The Rusticremains: Ayutthaya

by Eliza Binte Elahi

RusticremainsWhen Bangkok’s bustling cosmopolitan center, gritty streets and modern high-rises begin to close in on you, the best place to escape is Ayutthaya. It is about an hour’s drive and I was ready to go on further excursions to get a more complete picture of Thailand.
Being a bigfan of ancient ruins I have long wanted to go to Ayutthaya, Thailand’s ancient capital which was lost to the Burmese and led to the establishment of Bangkok. Today, Ayutthaya is a popular tourist haunt with some spectacular ruins of the former royal palaces and temples.
There’s something indescribable about ancient sites that I love, almost as if I can feel the history and the energy that once took place on what is now just a pile of rocks. I always have an unexplained need to touch the stones and try to sit for a short moment to let the inspirational energy flow through me.
Ayutthaya was founded in 1350 and was the second capital of Thailand after Sukhothai for 417 years during which time it was a very prosperous Kingdom. In 1767, the city was attacked and burnt down by the Burmese army forcing the people living there to abandon the city. Prior to that, 33 Kings of different dynasties ruled the kingdom from this capital.
Rusticremains2The Kingdom of Ayutthaya existed from 1350 to 1767, located in the heart of Thailand… or Siam, as it was known at the time, ‘Siam’.
Ayutthaya was never rebuilt and the area has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1981.
Ruins here really mean ruins. The former splendor is not easy to recognise, though the now red stone statues have their own charm.
The first ruin site we went to was WatPhraRam. The architecture follows the Khmer concept of temple construction, which consists of a central tower (Prang) surrounded by four corner towers (Chedis/Stupas). The temple has been restored a few times over the centuries, during the reign of King BoromTrailokanath and later by King BoromKot in 2284 B.E.
Rusticremains3Just across and to the right of WatPhra Ram, we entered an even more magnificent site – WatPhra Sri Sanphet. This area once had the most beautiful architecture amid stunning backdrops.
Next up, we drove down toWatMaha That, another restored ruin with a fascinating history. Known as Monastery of the Great Relic, the exact date of the construction of this monastery is estimated to be around the mid-late 1300s. The most iconic feature of this site is the Buddha head amidst the tree roots.
Walking around, I couldnot help but marvel at the sheer beauty. If the ruins can look this amazing, it must have been astounding in its glory days!
A monastery was constructed by King U-Thong to accommodate the monks ordained by Rusticremains4PhraWanratanaMahatheraBurean. This monastery at the time was named ‘WatPhrakaw’.
Afterwards, PhraWanratana suggested to King Naresuanthat a Chedi should be built within the monastery, which then became known as WatYaiChiamongkhon. The site houses hundreds of Buddha images that surround the monastery and even a large reclining Buddha near the main entrance.
To fully appreciate all the interesting places, at least a full day is recommended.
Next time you visit Bangkok, try to take a day or spend few hours in the ancient city & explore its rustic remains.

The author is faculty & coordinator in the MBA/EMBA programme at the University of South Asia

 

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