Wat Mahawan

Attractive temple with Lanna and Burmese style structures

The Lanna style viharn of the Wat Mahawan in Chiang Mai
Lanna style main viharn
Wat Mahawan
Founding date unknown
Principal viharn 1865
Tha Phae road just past Tha Phae Soi 5
Chiang Mai

Just outside the old walled town center of Chiang Mai near Tha Phae gate is the Wat Mahawan, an attractive temple with both Lanna and Burmese style buildings and many sculptures of mythical creatures. Several gate houses in the surrounding wall are guarded by Chinthe, mythological lions often found in Burmese temples.

The temple comprises of a Lanna style viharn and ubosot, a large Burmese style chedi, a Ho Trai and a large Burmese style brick viharn.

Lanna style viharn

The main viharn with its imposing multi tiered roof was build in 1865. The ends of the barge boards are adorned with mythological Naga serpents. At the roofs top are chofah, a decorative element in the shape of a thin bird, representing Garuda, the mount of the Hindu God Vishnu.

Flanking the stairs to the viharn’s entrance are two large, white Chinthe guarding the hall. The Lanna style wooden panels on the front gable are adorned with very detailed carvings of deities and flower motifs in gold on a red background.

Large gold lacquered red columns support the roof. Seated on a pedestal to the back of the viharn is the principal Buddha image in subduing Mara posture surrounded by several smaller images.

Interior of the main viharn at Wat Mahawan
Interior of the viharn


Next to the principal viharn stands the ubosot, the hall where novices are ordained into monkhood. Access to the small bot is through an entrance gate adorned with very detailed stuccoed decorations of mythological beings and Lanna flower motifs.

The Lanna style building is fitted with a two tiered roof; stylized Nagas adorn the ends of the elaborately carved white barge boards. The gable is embellished with golden Lanna flower motifs, while the door contains golden flower motifs on a red background.

Ho Trai scripture library

The Ho Trai, a dark teak wooden structure wit a multi tiered roof has been turned into the residence of the Wat Mahawan’s abbot. The building was originally used as the temple scripture library where copies of the Tripitaka, the Buddhist teachings traditionally written on dried palm leaves are kept.

Burmese style chedi

Behind the principal viharn stands the attractive chedi, ornamented with very detailed stucco work. The Burmese style chedi is enclosed by a low crenellated wall, at each of its corners stands a large guardian Chinthe.

The bell sits on a base of several square tiers of receding size and an octagonal tier. The top consists of a spire and a very ornate golden hti.

At the center of each side of the chedi is a niche with a small stairway leading to it, the bodies of a fearsome creature extending over the balustrades. Enshrined in each niche is a standing statue of the Buddha, flanked by celestial beings.

Burmese style chedi at Wat Mahawan
Burmese style chedi

Burmese style viharn

In the North West corner of the temple complex stands a large Burmese style viharn. The brick building was constructed by a wealthy Burmese teak trader towards the end of the 19th century. The hall enshrines a large seated Burmese style Buddha image.

How to get to the Wat Mahawan

The temple is found about 300 meters East of Tha Phae gate outside the old walled town center of Chiang Mai. It is located on Tha Phae road just past Tha Phae Soi 5, opposite the Wat Cheatawan.

Admission & opening hours

The temple opens daily during daylight hours. Admission is free. A massage service on the temple grounds opens daily between 10 am and 8 pm. Prices start at 140 Thai Baht.