Brief Historical Background of Ayutthaya

View of the Ayutthaya Island in 1650.
“Iudea Anonyrnos Dutch School, c 1650. Rijksmuseum Amsterdam.

   Ayutthaya is ancient capital city of Thailand, situated about 76 kilometers, north of Bangkok. The city itself is surrounded with 3 major rivers, the Lopburi on the north, the Pasak on the east and the Chao Pha Ya on the south and the west.
   The kingdom of Ayutthaya had been the capital of Thailand for 417 years between 1350 – 1767 with 33 kings of five dynasties ruling the successive kingdom.
                                                                                               The Early Ayutthaya Period
   King U-Thong or King Ramathibodi I was the first king of the kingdom, empowered by his relative states, such as Suphanburi, Lopburi and Sanburi. Ayutthaya was ruled by the king as absolute monarchy system and feudalism seemed to play an important role through the whole period of the kingdom. The king, with the most power in hand, empowered his relatives and high ranked aristocrasts to look after the provincial towns far off the city. These cities, on the other hand, being governed by their own rulers, were directly governed and organized by the central government of Ayutthaya.
   In the reign, of King Boroma-tri-loka-nat (1448-1488) the political system of Ayutthaya was reformed. Two powerful administrative ministries were applied and they were used until the last days of Ayutthaya.

                                                                                                 The Middle Ayutthaya Period
   In 1569, during the reign of King Mahindrathirat, Ayutthaya was beaten by his enemy, the Burmese and it lost its independence for 15 years. The kingdom was free again in 1584, during the reign of King Naresuan the great when he could drive the Burmese away from the kingdom.
                                                                                                 The Late Ayutthaya Period
   In the reign of King Narai the great (1656-1688), diplomatic and commercial connection policy with western countries was started. At this time, Ayutthaya could learn more about new advanced technology from western countries, such as architectural design and new technique of building construction. These can be seen on ancient ruins found both in Ayutthaya and Lopburi.
   King Suriyat-Amarin or King Eakatat (1488-1767) was the last king of Ayutthaya and it was the second lost of Ayutthaya independence in 1767.
                                                                                                       The Thonburi Period
   After King Taksin the great had taken liberty back from Burmese, he established the new capital of Thailand in Thonburi, which was on the west bank of the Chao Pha Ya River and he asked the people from Ayutthaya including from the other places to settle down in Thonburi.

                                                                                     The Rattanakosin Period or The Bangkok Period
   When King Buddha Yod Fa Chulaloke, or King Rama I succeeded to the throne of Chakri dynasty he and his youger brother started to establish Rattanakosin city or Bangkok city in 1692. When the city was nearly completely found, most people both in Thonburi and Ayutthaya integrated to settle down in the new capital city of Thailand while very few were still there. Ayutthaya was left until in the reign of King Rama V, its deterioration and cultural ruins was renovated. It was the first time to realize the important of cultural ruins in Ayutthaya as ancient monument of the nation until today.
At present, Ayutthaya province looks like a mirror that reflect the picture of the past. Because of its cultural significance as outstanding universal value, Ayutthaya historic city was placed in the World Heritage List on December 13, 1991 at Carthage, Tunisia. Besides the Thai Government had approved the Master Plan for conservation and development the historic city in 1993 and the project was started in 1994.

The landscape plan of Ayutthaya Historic City.

1.Monuments in the area of Historical Park
   The Royal Palace
       When King Boroma-Tri-Loka-Nat ascendened the throne in 1448, he built Wat Phra Sri Sanphet on the site of the old building, and erected a new residence nearer the river.
   - Suriyat Amarindra Building was built by King Narai the Great on the site of the Bencharatana Building of King Boroma-Tri-Loka-Nat, near the compound wall by the river side.
   - Sanphet-Prasat Building was built by King Boroma-Tri-Loka-Nat used for the reception in of guests of State.
   - Wihara somdet Building was constructed by the command of King Prasat Thong in 1643 to replace the Mangkalaphisek Building, which built by King Boroma-Tri-Loka-Nat. It was used for such State ceremonies as coronations.
   - Chakrawat-Phaichayon Building was used by the kings for reviewing processions and military exercises. King Prasat Thong founed this building in 1632 and called it Siriyasothorn Mahaphimanbanyong which was afterwards changed in to Chakrawat Phaichayon.

Tri Muk Building.

Suriyat Amarindra building.

