Wat Mai (Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham) - Historic Golden Temple
Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham
The "New" Temple
|golden reliefs at Wat Mai in Luang Prabang, Laos|
Though it dates back to the 18th century, the name "Wat Mai" literally means "New Temple". Wat Mai is found in Luang Prabang's old town, just down the road from the Haw Phra Bang and the Royal Palace. Once the home to the Phra Bang Buddha, the Royal Palladium of Laos, the temple boasts an impressive display of gilt reliefs depicting scenes from the Ramayana, the influential Hindu epic.
|three Buddha statues at Wat Mai|
Wat Mai is highly revered for its special royal status under the kings of Luang Prabang, as the former home of the holy Phra Bang Buddha image, and as the headquarters of the Sangaraja, the Supreme Patriarch, or chief monk, of Lao Buddhism.
Wat Mai holds a special place among students of art history and architecture as well. While many ancient temples and historic buildings in Luang Prabang were razed by a band of 19th century marauders called the Black Flag Army, Wat Mai was spared because of its beauty, making it one of the few original temple buildings in Luang Prabang. This allows it to serve as an example of exquisite Lao temple art.
|the front verandah at Wat Mai in Luang Prabang|
|gilded reliefs on the wall at Wat Mai|
The doors to the temple, too, are gilded, depicting the graceful angels from Hindu-Buddhist cosmology. Every inch of the temple exterior is carved in intricate representations of Lao history and mythology and Buddhist stories.
|golden door at Wat Mai|
Inside the temple are three replicas of the Emerald Buddha (Phra Kaew), which once resided in Luang Prabang. Each of the three Emerald Buddha images wears a unique golden robe, which corresponds to the three Southeast Asian seasons (summer, winter, and the rainy season).
|temple interior at Wat Mai|
Wat Mai during Pimai (Lao New Year) ປີໃໝ່During Pimai (the traditional Lao New Year), a three-day festival held every year from April 13/14 to 15/16 (corresponding to the Thai Songkran Festival), Wat Mai is the center of a very important religious ritual.
On the third day of Pimai, the first day of the traditional Lao calendar, the Phra Bang Buddha is carried by monks in a procession from Haw Phra Bang to its former home, Wat Mai. There, it's enthroned in a temporary shrine and ritually bathed with holy water in a ceremony welcoming in the new year.
- Wat Mai is open daily from 8:00 to 17:00
- A ticket to visit Wat Mai costs 10.000 kip
Location and map
- Wat Mai is just down the road from Haw Phra Bang and the Royal Palace
- The road in front of Wat Mai is one of the best places to watch and participate in the morning alms-giving ceremony in Luang Prabang