To appreciate Goowatin Islam Mosque, one needs a primer on the House of Bunnag, one of Thailand’s most well known family. The House of Bunnag was a powerful noble family of Persian descent. Their story began with Sheikh Ahmad, a Persian merchant, settling in Siam around 1600 and establishing himself as a rich merchant in Ayutthaya. Through many acts of service to the kingdom and royal family, Sheikh Ahmad became a favored figure in the palace. With the fall of Ayutthaya in the 1700s, Thailand’s power center was shifted to Thonburi, where a Buddhist descendent of the Bunnag family once more gained favor with first king of the Chakri dynasty and continued the name’s influence.
In the 1800s, a descendent Tat Bunnag, who through being a royal page ascended to become a regent, owned the property where Goowatin Islam Mosque stands today. A warehouse stood in its place at the time when Thonburi was a thriving port town. When a group of Indian traders arrived from Surat during the time of Rama IV, Tat handed the property over to them to use as a mosque. The act was curious but compassionate as the Bunnag family by then was Buddhist. The Indian traders soon became invaluable translators for the Bunnag business. Among them was Ali Bai Nana, who eventually rose to become a prominent businessman and was the one to start the Nana business empire. To understand how significant the Nana family has become, one only needs to know that Sukhumvit Soi 4 known as Soi Nana, another Soi Nana in Chinatown, and the Nana BTS Station are due to their extensive businesses and land ownership in those areas.
Goowatin Islam Mosque continues to serve as a community house of worship today on the river’s edge in Klong San. Only an informative sign in front of the mosque tells all of its quite important role in the link between two Thai families and how their fates were tied together. If you happen to be in that area of Klong San, perhaps appreciating the lush Princess Memorial Park, go towards the water on Dilok Chan alley and observe the mosque and marvel how an act of one can lead to the rise of another.