  - The Banyong-Ratanat Building (Thai Sra Building) was built on an islet in a lake in 1688 by the command of King Phetha Racha.
   - The Tri Muk Building is mentioned for the first time in the chronicle of the reign of King Boroma-racha II where it states that this building was destroyed by fire in 1427. In 1908 King Chulalongkorn had the fortieth anniversary of his reign, he commanded Phya Boranrachathanindra to construct a three-portico pavilion on the foundation of what is understood to be the original Tri Muk Building.
  - The Song Puen Building was used as the hall of audience since it was situated near his residence. The officials who had audience with the king had access to this building through the Maha Phoka rat gate which was the nearest one.
  - Wat Phra Si Sanphet was situated on the premises of the royal palace which had been established in the reign of King Ramathibodi I (King U-Thong). In 1448 King Boroma-Tri-Loka-Nat dedicated the site of the palace to the contruction of the temple. The important edifices in this temple are the three main stupas containing the ashes of King Boroma-Tri-Loka-Nat, King Ramathibodi III and King Ramathibodi II. It was a royal temple of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, used for such important royal ceremonies as swearing allegiance and it also served as the royal family’s private chapel and the place where the royal family’s ashes were preserved. No monks resided here though they were occasionally invited for particular rites.
   - Wat Mahathat was a grand temple, like Wat Ratchaburana. The royal chronicle says that it was built in the reign of King boroma-Rachathirat I in 1374 and completed in the reign of King Ramesuan. The main prang where the relic of the Lord Buddha was kept and found is originally 50 metres high. At present only the base can be seen as the top was broken down in 1911 in the reign of King Rama VI.

The Ayutthaya Royal Palace’s wall.

Wat Mahathat.

   - Wat Ratchaburana was built in the reign of King Boromrachathirat II in 1424 on the cremation site of his brothers, prince Ai and Yi. They died of fighting for the throne on elephant’s backs. Two chedi for the ashes of the two princes were built on the combat spot. Which was between Wat Mahathat and wat Ratchaburana. At present only the bases can be seen. In the main prang, two crypts filled with golden royal treasure, such as Buddha images, and votive tablets, were found. The finds are exhibited in the Chao Sam Pha Ya National Museum, Ayutthaya.
  - Wat Phra Ram King Ramesuan established wat Phra Ram in 1369 on the cremation site of King Ramathibodi I, his father. At present, the temple is situated near Phra Ram pond which has originally called “Nong Sano”. In the temple there remains a main prang surrounded by a cloister containing deteriorated stone Buddha images. The ubosot (ordination hall) is in the north of the site.

The main prang of Wat Ratchaburana.

  - Wihara Phra Mongkhon Bophit   Phra Mongkhon Bophit is one of the largest Buddha Image in the attitude of subduing. The image was probably built in the reign of King Chairacha in 1538 for Wat Chi chieng. During the fall of Ayutthaya in 1767. Wihara Phra Mongkhon Bophit was fired. The right arm and the knot of the Buddha image were broken.
In the reign of King Rama V (1992), Phraya Boranratchathanin restored the broken parts of the image with mortal and the wihara was built to cover the image in 1956.
   - Phra chedi Si Suriyothai is situated in wat Suan Luang Sopsawan, the place were Queen Suriyothai, King Mahachakraphat’s wife, was cremated. She died on an elephant’s back, having saved her husband from danger in the war with Burma. The chedi and the temple were established in 1548 in memorial of the Queen’s heroic deed.

The Phra Mongkon Bophit Buddha image.

2. Monuments in the island outside the Historical Park
  - Chandra Kasem Palace or Wang Na was built as the residence of King Naresuan the Great (1590-1605). The palace was renovated in the reign of King Mongkut (Rama IV) for his residence during occasional visits to Ayutthaya.
   - Chaturamok Pavillion was the throne-room for the government. Now the building is the museum of Ayutthaya under the care of the Department of Fine Arts.
   - The Phiman Rataya Group Building was used for many years to house the administrative officers of the locality.
   - The Phisai Sanyalak built in Europe style, was used by king Rama IV as an observatory.
  - Wat Suwan Dararam was built in the Late Ayutthaya period by the father of King Rama I of the Chakri Dynasty, namely “Wat Thing”. When King Rama I ascended to the throne he renovated the temple, and renamed this temple as “Wat Suwan Dararam”.

The Chaturamok Pavilion in Chandra Kasem Palace.

The Wihara of Wat Suwan Dararam.

3. Monuments in eastern area outside the island
Wat Phananchoeng
   There is evidence that Phra Chao Phananchoeng, a large sitting Buddha image was built in 1324. The legend of the temple says that King Sai Nam Phung of Ayutthaya built this temple in memorial of his deceased wife, Queen Soi Dok Mak, who passed away in a boat in front of the site of Wat Phanan choeng. He then established a temple on the spot and named it Wat Phra Chao Phra Nang Choeng.
Wat Yai Chai Mongkol
   This monastery was built by King U-Thong which exhumed the bodies of Chao Kaeo and Chao Thai who died of cholera, and cremated in 1357. The monastery was dedicated to the monks who had gone to study practical Buddhism in Ceylon. As the group gained the popularity, the King then appointed the head of the sect to become Somdet Phra Wannarat or the right supreme Patriarch. The temple was finally rebuilt in memorial of King Naresuan the Great for his victory over the Burmese.
Temples in Ayothaya area
   This area comprises Wat Maheayong. Maheayong Pavillion, Wat Chang, Wat Sika Samud, Wat Samana Kot, and Wat Nang Kham. In 1999, Department of Fine Arts excavated these monasteries and found that most of them was built in the early Ayutthaya period and were continuosly renovated till the late Ayutthaya.
Japanese Settlement
   Japan come to contact and trade with Ayutthaya Kingdom since an early time of the Kingdom. Many Japanese were employed as a military troop to support and strengthen Ayutthaya’s army power and some were also employed as government officials in the Royal Court. Land which was in the southern area of the city island was granted for Japanese settlement by Ayutthaya’s King. At Present, there is an exhibition building of Thai-Japanese Association built on the settlement site.

