Historic City of Ayutthaya
The former Siamese kingdom of Ayutthaya existed from 1351-1767. It is Thailand’s best known historical site. During its 400 years of existence this capital city grew in power and influence. According to foreign accounts, the Ayutthaya Kingdom was officially known as ‘Siam’ but many sources also said Ayutthaya people called themselves the Kingdom of the Thais. Conflicts with neighboring areas were ongoing, but Ayutthaya thrived and expanded with each success. As it was an important trading centre, many luxury goods were brought into the city and were used in the building of fine temples, palaces and wats. Its devout following of the Buddhist faith resulted in some wonderful monuments in what must have been a lavish and opulent city.
In 1767 Burmese invaders sacked the original city and the surviving ruins are now preserved in the Ayutthaya historical park. The architectural reamins are quite wonderful to visit and explore in detail. Some of the buildings originate from the 14th century, including the Wat Mahathat, which dates back to 1374. This extensive temple complex includes an impressive prang, the round finger-like tower, which was originally twice its present height.
The Royal Temple, Wat Phra Sri Sanphet once stood in the compound of the king’s palace, which has now vanished. This is one of Ayutthaya’s most famous ruins and is distinguished by the row of three restored chedis which are normally constructed over the ashes of royalty, the relics of a Buddha or sacred texts.
The more modern building known as the Viharn Phra Mongkol Bopit enshrines one of the largest bronze Buddhas in Thailand and is a must-see for visitors. The best preserved temple is Wat Na Phra Mane which has a ‘bot’, the most sacred area of the wat, which enshrines a bronze Buddha in royal attire.
Wat Phra Ram is easily identified by its large central prang. It was rebuilt in 1369 by King Rameseum, on the cremation site of his father King U Thong, the first king of Ayutthaya. Wat Rachaburana is a fine temple in a good state of preservation, especially when you consider it was built almost 600 years ago, in 1424. It was erected by King Borommaracha II on the cremation site of his two elder brothers who killed each other in a struggle for the throne. When the crypt beneath the prang was excavated in 1957, traces of mural paintings were discovered, along with a collection of gold objects and jewellery. These can now be seen at the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum.
Two other museums in Ayutthaya are the Historical Study Centre, a modern museum with reconstructions of Ayutthaya at its peak, and Chandra Kasem Palace, a reconstruction of a historic building commissioned by King Rama IV in the 19th century.
The Historic city of Ayutthaya was described as one of the wealthiest and most opulent cities in the East and its past spendors are apparent from what remains of the wats, towers and monasteries today.
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