“All glories must fade” is an old Buddhist axiom which applies correctly to this magnificent Kingdom of Ayutthaya where Kings once divinized themselves as Buddha. A remarkable establishment of nature twisted through the miasma of time, Ayutthaya embodies the glorious past, the smiling Buddha and an awe-inspiring view in spite of the crumbling ruins that has engulfed the once oh so beautiful and illustrious glittering capital of Thailand.
Named after Ayodhya, the birth place of Hindu god Rama in India, Ayutthaya (Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya) was established in 1350 by the then Siamese King U Thong when he went there to get away from a small pox epidemic in Lop Buri. Ayutthaya later became Siamese capital as it was in closer proximities with countries like China, India and Iran (Persia). Also, by 1700 it had the population of 1,000,000, making the ancient capital one of the most populous cities during that era in the Southeast Asia. The majestic city which was capital of the Siamese kingdom up till 417 years (after that it was captured and destroyed significantly by the Burmese who forced the inhabitants to leave the city) has some major historical buildings and temples. However, after its destruction it was never rebuilt and what you witness today is just the archaeological ruins of once a place very rich in trade, commerce and global diplomacy.
The structural design of Ayutthaya buildings and monuments is a mesmerizing mixture of Hindu influenced Khmer (ancient Cambodian) style and early Sukhothai style. Some prangs (cactus shaped obelisks) symbolizes Khmer influence and has a close resemblance with that of the well-known towers of Angkor Wat. On the other hand, the sharp pagodas look like the Sukhothai influence. The best example is Wat Arun, the 18th century monument built in the Ayutthaya style on the riverside at Bangkok which clearly illustrates amalgamation of both Hindu inspired Khmer motifs and Sukhothai Buddhist influences.
The Buddha effigies at the temples of Ayutthaya have a faint smile and an obstinate posture. From the ancient times, the temples of Ayutthaya have lured mercenaries, merchants, missionaries, adventurers and leisure travelers.
Besides, here are the historical magnificent temples which truly define and reflect the glorious ancient Ayutthaya city of the past.
The Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon
In 1592, King Naresuan fought and won a battle against the Crown Prince of Burma. His historic triumph with just a single combat on the elephant back brought independence to Ayutthaya after almost 15 years of Burmese invasion. This temple possesses the famous huge marble image of a reclining Buddha in brick and stucco. The chedi is bell-shaped, about 60 meters high, built on a stack of raised ground (15 X 32.4 X 32.4 m.) with steps going up to the Buddhist idol placed midway to the top. The chedi has a distinct tilt, but it can be easily entered via the stairs. Plus, there is alsothe statue of King Naresuans in the premises. It is highly respected by Thais
The main appeal of this temple is the gigantic Buddha reclining in nirvana. The Buddha measures a total of 37 meters long and a total of 8 meters high. Thousands of tourists and travelers come here all over the world to watch this site of the reclining Buddha.
One of the main sites of the Hindu influenced Khmer art, this temple collapsed during the reign of King Rama IV. It is one of the most amazing sites as it has a stupendous image of Buddha head immersed in a banyan tree
Wat Ratch Burana
Built in the 15th century, the temple commemorates the battle between two princes for the throne, Chao Yi Phraya and Chao Ai Phraya. But, ironically, they both killed each other in the fight. As a result, the youngest brother (Chao Sam Phraya) became the king. He constructed Wat Ratch Burana in dedication of his two deceased brothers.
Here in this temple, the higher levels are decorated with the deva (god) and Garuda (Vishnu’s vahana). Also, the walls are adorned with mural paintings and a separate place to preserved Buddha relics.
Wat Thammikkarat or the Lion temple on the eastern side of the ancient royal palace features a stupa surrounded by lion figures. It also has a recline Buddha
When the Burmese attacked, captured and destroyed Ayutthaya they decapitated all Buddha statutes. At present, many of the headless Buddha can be seen in the premises along with a few with the head intact.
Built by Suryaverman II of the KHMER EMPIRE in between 10th and 13th century, this Shiva temple respresents Mount Kailasa where Lord Shiva resided. It is in situated in the topic region of an extinct volcano in the the Isaan region of Thailand. It was restored between 1971 and 1988 (17 years) by a fine arts department and finally in May, 2005, the temple was declared as one of the UNESCO world heritage. It encompasses various icons and lintels, illustrating Hindu religion. The temple has Linga inside with effigies of the 5 faced naga as its bridge and relics of reclining Vishnu and dancing Shiva at the entrance of the mandapa or the entrance of the temple.
So, next time you are in Bangkok you know where to head next to get a glimpse of the past right in front of your eyes…
By: Deepti Verma