Phra-Phut-Tri-Rattana-Nayok the Buddha image in Wat Phananchoeng.

A view of bell-shaped chedi surrounded
by elephant at Wat Maheayong.

An exhibition byilding at Japanese Settlement.

4. Monuments in western area outside the island
  Wat Chai Watthanaram was built in 1630 by King Prasat Thong to commemorate his mother’s hometown and to celebrate his coronation. Important edifices are the main prang, surrounded by a number of minor prang at eight directions. It is believed that the main prang contains relics of the Lord Buddha and other idols.
This temple was also built to commemorate the victory over the Khmer. This is why it was built in Khmer architecture style.

Wat Chai Watthanaram.

5. Monuments in the northen area outside the island
   Wat Phukao Thong was built by King Ramesuan in 1387. Burengnong, the Burmese King, built three layers of the large superimposed base in Burmese style after he captured Ayutthaya in 1569 and named it Phu Khao Thong. The main body of the chedi in Thai style was built later. King Borommakot, carried out renovations during his reign in 1744 and changed its appearance into a 12 redented cornered chedi. Only the lowest part retains its original Mon style. Some scholars, based on the record of Dr. Kaempfer, a Westerner, who visited Ayutthaya during the reign of King Petracha, believe that King Naresuan built this chedi on the site where he won a battle over the Burmese Crown Prince in 1592. However after Ayutthaya fell to the Burmese in 1767 it was burnt down.
   Wat Na Phramain was first called “Wat Phramerurachikaram”. It is opposite to the north side of the Royal Palace. It is assumed from its name that this temple was built at the Royal Cremation site by the king in Ayutthaya period. Otherwise it might be taken from name of “Wat Phramain” in Nakorn Pathom province.
It was mentioned in a historical record the King Mahachakkrapat had established a temporary pavilion before making the Peace Treaty between Wat Hassadawas and this temple. Wat Naphramaing was restored in the reign of King Borommakot. After that it was restored again by Phraya Chaivichit (Puek); the Lord Lieutenant of Ayutthaya in the reign of King Rama III of Rattanakosin period.
  Phaniat (Elephant kraal) is situated north of the city island. In the past, wild elephants would be trained here to become war or transport animals. It is thought that in the Ayutthaya period the kraal was inside the city wall, but this one built later and was in use up to Bangkok period. In the middle of the kraal there is a shire where the elephant guardian is supposed to reside. Posts made of whole timbers from the fence where elephants were tied up during the training. An elephant round-up was demonstrated here in 1890, during the reign of King Rama V, for the benefit of the Tsarevitch, who later became King Nicolas II of Russia, during his visit to Siam.
  Temples in Klong Sra Bua areas, this area comprise Wat Phra-ngam, Wat Jaoya, Wat Phayaman, Wat Jongkrom, Wat Takrai and Wat Hassadawas. In 1999 Department of Fine Arts excavated these monuments and found that most of them were built in the early Ayutthaya period and continuously renovated till the late Ayutthaya. Some monuments appeared in Rattanakosin period, such as Wat Takrai, and Wat Jongkrom.

a large fully ornamened stucco buddha image in the ubosot of
Wat Na Phramain.

The main chedi of Wat Phukhao Thong.

6. Monuments in the southern area outside the island
   Wat Phutthaisawan is situated on ChaoPhraya river-bank, opposite to the south of the city island. It was constructed on the site in which King Ramathibodi I (King U-Thong) first settled before establishing Ayutthaya Capital City. This area is called “Wiang Laek”. After the new Capital City had been established, King U-Thong then built Wat Phutthaisawan on the site that he first settled as a memorial.
   Portuguese settlement site, The relationship between Ayutthaya and Portuguese progress so cordially that in 1540. King Chairachathirat granted to the Portuguese a piece of land by the river-bank, outside the town-wall to the South, for the building of a settlement as well as a Christian church.
   The archives from Phra Narai’s reign gave us futher insight to the settlement. We lernt that the majority of the settlers were of Thai-Portuguese parentage, that was under the authority of the three Brotherhood: Dominican, Jesuit and Fransiscan.
   In 1984, The Fine Arts Department restored the ruins in Portuguese settlement and built the building for exhibition.

The main prang of Wat Phutthaisawan.

Portuguese settlement site.

7.Monuments in the external area Ayutthaya, For example Wat Nivetthammaphavat, Wat Chumphonnikayaram Bangpain District, Wat Mailok Tharuea District, Prasat Nakonluang Nakonluang District, ect.

Prasat Nakonluang.

The mural paintings were executed during the reign of King Rama VII and
show various scene from the life of King Naresuan.

Wat Yai Chai Mongkol.

The Phisai Sanyalak Tower.

Wat Phra Si Sanphet.

The main prang of Wat Phra Ram.

Phra Chedi Si Suritothai.

Contemporary photograph of the elephant rounded-up arranged
for Tsarevitch in 1890.

The main chedi of Wat Jongkrom.