Wat Photichareantam

A historic Buddhist sanctuary gifted by the Siamese of Butterworth

Wat Photichareantam by Adrian Cheah

Located in Sungai Puyu, north of the Raja Uda area, this tranquil and idyllic Siamese temple is nestled amid a lush and peaceful setting, away from the bustle of Butterworth town. 

It was built prior to the Second World War by the Siamese community that once thrived here. Today it is among a handful of other Siamese religious temples and monasteries in the state of Penang, including others in Penanti and Bukit Mertajam on the mainland, and at Burma Road on the island. These were the places where there were important Siamese settlements that have now either dwindled or disappeared.

Wat Photichareantam by Adrian Cheah

‘Wat’ means temple in the Thai language. Visitors to the site are greeted by a tall archway which significantly enough bears a depiction of the Buddha sitting under the Bodhi tree with five disciples as an apt philosophical motif.

There are life-like statues of two white elephants standing guard in the open compound of the temple. The elephant is considered to be a very special and auspicious animal, even till today among the Siamese. It is the national animal of Thailand.

Wat Photichareantam by Adrian Cheah

A huge glass stupa encases a number of Buddha statues and some images of monks that can be viewed through the glass.

The main shrine hall is serene and spacious, with the central statue of the meditating Buddha seated with grand calmness, placating the mind. One can sit here in meditation to soothe the senses. Monks are on hand to dispense ceremonial blessings.

Many families are known to bring members who face problems in life here, for the monks to dispense religious benediction to ward away ill fortunes and obstacles in life.

The monks themselves live in a simple rustic monastery behind the main temple, on a grassy green plot lined with attap-roofed sheds. There is also an old grave here. It is believed that one of the early benefactors of the temple was buried here many decades ago.

Wat Photichareantam by Adrian Cheah


Written by Himanshu Bhatt
Photographs by Adrian Cheah