The temples of Ayutthaya

Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya is the formal designation of the ancient city of Ayutthaya. This Siamese kingdom was founded by King U Thong when he moved to the rich floodplain of the Chao Phraya on an island surrounded by rivers in 1350 and proclaimed Ayutthaya as its capital city, the second after Sukhothai.

The kingdom rose to power and became known as the Venice of the East. It was a glittering city until the invasion of Burmese army in 1767 reduced the city to ruins.

Restoration of the ruins began in 1969. It was declared a historical park in 1976 and later declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.

Today, the ruins of Ayutthaya Historical Park tell a story of the city’s past splendor. This is what makes the city a must visit destination when in Thailand.

Within the historical park are numerous temples worthy of a visit. But if time is not on your hands, pick a few on the list. Consulting a local, here are five of the most important temples in Ayutthaya you can enjoy in a day at a leisurely pace.

Wat Mahathat aka the Temple of the Great Relics located in the central part of Ayutthaya. This may be the most famous of the temples we know because of the iconic Buddha head embedded in the tree roots. It is the most photographed figure of the park. 

The most photographed figure in Ayutthaya, the Buddha head embedded in the roots of a tree at Wat Mahathat.

Constructed in the reign of King Borom Rachathirat, this monastery was one of the most important in the kingdom and the venue of important royal ceremonies and celebrations. It was the religious center where the Buddha’s relics were enshrined and close to the Grand Palace. 

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Wat Phra Sri Sanphet was built by King Boromatrailokanat in 1448. The temple took its name from the large standing, gold covered Buddha image erected there in 1503. Said to be one of the grandest temples in the ancient capital, the Wat Phra Sri Sanphet is one of the best-preserved temples on the island and one of the grandest in the ancient capital.

The most prominent figures identified with Wat Phra Sri Sanphet are the three bell-shaped chedis.

The most prominent figures identified with this temple are the three bell-shaped chedis. These huge chedis were built to hold the ashes of King Boromatrailokanat and his two sons, King Ramathibodhi and King Boromatrailokanat II.

The temple’s design is considered to be typical of the Ayutthaya style, which became a model to several temples built in Bangkok, including the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

Built within the Royal Palace grounds, the temple was originally connected directly to the royal palace (Wang Luang) and was considered as the most important temple of Ayutthaya.

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Wat Chaiwatthanaram. This Buddhist temple lies on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, outside Ayutthaya island. Although the large compound is part of the National Historical Park, it is not a part of the Historic City of Ayuthaya, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Wat Chaiwatthanaram was constructed in 1630 by King Prasat Thong as a memorial of his mother’s residence in that area

Designed in Khmer style, which was popular in that time, the temple was constructed in 1630 by King Prasat Thong as a memorial of his mother’s residence in that area. Wat Chaiwatthanaram literally means the “Temple of long reign and glorious era.”

Standing on a rectangular platform is the 35-meter high central prang with four smaller prangs. The central platform is surrounded by eight chedi-shaped chapels, and along the wall were 120 sitting Buddha statues.

This royal temple was where the king and his successors performed religious ceremonies, and where royalty were cremated.

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Wat Phanan Cheong. This temple was built in 1324, before the city of Ayutthaya was officially founded. It is home to the majestic gilded 19-meter seated Buddha housed in the highest building within the temple complex called the wihan (a shrine hall that contains the principal Buddha images and the assembly hall where monks and believers congregate).

Wat Phanan Cheong is home to the majestic gilded 19-meter seated Buddha

The Buddha is referred to as Lu Luang Pho Tho by Thais, and Sam Pao Kong by the Tahi-Chinese, and regarded as a guardian for mariners.

It was said that before the Burmese invasion and the destruction of Ayutthaya, “tears flowed from the sacred eyes to the sacred navel.”

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Wat Chaimongkhol aka “Great Monastery of Auspicious Victory” was also called Wat Pa Kaew, Wat Chao Phraya Thai and Wat Yai Chaya Mongkhon. It is located outside the island in the southeastern area of Ayutthaya.

The towering chedi, an Ayuthaya landmark, visible to all who approach the city from the east is located I this temple, Wat Chaimongkhol.

To accommodate the monks that were ordained by Phra Wanratana Mahathera Burean, King U-Thong constructed this monastery, and was named Wat Pa Kaew. After the construction of the large chedi ordered by King Naresuan the Great as the memorial for his victory over King Maha Uparacha of Burma, the monastery became known as Wat Yai Chiamongkhon. The towering chedi is one of the landmarks of Ayutthaya, visible to all who approach the city from the east.

Within the compound are the Wihan Phraphutthasaiyat constructed in the reign of King Naresuan the Great for religious adoration and royal meditation; and the Uposatha Hall, the main hall for Sangha (Brotherhood of monks) is also used to hold important religious ceremonies.

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If you need a tuktuk to tour Ayutthaya, get in touch with Mr. Bunchop Loettanong (081-620-3842), a very charming & honest man.

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For more travel & lifestyle stories, visit http://jeepneyjinggoy.blogspot.com/ and http://apples-and-lemons.blogspot.com/

Published in the SunStar Davao newspaper on January 10, 2015.

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