Phra Pathom Chedi, on coming toward the city, the first glimpse of towering Phra Pathom Chedi is over powering. It is one of the largest Chedis in the world and in Thailand, by far the most holy of all Buddhist structures. Reaching to sky for just half and inch less than 380 feet, the dome shines like pure gold in the sunlight.
The highly glazed tiles covering the dome are golden brown in color and were brought from China.
At the four points of the compass in the outer courtyyard are four Viharas (halls) containing image of Buddha in various postures. The Eastern Vihara shows the image of Buddha beneath a delicately painted. Pho tree which covers the entire wall behind the image and is very unusual. The inter room is a Royal Chapel containing an altar where the King pays homage.
The Southern Vihara shows the image of Buddha protected by a serpent. The Western Vihara contains the image of Buddha in a reclining position, just before his death, surrounded by disciples, and an inner room contains yet another reclining image. The Northern Vihara, directly infront of the entrance and across from the frame building where the guides are located, contains a standing image Buddha. The ashes of King Vajiravudh are buried at the base of this image.
The Chedi, from the base, is a breath-taking sight. The first original structure, on this same site and now inside the Chedi, was built. It is believed by indianized Mon people and resembled the Indian Stupa of the third century era of King Asoke. During his reign, the first Buddhist Saints were send to spread Buddhism in the Kingdom of Suwannaphum, the first capital of that Kingdom being located on the site of present-day Nakhon Pathom.
Later, when the area came under Khmer control, the Stupa was repaired and over-built with a Brahmin Prang, 130 feet high. During the reign of King Mongkut (Rama IV) in the middle 1800's, it was again over-built in its present Chedi-style structure. A replica of the original Stupa stands south of the present Chedi.
The Museum, nowadays at Rongdharm, contains a wealth of priceless relics. Many of the stone carvings and other articles are thousands of year old and much of it was found in and around Nakhon Pathom or the jungle nearby.
While still a Buddhist monk, King Mongkut had made a pilgrimage to Nakhon Pathom to visit the old ruined Prang. When he came upon the old structure he was deeoly impressed with the realization that this was the spot where Buddhism was first taught in Thailand. He thought undoubtedly there must be a Buddha's relic inside and he decided to have the Prang rebuilt. When he became King, he immediately ordered reparation commenced and the work started in 1853. He passed away before his dream of restoration came true but kings following him carried on the program.
An outer pavilion completely encircles a building, also circular, with the Chedi itself in the center. On the outside edge of the pavilion are mounds on which are growing the important trees connected with the life of the Buddha. One the inner side are small belfries spaced at intervals from which sweet-toned bells ring out from time. Stone images stand at attention before red lacquer moon-gate doors leading into the gallery. Other stones figures are carved to represent animals and some are the very old "Wheels of the Law" which were religious emblems prior to 143 B.C. when the images of Buddha were first carved. The Wheels were found in the immedidte area during excavations and prove, without a doubt, the age of the city.