30 Jun Honouring Khruba Siwichai, Chiang Mai
Honouring Khruba Siwichai, Chiang Mai
Found about 7km from Chiang Mai town, the Khruba Siwichai Monument near the Namtok Huai Kaeo waterfalls was built to honor the Thai Buddhist Monk Khruba Siwichai.
A Thai Buddhist monk, Khruba Siwichai was born in 1878 in the village of Ban Pan, Li District in Thailand’s northern Lamphun province and is best remembered for overseeing the construction of the road leading up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
Undeniably the most revered monk in the Chiang Mai area, during his lifetime Khruba Siwichai undertook the building and renovation of many temples and his strength of character and personable character endeared him to the people.
More about Khruba Siwichai
Born in 1878 during a storm with heavy rains that led the earth to shake in the northern Thai village of Ban Pang, he was appropriately named Big Shock and enjoyed a regular childhood until the age of 17, when he became a novice monk in the temple. From the start the villagers admired him for his personal discipline and kindness.
By 1904, just a few years after being ordained a monk, Khruba Siwichai became the abbot of the temple. His strong personality and reputed supernatural powers led to the rapid spread of his fame across North of Thailand. He was referred to as Khruba Siwichai – Khruba meaning ‘teacher’. Putting his position to good work over the next three decades he called on thousands of his followers in the North to help renovate over a hundred temples.
Today he is probably best remembered for the construction of the twelve-kilometer long road up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, which is located at an altitude of 1053m on the mountain west of Chiang Mai. The golden stupa of this beautiful temple is said to hold a fragment of the skull of Buddha in it’s relic chamber and with the help of the road was made more accessible to people wanting to pay their respects.
Monuments and Statues honouring Khruba Siwichai
Situated at the foot of Doi Suthep Mountain, the monument honours the man whose followers built the first motor road to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in 1935. The temple has become a popular tourist attraction, as have Wat Phra Singh and Wat Suan Dok in Chiang Mai, Wat Hariphunchai in Lamphun, and Wat Phra That Doi Tung in Chiang Rai, also renovated under Khruba Si Wichai’s leadership.
Khruba Siwichai’s passed away in 1938 at the age of 60 years and after his cremation thousands of followers took to the ashes in the hope of securing some of the ashes or a piece of bone to make protective amulets. Even today amulets with his portrait and statues and images of the monk are sought after, attesting to his fame in the area.
Best known of these monuments is the large bronze statue of Khruba Siwichai in the shrine near the Huai Kaeo waterfall. Here daily, hundreds of devout visitors respectfully kneel and make a wai – a slight bow with the palms pressed together – in his honour.
There is a also perfect lifelike wax statue at Wat Si Bun Ruang, a temple near the Wiang Kum Kam ruins just south of Chiang Mai. Another interesting place to learn about Khruba Si Wichai is his birthplace Ban Pang, about 100kms south of Chiang Mai along the road to the district town of Li in Lamphun province. Ban Pang’s village temple, of which Khruba Siwichai was the abbot for many years, is on the top of a hill and surrounded by picturesque paddy fields and orchards.
Beside the traditional temple buildings at the monument, a new marble construction has arisen, its tower decorated with thousands of fragments of mirrors. Two tiger statues protect the entrance, as Khruba Siwichai was born in the year of the tiger. The tigers also symbolise the wild and tremendous powers of nature.
A large collection of paraphernalia is on show here, along with amulets and photographs about Khruba Siwichai’s life. The showpiece is the old classic car that was used to inaugurate the Doi Suthep road in 1935.
Less documented is Khruba Siwichai’s political involvement and early anti colonial stance. Transformations after the Second World War integrated the North into the Thai nation-state, politically as well as culturally, doing away with this struggle. That said recent years have seen a renewed interest in the region’s past and the unique attributes of the peoples of the North.
This is evident when touring the area and at the entrances of numerous temples where a sign board with the temple’s name in the traditional northern script has been erected besides the sign in Thai. Also in department stores, where antique memorabilia have increased in popularity, as have anecdotal photographs of Khruba Siwichai and Old Chiang Mia.
The monument itself draws large numbers of Thai people and tourists who come to pay their respects to Khruba Siwichai and to ask for guidance and blessings on their lives, evident that his love and humility prevail and have endeared him to the people of Chiang Mai.
Address: Sriwichai Road, Suthep, Muang Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai 50000 Thailand
Open Daily: From 6am to 4pm.