Wat Bowonniwet Vihara is a first class Royal Buddhist monastery (Thai: raja wara vihara) of the Dhammayut tradition, located on the northeast side of Bangkok’s Ratanakosin island, just inside the old city wall bordering Banglumpoo canal, on Pra Sumeru road. The monastery’s name comes from the Pali language: Pavara+niwesa and translates as the Excellent Abode Monastery.
Wat Bowonniwet Vihara, or Wat Bowon for short, has a long and interesting history. The monastery was founded by Mahasakti Pol Sep, Deputy King of the third reign, in 1824. The history became more complicated with the arrival of the Prince Mongkut, who took up the post of abbot in 1836. The Prince Bhikkhu, also known by his monastic name, Phra Vajiranyano, was ordained for twenty-seven years, and abbot of Wat Bowonniwet for fourteen, before ascending the throne as Phra Bat Somdet Phra Chom Klao Chao Yu Hua — better known in English as King Mongkut, or Rama IV.
There have been six former abbots here, four of whom were Supreme Patriarchs.
1) Prince Mongkut, (Pali name: Vajiranyano), abbot from 1836 – 1851.
2.) Prince Rerk (Thai title: Somdet Pra Maha Samana Chao Krom Phraya Pavares Variyalongkorn [born Phra Ong Chao Rerk], the second abbot from 1851 – 1892,
3.) Prince Vajiranyanavarorasa (Thai title: Somdet Pra Maha Samana Chao Krom Phraya Vajiranyanavarorassa [born: Phra Ong Chao Manussanagmanop]), the third abbot from 1892 – 1921,
4.) His Holiness Somdet Pra Sangharaj Chao Krom Luang Vajiranyanavongse (born: Mom Rajawong Chuen Nopavongse), fourth abbot from 1921 – 1958.
5.) Phra Prommuni (Pin, Suvaco), fifth abbot from 1958 – 1961.
6.) His Holiness Somdet Pra Nyanasamvara (Charoen, Suvaddhano), the 19th Supreme Patriarch of Thailand, sixth abbot from 1961-2015. H.M. King Vajiralongkorn posthumously conferred upon the cremains the title of “Somdet Pra Sangharaj Chao Krom Luang Vajiranyanasamvorn”.
7.) Somdet Pra Vanarat (Junda, Brahmagutto), seventh abbot from 2015 – 2022.
8) Phra Dhammvajiranyan (Jirapol, Adhijitto), interim abbot March, 2022 – present.
Before the arrival of Venerable Vajiranyano, the area presently occupied by Wat Bowonniwet was actually two different monasteries separated by a canal — Wat Mai (New Monastery) to the north and Wat Rangsee Suddhawas to the south. As Wat Mai was abbotless, King Rama III (r. 1824-1851) invited the Prince Mongkut to take over as abbot in 1836. Later, during the reign of king Rama VI (r. 1910-1925), the two monasteries were incorporated into one, resulting in the temples present dimensions.
The Temple Precincts
Buddhist monasteries are typically divided into two sections: Buddhavasa, or the sanctuary – buildings and structures devoted to the Buddha, such as the Uposatha hall, the Cetiya or Stupa, etc., and Sanghavasa – or the section containing residential dwellings for monks (bhikkhus) and novices (samaneras).