A visit to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep brings you to a Buddhist temple found in the Chiang Mai Province in Thailand. Sometimes, it is not uncommon to hear the temple referred to as Doi Suthep, which is actually the name of the mountain that the structure is situated upon. Holding a special meaning to the Thai people, the temple is located about 15 kilometers from the city. A visit to the site provides a guest with awe-inspiring views of Chiang Mai. It is quite the popular tourist destination with foreigners who come to visit.
The White Elephant Legend
The temple is also connected to a Buddhist legend centered on a white elephant. It is said that a monk called Sumanathera had a dream that instructed him to go to Pang Cha and seek out a relic. During his vist to Pang Cha, the monk is believed to have stumbled upon a bone, which was later dubbed the shoulder bone of the Buddha himself. The relic possessed special powers, as it was reported to have glowed, disappear, move, and also duplicate itself. The monk took the relic to the King who ruled Sukhothai (his homeland) at the time.
The King was pleased, prompting him to make offerings. He also hosted a ceremony when Sumanathera arrived. However, when he viewed the relic, none of the things that the monk claimed it could do happened. The king feared that the relic was not genuine and told the monk that he should keep it in his possession. Despite the king’s reservations, another ruler, King Nu Naone of the Lanna Kingdom, became aware of the relic and offered to take it off of the hands of the monk.
King Nu Naone was granted permission in 1368 to receive the relic. The monk brought it to Lamphun, where the kind resided. By the time it reached the city, the relic had split into two. One of the pieces was the same size as the original, where the other was smaller. The smaller of the two pieces was enshrined at a temple, located in Suandok, while the King decided to attach the other piece on the back of a white elephant that was let loose in the jungle.
Legend has it that the elephant climbed up Doi Suthep, which at the moment was named Doi Aoy Chang (which translates into the Sugar Elephant Mountain). It is said that the creature trumpeted three times before dying at the site. King Nu Naone saw this as a sign. He saw to it that a temple was constructed on the site.
To learn more about significant Buddhist pilgrimage sites, check out the article titled, “Significant Buddhist Pilgrimage Sites: Tibet & Thailand,” which sheds light on such destinations, such as Lhasa (in Tibet) and Wat Phra Kaew (in Thailand).