The History of Wat Ram Poeng

King of Tilokaraj, one of the Mengrai dysnasty, was the ninth king of Chiang Mai from 1985 to 2030 B.E. He had only one son, Tao Boonroeng. King Tilokaraj was told by his favourite consort that Tao Boonroeng who is twenty years old was trying to overthrow him and become a king himself. Consequently, King Tilokaraj sent his son away to rule Chiang Mai and Chiang Sean which were under the domination of Chiang Mai at that time.

At Chiang Rai, Tao Boonroeng had a son. This child was born while his mother was travelling and staying on the top of a mountain in Chiang Rai (Yod Dok Bua). So, Tao Boonroeng named his son as Yod Chiang Rai which means the top of Chiang Rai.

Some years later, the King was again told by his consort, Nang Hau Mook, that Tao Boonroeng was trying to rebel against him. He then decided to murder his son and make his grandson, Chao Yod Chiang Rai, ruler of Chiang Rai.

In 2030 B.E. King Tilokaraj died and Chao Yod Chiang Rai was crowned King of Chiang Mai. After he had arranged the affairs of the Kingdom, he then started to investigate the case of his father’s death, to search for the persons who had accused his father of rebellion and thereby also caused his mother’s mental illness. On discovering the persons who were responsible for the sad fate of father and mother, the King sentenced them to dead. However, as a devout follower of Lord Buddha, he wished to make recompense for this action.

At this time, a wandering monk came and stayed at the foot of Doi Suthep, Tambol Suthep, the place were Wat Rampoeng is situated nowadays. The monk later told the King that he had seen rays of light coming from the foot of a tree near where he was staying. He thought that there might have been some relics bured there. The King visited the spot, sitting on an elephant’s back, he made a wish. If there were relics buried there and he was fortunate enough to become a patron of Buddhism, the elephant would stop where the relics were. As it happened, the elephant did stop under the tree and relic was found. It was a tooth in a container of Chiang Saen style. The King then brought the relics held a grand celebration. During the celebration, the relics revealed a radiance like the moon at the beginning of lunar month. The relics was placed in a golden container and eventually put in a pagoda in the Wat, Wat Rampoeng, which was later built near the place where it was found.

Present Stupa
Present Stupa

In this Wat, the King has a stone inscription is called ‘Sila Phak-kham’. This inscription survives to this day. It says, ‘on Friday’, the third day of the seventh lunar month, the year of the rat, 2035 B.E. at 8:20 a.m., the most auspicious time, this Wat was established by the religious and secular authorities of Chiang Mai. The King commanded that Queen Atapadevi was to take charge of the construction of the Wat. The Queen Atapadevi was to take charge of the construction of the Wat. The Queen set up a committee responsible for the construction consisting of the following persons;

The Committee on the Religious Side

  1. Phra Mahasamiyanabodhichao
  2. Phra Mahathera Surasimahabodhichao
  3. Phra Mahathera Dhammasenapatichao
  4. Phra Mahathera Saddhammadhiraprasadchao
  5. Phra Mahathera Yanasagara Aramitrachao
The Committee on the Secular Side
  1. Atapadevi Director
  2. Chao Muang Yee
  3. Ativisudha Chao Muen Muang Tin Chiang
  4. Chao Muen Kamphraklang
  5. Chao Muen Dhamsenapati
  6. Chao Muen Nungsuwimonkirati Singharajmontri
  7. Chao Pan Chaengkadi Ratanapanyo
  8. Chao Muen Som Rajapankrig

This inscription reveals to us that eventually all construction was finished and a sum of money was given to the Wat, the monks, and the people who were to take care of the Wat.

There is other evidence telling how Wat Rampoeng was built. A pamphlet was written by Mrs. Mookda Ai-yasen and Mr. Poungkham Tui-khew dated Saturday, November 26, 2509 B.E. Mrs. Ai-yasen claimed that her written pamphlet was told by Chao Phraya Pracha-kijkornchakkra. Mr. Tui-khew said that he got his information from the Annals of Yo Nok Chronicle. Both of these writers claimed that Wat Rampoeng was founded before King Yod Chiang Rai ordered his wife, Phra-nang Proung Noi, to be the director of rebuilding the Wat. Its original name was Tapotaram. Later Phra-nang Proung Noi was named Atapadevi to honour her as the director of rebuilding it. Her name was derived from ‘Tapo’ which means heat, endeavoru, an over-the symbol of getting rid of all sin.

Wat Rampoeng was deserted for years. In World War II, when Japanese Army forces came to Thailand, some of them set their camps near the Wat. All villagers had to go away to a remote area and no one was in charge of the Wat. Buddha images, the pagoda, the Uposatha and the Vihara built in reign of King Yod Chiang Rai were badly destroyed. The stone inscription was buried there. In 2484 B.E. the monk in Chiang Mai agreed to move the Chief Buddha image it the Vihara from Wat Rampoeng to Wat Phra Singha which is in Chiang Mai city.

After World War II, the villagers who used to live near the Wat and had scattered to differnet places during the war came back. However, Wat Rampoeng did not have an abbot to take care of it. Some monks came to stay for a while and left. In 2514 B.E. when work on rebuilding the Vihara had begun, Lung-poo Chansom or Khruba Som was invited to take over the post of abbot. Two years later, the work was completed, but Khruba Som passed away only several months after its commemoration.

In 2517 B.E., Phrakhru Pipatkanapibarn, the abbot of Wat Muang Mang and the head master of Vipassana Meditation Center, came to Wat Rampoeng. He considered there. He decided to stay there and asked all the local people who were interested in Buddhism to help rebuilt the Wat. The response was such that on March 15, 2518 B.E. Wat Rampoeng had the facilities to conduct courses in Vipassana Meditation and on this auspicious day the Insight Meditation Center was founded with Ven. Phrakhru Pipatkanapibarn as its head and acting abbot of Wat Rampoeng.

The Buddha image, Luang Pau Sri Ayodhya, in the Uposatha dating back some 700 – 800 years, was donated by Sergeant Prayoot Tripian on Saturday, March 22, 2518 B.E.

Since its foundation as a meditation retreat its support has grown and is well known to meditate quite, secluded and surrounded by woods. The center has facilities for both monks and lay people: and in recent years has responded to an ever increasing interest show by Thai and foreign meditators, so that Wat has appropriate accommodation for both, and an English speaking teacher and assistants.