WAT SUWANDARARAM (วัดสุวรรณดาราราม)
Wat Suwandararam is located on the city island near the Pom Phet fortress. There are
two entrances along U-Thong Road leading to this active monastery.
During the Ayutthaya period, this area had a thriving community of Chinese traders. It
was full of warehouses for maritime markets, and foreign boats were required to dock in
the nearby harbor. A canal wrapped around Wat Suwandararam, which led to the Pom
Phet and Pom Hor Rajakuk fortresses. There monastery may be pictured in several
maps by foreigners. The 1660 Dutch map by Vingboons clearly show a temple at this
location. The
1751 map by de La Mare lists a Chinese pagoda in the area. These may
have been precursors to the construction of Wat Suwandararam.

Wat Suwandararam was build by the father of King Yodfa (Rama I) of the Chakri
dynasty, who was named Thongdee (Kasetsiri & Wright 114).  The temple was formerly
known as
Wat Thong (Golden Temple) in the Late Ayutthaya period. King Yodfa later
renamed it after obtaining the throne. While Phraya Tak ruled in Thonburi, Yodfa (them
named Thong Duang) was his most trusted military general. Thong Duang went on
numerous military campaigns during Phraya Tak’s reign, including a successful invasion
of Lao. However, in 1782, a group of rebels killed the governor of Ayutthaya and
marched toward Thonburi. These rebels were able to force Phraya Tak to abdicate his
throne (Terwiel 58-60). In the political aftermath, Phraya Tak was executed, and Thong
Duang eventually obtained the throne - creating the new Chakri dynasty. As a result,
Wat Suwandararam became one of the first monasteries in Ayutthaya to receive royal
patronage after the fall of the city in 1767, and this temple continued to be beautified by
future Chakri Kings.

The primary structure at Wat Suwandararam is its ubosot. King Rama II began the
reconstruction of this sermon hall, but it was not completed until the reign of Rama III,
who also had the walls painted with elaborate murals. There are well-detailed paintings
inside of Buddha’s struggle against Mara while obtaining enlightenment. There are also
many bizarre Jatakas to look at: battles with mythological figures, attacks by wild tigers,
animals with human faces, giant serpents, and so forth. There are also paintings of
Portuguese mercenaries. These wall painted were renovated during the reign of King
Nangklao, (r. 1824-1851) also known as Rama III. King Chulalongkorn also
contributed to renovations of the ubosot, as well as the monk’s sleeping quarters
(Amatyakul 44). King Vajiravudh added glazed tiles to the roofs. This ubosot also has a
delicately carved wooden gable with various mythological figures on display.

A secondary structure is also important. This vihan contains murals depicting the story of
King Naresuan, including one of him fighting on the back of an elephant. These murals
were painted by Phraya Anusas Jitrakorn during the reign of King Prajadhipok (r. 1925-
1935). His work was not completed until 1931. The vihara currently sells copies of
Phraya Boran Rachathanin’s 1926 map. This important governor and historian had lived
near Wat Suwandararam at one time.

Behind the vihara is a large bell-shaped chedi that sits on an upraised platform with a
staircase on one side. A number of small chedi surround the large one. All of them have
been painted white. On the southwest corner of the monastery is a renovated bell tower
with multiple entrances at its base. Monastery walls have been renovated around the
monastery. There are many old buildings in the area around this temple. There is also an
elaborate memorial to a Chinese citizen on site. This monastery has many surprises in
store for visitors who are willing to spend the time exploring the temple grounds.
Text & photographs by Ken May - August 2009
Decorated windows of a monastic structure at Wat Suwandararam
Chedi at Wat Suwandararam
Chedi on the premises of Wat Suwandararam
Addendum

In the reign of King Phra Phutthayotfa (Rama I / r. 1782 - 1809), the canal situated on
the west side of Wat Suwandararam, which had a junction with Khlong Nai Kai (present
Makham Riang Canal) and the Nai Kai Gate giving out on the Chao Phraya River, was
extended. The new canal ran from the north of the temple towards its east side and then
joint the
Pa Sak River just opposite the mouth of Khlong Khao San. In this way the
monastery was easier accessed via the waterways.

Initially King Mongkut (Rama IV / r. 1851 - 1868) intended to build a palace at the back
of the Phet fortress and wanted to use Wat Suwandararam to be the Royal temple of this
palace. He favored although, to build his new palace on the ruins of the
Chan Kasem
Palace, as the latter was situated on high ground and less prone to inundation in the rainy
season.

Wat Suwan is indicated on a
map drafted in the mid-19th century and on Phraya Boran
Rachathanin's map of 1926.

Wat Suwandararam is classified as a second grade of a second class royal temple with
the suffix 'Ratchavoravihan' in its name. The monastery is located in geographical
coordinates: 14° 20' 55.11" N, 100° 34' 42.28" E.

References:

[1] The study of Chantharakasem Palace for developing the Management Plan - Nantana
Hengpujaroen (2003).
Text & maps by Tricky Vandenberg - August 2009
Updated August 2015
Wat Suwandararam aerial view - 1944
(Wat Suwandararam aerial view - 1944)
(Photographs by Somchai Pattanavaew)
(Photographs by Tricky Vandenberg)
(Photographs by Sean Alcock & Tricky Vandenberg)
(Decorated windows of a monastic
structure at Wat Suwandararam)
(Chedi on the premises of Wat
Suwandararam)
(Chedi at Wat Suwandararam)
Detail of a 19th century map
Detail of Phraya Boran Rachathanin's map - Anno 1926
(Detail of a 19th century map - Courtesy of the Sam
Chao Phraya Museum - map is orientated S-N)
(Detail of Phraya Boran Rachathanin's map - Anno
1926)
Detail of a 2007 Fine Arts Department GIS map
(Detail of a 2007 Fine Arts Department GIS map -
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Department - 3th Region)