Wat Uttamaram is a Theravada Buddhist temple located in Kelatan State in Malaysia, about halfway between the border crossing to Thailand at Rantau Panjang and the city of Kota Bharu.
- Opening Hours: Daily hours
- Admission Fee: Free (donations welcomed)
About Wat Uttamaram
Wat Uttamaram is at first glance a fairly unremarkable Thai style Buddhist temple in a part of Malaysia where there are many Thai style temples on account of Kelatan State’s proximity to Thailand. There are around 20 structures at Wat Uttamaram, all of which were built in the 20th Century. The temple has stupas, an ordination hall, a prayer hall, separate residential accommodation for monks and nuns, an educational facility, as well as a football field, volleyball, badminton, and futsal courts. There is also a children’s playground. The temple does not have any relics of particular importance or a large statue of a monk or the Lord Buddha which would make the temple a point of interest. Nonetheless, Wat Uttamaram is probably the most important Buddhist temple in Kelatan State.
What make Wat Uttamaram so important is that this is the temple where Khron Ratchanaren, better known as Tok Raja, first came to study Buddhism in 1888 at the age of only 12, and later returned to become Abbot of the temple in 1925. Khron Ratchanaren was a particularly motivated and dedicated Buddhist monk, with a notable interest in learning about the theory of Theravada Buddhism even as a boy. After studying for 2 years at Wat Uttamaram, Khron Ratchanaren went to a well known temple in Songkhla in Southern Thailand to study the Pali versions of Buddhist scripture, eventually becoming Abbot of that temple.
When Khron Ratchanaren eventually returned to Kelatan he established the first Naktham school in northern Malaysia at Wat Uttamaram and went on to become the chief monk of the state. A Naktham school is a Thai monastic school, with a focus on teaching Pali and the Dhamma alongside the subjects taught at conventional schools, such the Thai language and mathematics. In the early part of the 20th century monks from across the Malay peninsula would travel to Wat Uttamaram to study, which at that time was difficult journey to make as Wat Uttamaram was located deep within the jungle. The jungle has now gone so visitors need to use their imagination to understand how isolated this temple once was.
Wat Uttamaram’s historical importance as the first Thai monastic school in the region is not, however, the main reason people visit nowadays. The main reason is that Tok Raja is believed to have had magical powers in addition to his academic prowess. Of particular note is the trade in amulets bearing his image, with older amulets actually blessed by Tok Raja changing hands for large sums of money. Amulets and other items, such as pens, bearing the name and image of Tok Raja are available for purchase on the internet as well as a shop at the temple itself. Lots of people visit Wat Uttamaran to buy these amulets which are believed to give the wearer good luck and keep them safe.
Location of Wat Uttamaram
- Wat Uttamaram is located 25.1 km by road to the west of Kota Bharu.