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Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya Historical Park

Ayutthaya
Geography

Located in the central plain , the land was particularly fertile for rice cultivation. Ayutthaya is 72 km by train from Bangkok and 82 km on the highway (route Bangkok – Wangnoi – Ayutthaya). Ayutthaya is topographically located in a river bed. The city itself is almost an island, as it is surrounded by the rivers on all sides: by the Chao Phraya in the west and south, in the east by the Pa sak and in the north by a small body of canal, where the Lopburi River once flowed before its course changed.

History

King U – Thong made Ayutthaya the capital of his Kingdom in 1350, but the island had been settled for a long time : Several large temples document this, as areas that clearly date back from before 1350 were found in them. For example, it is noted in the chronicles of the north about the large Buddha figure in Wat Phanan choeng that it was erected in 1324. The kingdom of Ayutthaya existed for 417 years and finally fell in an invasion of Burma in 1767. The fact that the city lasted so long is due to its unique and well-chosen location.

The city was not only protected by rivers on all sides, but also by city walls that were 20 meters high and 5 meters thick. In addition, the low-lying land in this river area was regularly flooded, so that, a long siege was impossible.

Things to see in Ayutthaya
Wat Yai Chai Mong Kol

On the east bank of the Pa Sak, south-east of the city. Presumably this temple was built in 1357 by king U – Thong especially for monks who had received the consecration after studying Buddhism in Ceylon. Later after his victory over the Prince of Burma, King Naresuan had a large Stupa set up in this temple but that is unclear that he order the new Stupa to be built or to have an old one restored. In any case, the stupa was named Chedi Chaiya Mongkol, although the local simply called it Chedi Yai. Eventually it was renamed Chedi Yai Chaiya Mongkol. After the Fall of Ayutthaya, the temple was deserted until some monks came to it as accommodation in the 1957 rainy season. They built new and reconstructed old parts of the temple in order to create living quarters and meditation cells. Later the Bot and the Vihan were also restored to their present state.

The Stupa corresponds to the round Chinese style as it was popular at the time of King Borom Trai Lokanart, but it also bears traces of the Sukhothai style. The base has eight edges and measures a total of 22 meters. A balustrade encompasses the entire stupa and in turn carries four axial stupas in the corners. The height from the balustrade to the top is 60 meters.

Wat Mahathat

This temple was built by either the 2nd or 4th King of Ayutthaya as a Scripture for the holy Buddha relics. The Prang of Wat Mahathat is generally regarded as a copy of an Ayutthaya Prang and still clearly bears traces of the Khmer style.

Nowadays , one of the highlights here is the sand stone Buddha ‘s head stuck in the Bo-tree root.

Wat Phra Sri San Phet

This temple was the largest and most beautiful in Ayutthaya, of the same importance as that of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok. It was built right next to the royal palace, was used exclusively for royal religious ceremonies and did not contain any living quarters for monks. About a century after King U – Thong founded Ayutthaya, King Borom Trai Lok Nart built a new Palace a little further north and converted the old palace grounds into a temple floor. His son and successor had a standing Buddha built in gold there, which was named “Phra Sri Sanphet”. This was later transferred to the temple.

The three large Stupas in the temple contain the ashes of King Borom Trai Lok Nart and that of his two sons, who also became King of Ayutthaya.

The Royal palace

The ruins we see today belong to the palace built by King Borom Trai Lokanart, which was later expanded. Ayutthaya was destroyed to rubble in 1767 when the Burmese army defeated the city. The following Building are just the ruins left & was named according to the documents and proved.  

  • The Suriyat Amarin Hall

This was built by King Narai near the northern city wall. It had four gables – entirely Thai style – and the floor was raised so that the king could watch the boats on the Lopburi River.

  • The Sanphet Prasart Hall

King Borom Trai Lokanart had this built in 1448 as the largest and most important hall for state events as well as for his personal use.

  • The Chakrarat Phaichayon Hall

Built in 1632 near Wat Phra Sri San Phet. It had three gables and was used by the king to watch military exercises and parades.

  • The Vihan Somdet Hall

This had a Prang tower and was built in 1643 by King Prasart Thong.

  • The Banyong Rattanat Hall

A four-gabled hall in the middle of the palace lake. The later kings of Ayutthaya held her in high esteem.

  • The Trimuk Hall

A building made of wood and ceramics by Rama V of Bangkok.

  • The Arms hall

A building on the western shore of the lake near the Banyong Rattanat Hall. It was probably used for weapons training. It later became an audience building when the king moved into residence in the Banyong Rattanat Hall.

The Vihan Phra Mongkol Bopit

Located south of Wat Phra Sri San Phet. This Vihan is preferred by visitors because it is easily accessible and has a large parking lot. In the Vihan there is a large Buddha in Mara position, the Phra Mongkol Bopit. The figure is 12.45 meters tall and has a knee span of 9.55 meters. It was built of brick and plaster and is about 15 cm. Thick bronze covered. The age of the figure is unknown, judging by the art style it should belong to the early Ayutthaya period, because there are clear traces of both the U-Thong and the Sukhothai style. A chronicle says that the figure was moved to its current location from the east wing of the palace at the royal demand. When the Vihan was burned down on the Fall of Ayutthaya in 1767, the roof fell on the figure and damaged the head and right arm. Rama V had it repaired, but the Vihan was left in its condition until a major restoration program was undertaken in 1955 – with contributions from both the Thai and Burmese governments. The work was supervised by the Fine Arts Department of Thailand. In 1958 the restoration was completed.

