Doi Suthep, Where The White Elephant Lay Down

This is the second time I have been to Doi Suthep and telling the story of why the location was chosen for the temple never grows old. Here we go, in my own words…

A long, long time ago. I can still remember how that music used to make me smile. And I knew if I had my chance, I could make those people dance and maybe they’d be happy for a while. – Don Maclean.

Chiangmai  was once a domain separate to the Royal Kingdom of Thailand. The then King of Chiangmai ruled during the period during which, Buddhism was being newly introduced to the region from India. To help persuade the people to convert to the newly formed religion, a relic of the Buddha (likely a tooth or other small bone fragment) was gifted to the royal family.

The King took it upon himself to build a temple in which to house this relic and to strengthen the Buddhist cause in his kingdom. A white elephant was brought before the king and was then let to roam free. Wherever the elephant went, the king followed close behind.

The elephant roamed for a time through the dense jungle. The mountain proved to be an arduous climb, however the elephant wandered up its own path. At the top of the mountain (where the temple is situated today), the elephant was observed to circumabulate three times after which it collapsed and died.

The King declared that this would be the location on which to build the temple. And so it was, the temple of Wat Phra That was constructed atop the mountain Doi Suthep – following the path of a (probably already dying) white elephant.

Sad story bro.

Now the elephant has an eternal view over the city of Chiangmai – and such a view!

And the naga that protects the steps to the top, beautifully inlaid with individually glazed tile. Here we are, Tim and I, mid-way up the stairs.


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