Wat Bowonniwet Vihara is a first class Royal Buddhist monastery (raja wara maha 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 beginning with the arrival of the first abbot, Prince Mongkut, 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 Rama IV.

Before the arrival of Venerable Vajiranyano, the area presently occupied by Wat Bowonniwet was actually two different monasteries separated by a canal — Wat Mai to the north and Wat Rangsee Suddhawas to the south. As Wat Mai was abbotless, King Rama III (1824-1851) requested the Prince Bhikkhu to take over as abbot in 1836. Later, during the reign of king Rama VI (1910-1925), the two monasteries were incorporated into one, resulting in the temples present dimensions.

The Temple Precincts

Buddhist monasteries are usually divided into two sections: Buddhavasa – buildings and structures devoted to the Buddha such as the Uposatha hall, the Cetiya or Stupa, etc., and Sanghavasa – or dwellings for monks (bhikkhus) and novices (samaneras).