I must admit, sadly, the Loha Prasat passed me by when we visited Bangkok last year. What a beautiful, peaceful place to visit.

    1. Than you Mariane. This is a bit out of the tourist radar. Would be a good excuse to return 🙂

  9. Dear Madhu,

    I love your images and your write-up adds depth and scope for my enjoyment of the visual treat served.

    Many thanks,
    Eric 🙂

    1. Thank you Niranjan. Your Khumb shots look amazing. Shall be over soon to lbrowse through them at leisure 🙂

    1. That was the blueprint for the Brazen temple in Sri Lanka Angeline, this one would have been done in pen and ink 😀

  10. If you were to travel to this area, is this a meditation center where you could stay for a time? As for your question, impossible to answer. Your photos are making it difficult for us to not say yes to Thailand for next winter’s travels. Thanks for another fabulous post Madhu. 🙂

    1. This is a meditation center for the monks of the adjoining Wat. I am not too sure if visitors can stay overnight. Worth finding out Luann, your hotel or travel agent might be able to help. You will love Thailand, but remember the rest of Bangkok is diametrically opposite to this serene temple 🙂

  11. I’m not sure which took away my breath more, your puzzling question or your gorgeous photographs!

    1. Thank you Elisa. I don’t envy people who have to make those decisions, but I doubt they, the planners here at least, lose too much sleep over it 🙂

    1. This isn’t very ancient compared to the other monuments in Bangkok, but yes it is exceptionally beautiful 🙂

  12. After viewing your gorgeous photos, I don’t recall your questions… 🙂 Just want to be there for a moment.

  13. You’ve excelled youirself with these, Madhu, though with this subject matter you had plenty of inspiration. That opening shot is frighteningly good. I love it!

    1. I had to do little except point my camera and shoot Jo 🙂 I was happy with the way that turned out too, although I wished i had a better lens that could have captured the entire elevation.

  14. a very fine building, i have no doubt that removing the art deco theatre was the right choice, since every aspect of this wat is exquisite … your photos are sublime, the finial details and corridors shine with peace and inspiration … thanks for this gem madhu!

    1. In this case, I think it was the right decision too, even if I hate the thought of demolishing anything of historical value. Appreciate your comments Christine 🙂

  15. Gorgeous photos Madhu,I forgot your questions till the time I scrolled and went down after getting mesmerized by those lovely photos

    1. Thanks Soumya. The place was beautiful, didn’t have to do much except to make the effort to find it 🙂

  16. I really like these miniature “pyramids” buildings – but if it’s better to “meditate” there than anywhere else I have no opinion about – I meditate sweating on my mountain bike until my thoughts has dropped in pit… 🙂

    But so beautiful buildnings, and excellent captured… 🙂

    1. Ha ha, I agree, there is no ‘right’ place for meditation. Whatever works for you is good 🙂 Thanks Ledrake 🙂

    1. The place is filled with an incredible silence Gilly. You would never believe you were right in the middle of a chaotic city, with an amulet market right behind it!

    1. There isn’t I know 😀
      And not sure if the demolition of the theater was absolutely essential in this case. Activists hint at a political motive.

  17. Serenity and – ah, the beauty. Your question is beyond answering and your photos beyond …everything. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Oh, thank you so much Ann Christine 🙂 This was easily our favourite Wat in Bangkok!

  18. Beautiful photos Madhu. In answer to your question, I have to give an answer that is not in the choices. The inner temple, the heart center should never have to experience a wrecking ball.

  19. Very interesting! I would HATE to have to be responsible for having to give an answer to your opening question.

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