Suthat Thepwararam , constructed in 1807, is
one of the most important temples of Thailand
and is regarded to have an excellent plan. The
ordination hall is the longest in the country.
The mural paintings inside were created by craftsmen
in the Third Reign (1824-1851). The principal
Buddha image is called "Phra Phuttha Tri
Lokkachet" in the Subduing Mara position.
Another building that should be mentioned is
the vihara which is a replica of that of Mongkhon
Bophit Temple in Ayutthaya Province. The middle
door leaves at the front were engraved at the
first phase by King Rama II (reigning 1809-1824).
The principal image in this vihara is named
Phra Si Sakkaya Muni. There are pavilions surrounding
the main vihara and house 156 Buddha images.
In front of the temple is the famous Giant
The Giant Swing, with a height of 21.15 metres
and painted red, is a landmark of Bangkok. Some
postcards of Bangkok contain photos of it. The
existence of a red giant swing in front of Suthat
Temple in Bangkok is an indicator of the once
strong influence of Brahmanism in Thailand.
The giant swing was built only two years after
the establishment of Bangkok as the new capital
in 1782. The story of its origin began when
a Brahman named Kratai was granted an audience
with King Rama I (1782-1809) and asked the King's
permission to be the upholder of Brahmanism
in Siam and to build a Brahmanic temple and
a swing for conducting Brahmanic ceremonies.
The King granted his requests and soon not one
but three Brahmanic temples and a swing were
built in the same area in the centre of the
old city in 1784.
No evidence tells how high the original swing
was. But over a hundred years later the old
swing was decaying and was replaced with a new
one made of teak in 1920 in the reign of King
Rama VI. Then in 1947 and 1970, the swing was
twice renovated. And after this swing stood
majestically as one of Bangkok's landmarks for
36 years, its condition became deteriorated.
So, it was again replaced with one made of teak
in 2006. With a height of 21.15 metres from
the base to the top, the swing is considered
The Swinging Ceremony was a Brahmanic ceremony
annually performed there in the past as a merit-making
rite, to celebrate the new year, to propitiate
Brahmanic gods and to ask for their blessings.
The ceremony was part of a combination of two
rites called triyamphawai and tripawai. The
former was held to receive Siva, one of the
Brahmanic sacred triad along with Brahma and
Vishnu, who descended from heaven to the earth,
and the latter to welcome Vishnu who came down
It was believed that Siva visited the earth
once a year on the 7th day of the first waxing
moon and stayed until the 1st of the first waning
moon, which was also the day when Vishnu descended
from heaven. Vishnu was said to ascend heaven
again on the 5th of the same waning moon. But
the ceremony had been moved back to the second
lunar month when the river water was at a low
level and floods were unlikely (whereas the
1st lunar month was still in the flooding season.).
According to The Ceremonies of 12 Months written
by king Rama V (1868-1910), there was no problem
in changing the dates of the ceremony because
Brahmans believed that they were the only people
who held a key to the gate of heaven. If they
did not chant incantations to open it, the gods
would not be able to come down. The triyamphawai
ceremony was grandly organised. The highlight
of the ceremony was when three groups of four
Brahmans each, called naliwan, rode on the giant
swing, trying to catch, by mouth, a bag of silver
coins* attached to a supporting pole.
After bringing down the bag, there was also
a dancing performance called ram saneng in which
12 Brahmans (naliwan) danced while each sprinkling
holy water from a horn in his hand onto the
audience. This was followed by a celebratory
parade attended by Phraya Yuen Chingcha and
about 800 people. In the farewell ceremony to
Siva, there were distributions of propitiatory
food to the onlookers. As to the tripawai ceremony,
it was held merely as a routine. It may be because
Vishnu came down in a waning moon and people
considered the day he returned to heaven as
an unlucky day. There was thus no distribution
of the sacrifice to the participants.
Today triyamphawai and tripawai are still performed
though on a smaller scale, but the swinging
ceremony will be conducted occasionally as a
demonstration. Only the lofty wooden frame minus
the seat for swinging on remains today, forming
an impressive sight for passers-by.
*The bag of silver coins was a reward for
the team of naliwan.