About Wat Paknam in Bangkok
Wat Paknam is a third class royal Buddhist temple located at 300 Ratchamongkolprasat Road, Pak Klong Bhasicharoen Sub-District, Bhasicharoen District, Bangkok 10160, with the overall land area of approximately 13 acres. The temple’s territories are as follows:
- The northern border adjoins to Bangkok Yai Canal
- The Eastern border adjoins to Dan Canal
- The Southern border adjoins to a small canal
- The Western border adjoins to Bhasicharoen Canal and a public way
- The Southwestern adjoins to Apsornsawan Girl School and Subhakhomsuksa School
Naming and Establishment
Wat Paknam is situated in the plane of Bangkok at the bank of Khlong Luang Canal or Khlong Bangkokyai which was formerly a part of Chao Praya River prior to the digging of a short cut canal in front of Wat Arunrajavararam which has become the main stream of Chao Praya River in the present.
Since the temple is located at the estuary of Dan Canal which splits from Bang Luang Canal, the temple was named after the district name so called ‘Pak Nam’ (estuary). This name appears in many ancient chronicles. However, the temple’s name appears to be ‘Wat Samuttaram’ in some Bangkok maps dated back to 1910 and 1931. This name was unpopular, and the temple has been called ‘Wat Paknam’ until the present. During the reign of King Rama IV, Bhasicharoen canal was dug at the Western wing of the temple. So, the temple became surrounded by canals in three directions.
Wat Paknam is an ancient temple built since the middle of Ayudhaya era (between 1488 – 1629). The temple was established by a royalty, but there is no evidence of the establisher’s name. It was a temple of Thonburi province. There is a story about the temple’s buildings and fixtures such as the Buddhist scripture cabinet, the Buddha hall and Buddhist scripture hall which reveals that they can be traced back to the middle of Ayudhaya era as they were crafted by the royal craftsmen and artisans of King Narai the great. There are evidences of canals digging at the Southern and Western wing of the temple to mark the temple’s compound which became a square plot of land surrounded by water. It was found that Venerable Phra-kru Tanarajamunee was an abbot of Wat Paknam during the reign of King Akekatat. Wat Paknam had an important role as it was a royal temple established outside the capital of Ayudhaya. It was an important temple to the seaboard outpost province.
According to a chronicle of Rattanakosin era, King Rama I had traveled by boat to offer the annual Kathina robe to Wat Paknam. Throughout his reign, he had supported and renovated the temple. King Taksin also donated his money to renovate the roof of Wat Paknam’s Buddha hall. King Rama
III launched a big renovation of the temple in the beginning of Rattanakosin era while preserving the architecture of Ayudhaya era.
Until the reign of King Rama V, the temple received a royal permission for a grand renovation under the leadership of Venerable Phra-kru Samanadhamsamatan (Saeng), the abbot. The temple went through a renovation where the architecture and art were preserved. King Rama V also managed to have members of his royal family to offer the annual Kathina robe to the temple throughout his lifetime.
During the reign of King Rama VI, buildings of Wat Paknam had deteriorated, and there was no abbot on post except an acting abbot who lived at another temple. The chief monk who supervised Bhasicharoen District had appointed Venerable Sodh Candasaro from Wat Phrachetuphonvimonmangalaram to become the abbot of Wat Paknam. Venerable Sodh had urged monks and novice monks at Wat Paknam to behave well according to the monastic discipline. He promoted both Dhamma study and meditation practice. Venerable Sodh established one of the most modern Dhamma school of that time. There were numerous laypeople who went to study and practice meditation under his guidance. Thus, Wat Paknam has prospered since then. The temple became the center for meditation practice and Pali language study. Later on, Venerable Sodh was promoted to higher monastic ranks until he finally became the Most Venerable Phramongkolthepmuni (literally means the auspicious sage deity monk), but he was known among the public as Luang Por Wat Paknam (literally means the venerable father of Pak Nam temple).
When His Holiness Somdet Phrawannarat (Poon Poonasiri) became the acting abbot of Wat Paknam, he had renovated the temple’s landscape and many buildings such as the Buddha Hall. The renovation had caused the temple’s architecture to be changed from Ayudhaya Style to Rattanakosin style; however, the buildings’ structures remain the same as they were first constructed.
During the post of His Holiness Somdet Phramaharatchamangkhalachan (Chuang Varapunyo, Pali Scholar Level 9), the present abbot of Wat Paknam, the temple has undergone significant development in term of Dhamma education and temple renovation and construction. There have been numerous resident monks and novice monks of Wat Paknam who could pass the Pali level 9 examination. His Holiness also promotes Dhammakaya meditation practice by building the Vipassana Meditation Hall where many people attend meditation sessions each day. In addition, the Maharajamongkol Pagoda is built as a sacred place for Buddhists. The temple’s landscape and buildings have been renovated and developed significantly.
List of Abbots
The abbots who governed Wat Paknam since the very beginning until the present are listed as follows:
It is difficult to find out the name of abbots who governed Wat Paknam during Ayudhaya Era because Wat Paknam was in Thonburi Province which was considered to be a country area. There are very little evidence about the appointing of chief monks. However, according to an ancient record dated back since the reign of King Akatat (1758-1767), the name of a chief monk at the rank
of ‘Phra-kru’ or ‘Venerable Teacher’ is found as Wat Paknam is a royal temple established since Ayudhaya era, so the abbot deserved the monastic rank of ‘Phra-kru.’ The abbot’s name is ‘Phra-kru Tanarajamunee.’ He governed Wat Paknam since 1767.
Phradhammakosa (until 1782)
1. Phrathepkrawee (1782-1809)
2. Phrabavornyanmunee (1809-1843)
3. Phrayanbhodi (1843-1863)
4. Phra-kru Samanadhamsamatan (Mee)(1863-1883)
5. Phra-kru Samanadhamsamatan (Saeng)(1883-1915)
6. Phra-kru Buddhapayakorn (Charoen Uppatisso) Acting Abbot (1915-1916)
7. Phramongkolthepmuni (Sodh Candasaro) (1916-1959)
8. Somdet Phrawannarat (Poon Poonasiri), Acting Abbot (1959-1965)
9. Somdet Phramaharatchamangkhlachan (Chuang Varapunyo, Pali Level 9) (1965-present)
In Thai Buddhism, a vicar-general means a lay person who is responsible for serving the Buddhist monastic community by representing the monks of a temple in doing some errands such as withdrawing money and managing temple’s assets as authorized by the abbot. A vicar-general is appointed by the abbot, and he is considered to be a legal officer. An abbot has the right to appoint one or more vicar-generals. Names of vicar-general of Wat Paknam are listed as follows:
1. Mr. Hlong ( until 1910)
2. Mr. Chome Promlarp (1922-1928)
3. Mr. Prayoon Suentara (1929-1959)
4. Mr. Kul Pongsuwan (1960-1990)
5. Mr. Tanom Songsara (1990-2003)
6. Mr. Damgerng Jindara (2003-Present)