The King U-Thong statue

It stands halfway between Wat Phra Sri San Phet and Phra Ram Lake. It was unveiled by His Majesty King Rama IX on June 24, 1970. The statue is made of green bronze and shows King U-Thong in the costume of an early Ayutthaya king, with a knot in his hair and a sword in hand.

The elephant’s kraal

North of the city island, on the bank of the Lopburi River. The kraal was built under the rule of King Maha Chakra Phat. The kraal is a square-shaped fence with a double wall. The inner wall consists of 226 thick posts, which are fastened close to each other in the ground and leave two openings free: One for the “Baitelephant”, which is supposed to attract the wild herd of conspecifics, and one through which a captured elephant can be led out. The outer wall on the western side is particularly wide, so that it could serve the king as a raised platform from where he could watch the elephant hunt. There was a wooden pavilion for the royal family and their guests at this point. Elephant hunts for royal guests were held three times during the Bangkok period

  • 1883 for the German Duke Johann Albert
  • 1891 for the Russian Tsar Nicholas II
  • 1962 when His Majesty King Rama IX hosted the Danish ruling couple
Wat Phanan Choeng

The temple stands on a small hill south-east of the city at a point from where you can see the mouth of the Pa Sak in the Chao Phra Ya. There is no reliable indication of who built this temple. Legend has it that the King built it at his wife’s cremation site.

According to the chronicles, the large Buddha figure in the Vihan was built in 1324, which would mean that it would be 26 years older than Ayutthaya. The statue was formerly called Phra Puttha Chao Phanan Choeng. However, Rama IV renamed it Phra Phutta Trai Rattana Nayok after his temple restoration. The locals only call it Luang Por To. The effigy is a gilded brick and plaster Buddha in Mara position. The knee span is 14.10 meters, the height is 19 meters. It is one of the largest Buddha images in Ayutthaya.

Wat Ratchaburana

Located near Wat Maha That. This temple was built in 1424 by King Borom Racha II (Chao Sam Phra Ya) at the cremation site of his two brothers, who both died fighting each other for the throne. The ruins of the foundation walls show that the temple must have been very large. The early Ayutthaya Prang, which is still standing, has a beautiful stucco. Wall paintings in the crypt of Prang – in red and gold – show a striding Buddha and a meditating Buddha against a background of heavenly beings and flowers. As in Wat Ratchaburana, the Fine Arts Department found valuable gold ornaments in many different form & style  in large numbers within the Prang crypt, such as royal jewelry, gold Buddha amulets etc.  that some were used to fund the foundation of the Chao Sam Phra Ya National Museum.

The Chao Sam Phra Ya National Museum

This was opened in 1961 by His Majesty King Rama IX. It is named after the founder of Wat Ratchaburana, where the valuable treasure  were used to fund the museum come from.

The interesting items include:

  • A stone Buddha from the Dvaravadi period
  • A very large bronze Buddha head that documents the advanced standard in the art of bronze sculpture.
  • Collections of old carved door panels and wooden objects found in various Ayutthaya temples,
  • Buddha figures of different styles and from different times.
  • Buddha relics (kept in the west wing of the upper floor)
Wat Suwan Dararam

On the southwest corner of the city island. As a temple of the Chakri Dynasty, it is remarkable in that it was founded by the father of Rama I of Bangkok when Ayutthaya was still the capital of the empire. After ascending the throne in Bangkok, Rama I had the temple restored and renamed Suwan Dararam in honor of his parents. The temple contains the following objects of interest.

Inside the Bot there are murals painting of celestial beings on the top of the wall and of Jataka stories on the bottom. The paintings on the wall opposite the main Buddha statue show the Buddha in Mara position with Mother of the Earth as witness: the back wall depicts scenes from heaven and hell. The main statue itself is an enlarged version of the Emerald Buddha.

The Vihan. Built by Rama IV of Bangkok. The main character is a stone version of the Emerald Buddha. The wall paintings in the Vihan were done in 1931 at the behest of Rama VII and are valued as masterpieces of the artist as well as of the whole Bangkok era. They depict episodes from the life of King Naresuan. The Fine Arts Department has attempted to reproduce these paintings on the occasion of the Great King’s victory at the Don Chedi Monument in Supanburi Province. However, this project did not have the same success.

Wat Na Phra Mehn

This temple is located north of the city wall on the other bank of the Lopburi River, opposite the Royal Palace. The age of the temple is unknown. Although its name indicates the place of cremation of an Ayutthaya king. The temple was mentioned for the first time in the chronicle in connection with the construction of the king’s pavilion. This was to be built for the conclusion of a peace treaty at a place between Wat Na Phra Mehn and Wat Hasdaram. After the Fall of Ayutthaya, this temple escaped destruction, but was nonetheless left to decay until Rama III ordered its restoration in 1838.

