The Emerald Buddha

po_Buddha-EmeraldThe Emerald Buddha is a figurine of the sitting Buddha, made of green Nephrite (rather than emerald), clothed in gold, and about 45 cm tall. It is kept in the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) on the grounds of the Grand Palace in Bangkok.

According to the legend, the Emerald Buddha was created in India in 43 BC by Nagasena in the city of Pataliputra (today’s Patna). After remaining in Pataliputra for three hundred years, it was taken to Sri Lanka to save it from a civil war. In 457, King Anuruth of Burma sent a mission to Ceylon to ask for Buddhist scriptures and the Emerald Buddha, in order to support Buddhism in his country. These requests were granted, but the ship lost its way in a storm during the return voyage and landed in Cambodia.

When the Thais captured Angkor Wat in 1432 (following the ravage of the bubonic plague), the Emerald Buddha was taken to Ayutthaya, Kamphaeng Phet, Laos and finally Chiang Rai, where the ruler of the city hid it. Cambodian historians recorded capture of the Buddha statue in their famous Preah Ko Preah Keo legend. However, some art historians describe the Emerald Buddha as belonging to the Chiang Saen Style of the 15th century AD, which would mean it is actually of Lannathai origin.

The Emerald Buddha itself is a Jadeite statue, but adorned with garments made of gold. There are three different sets of gold clothing, which are changed by the King of Thailand or a liaison in a ceremony at the changing of the seasons – in the 1st Waning of lunar months 4, 8 and 12 (around March, July and November). The three sets of gold garments correspond to Thailand’s summer season, rainy season, and cool season. The two sets of gold clothing not in use at any given time are kept on display in the nearby Pavilion of Regalia, Royal Decorations and Thai Coins on the grounds of the Grand Palace, where the public may view them.