A place worth a visit, the Ounalom pagoda

Published: 09th January 2009
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The Wat Ounalom or the Ounalom Pagoda can be regarded as the most important pagoda in all of Phnom Penh, since it is the headquarters of the Buddhist patriarchate of Phnom Penh and was also the home of the Buddhist Institute and library until 1999. Wat Ounalom was one of the five initial monasteries to be built in Phnom Penh, way back in the year 1422 during the reign of Ponhea Yat. Before 1974, the pagoda housed over 500 Buddhist monks and also the library of the Buddhist Institute which had a collection of over 30,000 titles. The library was unfortunately destroyed with many other buildings during the years of the Khmer Rogue. The Institute is now re-established and was moved to the Sihanouk Boulevard, where it enjoys a much larger area.

Yet throughout all this, through all the ages of time, the ounalam (a hair from the Buddha's Eyebrow), which is the central feature at the wat, remains intact at a large chedi (a type of building) behind the primary pagoda. The wat gets its name, Ounalom because of this feature. Within the chedi are four sanctuaries with the most venerated one facing east. Within this sanctuary is placed a bronze Buddha statue. The vihara was created in 1952 and is only open to monks in the early morning. It is built on three floors and holds a statue in memory of Samdech Huot Tat, the revered fourth patriarch of Cambodian Buddhism who was murdered by the Khmer Rouge.

Many a luxury hotel at Phnom Penh offers comfortable Phnom Penh accommodation to visitors who prefer to stay in the Phnom Penh area. Be weary of guides near the pagoda who would try to rip $ 5, from you, and have no knowledge of the pagoda.

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