  • Things to see in the temple

The Bot 50 meters long and 16 meters wide, making it the largest in Ayutthaya. The early Ayutthaya style is reflected in the narrow, elongated shape of the windows and the presence of pillars within the Bot room. The walls used to be painted, but the pictures were destroyed by bleaching. The main statue is a bronze crowned Buddha in Mara position, the largest crowned Buddha figure of all.

The Vihan Noi built in 1838. The main character is a stone Buddha who used to stand in Wat Maha That. This green stone statue is from the same period as the four white stone figures. Originally these images were found in Wat Phra Mahn in the province of Na Khon Pathom and come from the Dvaravadi period.

Wat Phukao Thong

The main Stupa of this temple can be seen from a distance. The temple is built on a junction from the Ayutthaya Ang -Thong highway. It was built in 1387 by Koenig U – Thong ‘s son Ramesuan. The Burmese king Burengnong had the Stupa built in 1569 on the occasion of his victory over Ayutthaya. King Borom Kot ordered its restoration and stylistic adjustment. Today it shows two architectural styles, the Mon style in front of the base to the balustrade and the Thai style from the balustrade to the top.

The Palace in Bang Pa In

At Bang Pa In there is a small island in the Chao Phra Ya river on which there are some houses. This was the birth place of one of the kings of Ayutthaya. When he ascended the throne. He dedicated his mother house to a temple – Wat Chumpon Nikayaram and built a palace and a lake on the island in 1632. He gave the Palace the name -Eisawan Thipya Art Hall – From this time on, the Ayutthaya kings visited Bang Pa In regularly, as it was easy and quick to get from the capital.

For Bangkok’s King there was no visit to Bang Pa In until the reign of Rama IV. He visited Ayutthaya several times and stopped once in Bang Pa In. He found the Palace and the lake in a dilapidated state, although the wooden structure still looked good and the mango groves looked cool and pleasant. So a restoration program was undertaken that also included Wat Chumpon Nikayaram.

King Rama V visited Bang Pa In regularly. He built a few more halls and hosted foreign visitors here. All the buildings that can be seen today are from his time.

  • The Varophat Phiman Hall 

This Corinthian style ( ancient Greek and Roman architecture ) hall was built in 1876. The entrance leads into the audience hall and then into the royal apartments. Later guests of the king were accommodated here. The hall contains some interesting areas, such as old weapons, beautiful stone figures and oil paintings about historical events. In the audience room the throne is under a “royal umbrella” On the walls hang oil paintings, one of which shows Rama V in full state. Rare pieces are large vases of Korean and Japanese craftsmanship that were sent to the king as gifts. In the next room there are paintings, vases and pieces of crystal of European origin.

  • The Utthayarn Phumisatien Hall

Unfortunately, it was completely destroyed by fire in 1938; only the ruins of the prayer tower remained. Luckily, later with the initiated of the Queen Sirikit this Palace building was rebuilt . This was one of the favorite buildings of Rama V, where he also stayed with foreign visitors. 

  • The Vehat Chamroon Hall

It was built in the Chinese style in 1889 under the supervision of Chinese traders. A brother of the king acted as advisor and supervisor. Also one of Rama V’s favorite buildings; here too he received the foreign guests.

Interesting pieces are  walls outside the building On the south side; They represent Chinese dragons that are supposed to scare away evil spirits. The entrance to the lower part of the house leads through three doors, each of which is decorated with carvings. The floor is covered with ceramic tiles imported from China, depicting mythical Chinese birds, trees, fish and other animals.

On the south wall of the building there are 17 panels with Chinese poems that were installed there by order of Rama VI. All pillars and planks are decorated with carved and gilded figures. The top plank bears the name of the building in Thai, with the letters stylized in such a way that they look similar to Chinese.

In the north of the hall there is a marble slab with black and white Tao signs and a throne in the Chinese style. There are tables for officials on both sides. The rear area is reserved for the women in the courtyard. A narrow staircase leads to the upper floor. This is divided into three sections. The middle section contains three royal seats standing side by side. On the two outer ones there are panels with the initials Rama V and Rama IV as well as their queens, and on the middle seat there is a Buddha figure. The tablets were made by order of Rama VII, and a ceremony is held here every year on the occasion of the Chinese New Year. The south wing contains the royal study. The bookcases here are in the Chinese style of carved wood with gold decorations. The north wing contains; the queen’s room, the king’s and a bathroom.

  • Ho Vithun Thasana

An observation tower in the lake in front of the Vehat Chamroon Hall.

  • Ho Hemmonthian Thevarat

This Shrine was built in 1880 and dedicated to King Prasart Thong, who originally built the Bang Pa In Palace.

  • Wat Nivet Thammapravat

This temple is on a small island opposite the palace. It was used when the king’s family moved to Bang Pa In. Construction lasted from 1876 to 1878.

The main character is a Buddha in meditation posture with a knee span of 47 cm. And a height of 104 cm. The official name is – Phra Phuttanarumnon Thanmophat.

The temple is remarkable in that the style of the building corresponds to that of a church. The bot has a tall tower and Gothic windows with painted panes.