The Ounalom Pagoda, otherwise known as the Wat Ounalom, is the home to the headquarters of the Cambodian Buddhist patriarchate. This is one of those locations that tourists will most definitely want to visit when they come to the capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, for many reasons. Not only is the history of this grand location something you will surely want to learn about, but the wisdom and philosophical insights into the Buddhist religion will truly leave you marveled.
The shrine was originally built in 1443, at one point was the home to more than 500 Buddhist monks. The Buddhist Institute’s library is held here at Ounalom Pagoda, where you will find over 30,000 different books encompassing the teachings of the faith.
Within the complex there are 44 different buildings. The main temple area was constructed and finished in 1952, and was an upgrade on the original shrine that was built back in the 1400s. The pagoda has three separate levels to it, which are adorned with incredible paintings and relics that are a tribute as well as a teaching about Lord Buddha.
Behind the main temple area is Chetdai. This is a 500-year-old stupa where Lord Buddha’s eyebrow hair has been preserved for generations. During its most impressive point in history the stupa had four bronze images of Buddha facing different directions.
Sadly, the rein of the Khmer Rouge, from 1975 to 1979, had catastrophic implications for this site. Many of the artifacts and other valuable collections within the temple area were seized or damaged by the tyrannical government officials. The monks who lived here were forced out of the city and either forcefully placed in labor camps, tortured, or a child from the area. It was only after the overthrow of this government that the monks were able to return and start to rebuild and retrieve items that were stolen or damaged.
Among some of the more interesting artifacts that you will find here at the Ounalom Pagoda is a series of Hindu fears that adorn the walls of the buildings. Many are not aware of this, but Cambodia has a very rich Hindu history which is accented celebrated here at Ounalom Pagoda. Here you will find figures and statues of the Hindu gods, such as Garuda, Lord Vishnu, and Lord Yama. These have very prominent positions at the Ounalom Pagoda.
One of the other highlights that you will find here at Wat Ounalom is the image of Samdech Huot Ta. This located on the northeast corner of the temple area. He is the fourth Buddhist patriarch, and his history is one that is quite extraordinary. He was executed by the leader of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot, for his dedication to the faith, and is now celebrated as the one of the Supreme Monarchs of the temple monastery.
Not only is this a beautiful building to visit rich with history and cultural significance, but you will also love the surrounding area. It is truly a remarkable place to visit no matter what your faith is, and you will love the serenity that Ounalom Pagoda brings.