Ayutthaya became the second Siamese capital after Sukhothai and remained capital for 417 years. It has been registered as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.
The Legend of Ayutthaya, tells of Prince U Thong – who later assumed the royal name Ramathibodi (1350 – 69) – discovering an exquisite conch shell buried in the earth. In a moment of revelation he elected that very ground as the site for his future capital. First he placed the shell upon a pedestal tray and had a pavilion constructed around it. He gave his capital the name Ayutthaya – after Ayodhya in Northern India – the city of hero Rama of Hindu epic Ramayana fame.
We arrived at Ayutthaya late and began with searching somewhere to stay and somewhere to eat. I remember this was the first time I tried Pad Thai (ผัดไทย) which became one of my favorite dishes. There are all sorts of Pad Thai the base being stir-fried rice noodles with eggs. We slept in a lovely place and I have photo with the owners. It was called Baan Eve (tel. 081-2943293) address: 11/19 Baan Eve, Soi Pridi-Panomyong 3, Pridi-Panomyong Rd., Ayutthaya 13000 on the opposite side of the river from train station.
We didn’t sight see the main temple complex all together. I decided to wander on my own. Afterwards we met where we started and drove to a separate temple called Wat Chaiwatthanaram on the other side of the river. I guess we didn’t stay in Ayutthaya long enough but to be honest everywhere we worked on a tight schedule. If you have more time than one day it is worth it. I will list some of the places I’ve seen and then in the slide show you will find some pictures that are not necessary monument centered or I had no space to include them in the text.
Wat Phra Si Sanphet (วัดพระศรีสรรเพชญ์) is situated on the city island in Ayutthaya. This monastery was the most important
temple of Ayutthaya and situated within the Royal Palace grounds. It served as a model for the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok. In 1350 Prince U-Thong ordered a palace built in an area called Nong Sano, actual the
area in the vicinity of Bung Phra Ram. The palace contained three wooden buildings named “Phaithun Maha Prasat”, “Phaichayon Maha Prasat”, and “Aisawan Maha Prasat”. Upon finalization of the palace in 1351, he established Ayutthaya as his capital and was bestowed the title of King Ramathibodi I. The original size of the old palace compound is believed to be the same as the area of Wat Phra Sri Sanphet today.
Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, being part of the royal palace, was exclusively used by the Ayutthayan Kings. No clergy was allowed to reside on the grounds, with exception of an occasionally invitation to pray and to perform ceremonies such as the taking of an oath of allegiance for royal officers and for preaching and merit-making by the King. It was used for royal ceremonies and rituals including giving alms to the monks from other temples and performing the Wian Tian (Candlelight Procession) ceremony on the Buddhist holy days.
The temple enshrined also the Phra Buddha Lokanat (Protector of the World) and the Phra Buddha Palelai. Ashes of the members of the royal family were placed in small chedi constructed at the site.
Wat Phra Ram is a restored ruin located to the east of Grand Palace and Wat Phra Sri Sanphet in a swampy area called Bung Phra Ram. The monastery was constructed on the cremation site of the first Ayutthayan monarch, King Ramathibodi I (r. 1351-1369).
And on the cremation site for King Ramathibodi I, he who had founded the Capital, the King had a holy monastery established, consisting of a great holy reliquary and a holy preaching hall, and he named it the Phra Ram Monastery.
At the front of the temple is a large swamp, which seems to have been in existence before the founding of the city. It was probably smaller than it is at present. During the founding of the city earth must have been dug out of it for leveling the sites of the Royal palace. Now this whole swamp is planted with lotus and must appear beautiful during the flowering season of this plant.
Wat Mahathat (วัดมหาธาตุ) or the “Monastery of the Great Relic” stood on the west bank of Khlong Pratu Khao Pluak, an important canal, which has been filled up somewhere in the early XX century. In ancient times the temple was likely fully surrounded by canals and moats.
Then the King went out to observe the precepts at Mangkhalaphisek Hall. At ten thum he looked toward the east and saw a Great Holy Relic of the Lord Buddha performing a miracle. Calling the palace deputies to bring his royal palanquin, he rode forth. He had stakes brought and pounded into the ground to mark the spot. The great holy reliquary which he built there was nineteen meters high, with a nine-branched finial three wa high, and named the Maha That Monastery. Then the King had the Royal Rite of Entering the Capital performed and festivities were held in the royal residence
Wat Mahathat was a royal monastery and served as the seat of the Sangaraja, the head of the Buddhist monks of the Kamavasi Sect. It also enshrined relics of the Buddha and used to house an unusual Buddha image made of green stone in the form of Buddha seated on a throne which was then moved to Wat Naphrameru.
The design, architecture and decoration of a Khmer temple were modeled according to a series of magical and religious beliefs. Devotees moved from the mundane world to a spiritual one by walking along one of the four axes, each of which has a different astrological value. Wat Maha That consisted basically of a large central prang surrounded by four subsidiary prangs at the four inter-cardinal points, standing on a raised square platform. The quincunx was surrounded by a courtyard and a roofed gallery, lined with a row of Buddha images. Typically for the Ayutthaya period is that often the gallery was penetrated by a monastic structure, being an ordination or an assembly hall, or even sometimes both.
Ok this is it for today. I will devote one more post to Ayutthaya as there are some more things I would like to share. In the meantime enjoy the slide show: