The original building dates back to around the 17th century, although at this time it was called Wat Makok and resided in the village of Bang Makok. The area was ruled by the Ayutthaya Kingdom, but in 1767 they were defeated by Burma. This rule lasted only mere months before a Siamese army led by General Tuskin invaded and seized the region. Legend states that the army arrived at exactly dawn and Tuskin saw the ramshackle temple and vowed to restore it after the war.
Under Tuskin the new Tromboni Kingdom was established. Tuskin renamed the temple Wat Cheung, or the Temple of Dawn. He expelled the buddhist monks who lived at the temple so that he could use it for his own private worship. For 5 years from 1779 the temple housed the Emerald Budha.
In 1782 Tuskin lost the throne to King Rama who established the Chakri Dynasty. The new king moved the capital to Bangkok on the other side of the river. This meant that the temple no longer sat in the capital and was abandoned for a period. This did at least allow the monks to return. King Rama’s successor, King Rama II decided to start restoration work on the temple and renamed it to Wat Arun, after the Indian God of dawn. The work was completed under King Rama III in 1847 and included raising the central prang to the 70m that it stands at today.
Wat Arun was renovated once more 2013-2017. A number of broken tiles were replaced and a lot of surfaces were finished using lime plaster. Initially this drew a lot of criticism as the temple seemed white-washed; however, the work was defended with claims that it was to reflect the temple’s original appearance. Wat Arun is now a popular spot for tourists due to its stunning aesthetics and prominent position just across the river from Bangkok.
Photo Credit Diego Delso / CC BY-SA