Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon in Ayutthaya, Thailand


This is the fourth in a five-part series on Ayutthaya, Thailand about Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, a restored Buddhist temple dating back to the Ayutthaya Kingdom period (1350-1767). The first article described the historic City of Ayutthaya; the second, the temple ruins of Wat Chaiwatthanaram, and the third, Wat Phu Khao Thong. The final post will feature the ruins of temple Wat Mahathat.

Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, or the “Great Monastery of Auspicious Victory” according to the website History of Ayutthaya, is a restored Buddhist temple located in southeast Ayutthaya. Evidence of a large moat that once existed around the site suggests that it was once an important Khmer-style temple complex in “Ayodhya,” a settlement that pre-dated the Ayutthaya Kingdom. Today it’s a functioning temple with a monastery and restored stupa or chedi (monument). Several smaller chedi ruins dotting the grounds serve as a reminder that the site is historical.

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (3)

Records indicate that Ayutthaya King Uthong, or Ramathibodhi I (1350-69), established the monastery to lay to rest two of his children, Chao Kaeo and Chao Thai, who died of cholera. Its first name was Wat Pa Kaeo or the “Monastery of the Crystal Forest.” The temple built on the site later became known as Wat Chao Phya Thai, or the “Monastery of the Supreme Patriarch,” and was home to monks trained in then-Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka).

The temple is noteworthy in Ayutthaya’s history for its role as a meeting place for conspirators involved in palace intrigue. Stories suggest that it was once home to a closely-guarded, priceless ruby that represented the wealth of the gods. In his chronicle of the history of Ayutthaya, Jeremias Van Vliet, an employee of the Dutch East India Company, alleged that slaves were groomed to die in mock attempts to steal the ruby as an offering to the gods.

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (2)

The current configuration of the temple and chedi took shape during the reign of King Naresuan (1590-1605), who reportedly gave it the name “Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon” to commemorate his victory over the Burmese occupiers he ousted from Ayutthaya in 1592. The temple was destroyed by the Burmese in 1767 and restored by the Thais in 1957. The tall chedi that stands an estimated 30 meters (100 feet) is almost as high as the one at Wat Phu Khao Thong; its more slender profile that rises in the middle of urban Ayutthaya obscures its true height.

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (4)

The temple is perhaps best known for its seven-meter (23 feet) long reclining Buddha constructed during King Naresuan’s reign. One of the largest outdoor reclining Buddhas in Thailand, it was restored in 1965 and is now a major tourist attraction in Ayutthaya.

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (5)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (6)

The large chedi that dominates the temple complex has a square base with smaller chedi on each corner. It rises to a platform with great views of the city. As you ascend the steps, a large Buddha statue greets you at the top with a calm nod. Above the platform rises a bell-shaped tower with an octagonal base that tapers to a point; a chamber on the western side with Buddhist relics serves as a prayer shrine. The temple complex unfolds below in all directions, from the monks’ quarters and ordination hall to the west to a garden with several large Buddhist statues to the east. Manicured lawns with groomed trees and ruined chedi grace the north and south flanks.

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (7)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (8)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (9)

During my visit to the temple in August 2012, I was struck by the number and symmetry of the Buddha statues that meditated around the chedi base. Some such as those in the nearby prayer shrine were unique, but most were virtually identical and sat at attention in a tantric state. My wife did an excellent job capturing this impression with photos of them at artistic angles.

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (13)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (14)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (15)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (16)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (17)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (18)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (19)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (20)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (21)

Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon was the last stop on our daytrip to Ayutthaya. We enjoyed watching the encroaching dusk transform the temple from a place that beckoned visitors to one reclaimed by shadows. The site is a great destination to end the day before going for dinner and embarking on an evening tour of the city to see the historic monuments of Ayutthaya at night.

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (22)

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More About Ayutthaya, Thailand

Click here to read about the City of Ayutthaya and the Ayutthaya Historical Park

Click here to read about Wat Chaiwatthanaram, the ruin of a former Buddhist temple

Click here to read about Wat Phu Khao Thong, a historical Buddhist monastery

Click here to read about Wat Mahathat, the ruin of a former Buddhist temple

 

buythumb42M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. His books are available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

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Wat Phu Khao Thong in Ayutthaya, Thailand



This is the third in a five-part series on Ayutthaya, Thailand about Wat Phu Khao Thong, a restored Buddhist temple dating back to the Ayutthaya Kingdom period (1350-1767). The first article described the historic City of Ayutthaya; the second, the temple ruins of Wat Chaiwatthanaram. Upcoming posts will feature the ruins Wat Mahathat and the Wat Yai Chai Mongkon temple.

Wat Phu Khao Thong, or the “Temple of the Golden Mount” in Ayutthaya, is a large Buddhist complex located about two kilometers (one mile) northwest of the city center. The restored temple was built in 1387 during the reign of King Ramesuan (1339-95) of the Ayutthaya Kingdom. In 1991, UNESCO designated it a World Heritage Site within Ayutthaya Historical Park. Its famous chedi or stupa (pagoda) that rises more than 30 meters (100 feet) above the Chao Phraya River offers one of the best views in Ayutthaya.

Following his capture of Ayutthaya in 1569 at the end of the first Burmese-Siamese War, Burmese King Bhureng Noung began to construct a large Burmese Mon-style chedi on the site to commemorate his victory. The structure was not completed until 1587, when then-Prince Naresuan of the Ayutthaya Kingdom (1590-1605) finished it as Thai-style chedi to honor Ayutthaya’s independence from Burma in 1584.

The chedi was renovated in 1744 to its current form, a large square Burmese Mon-style base that rises at a moderate angle to a smaller base supporting a Thai-style chedi with a steep point. The entire hybrid structure is considered a single chedi. Four sets of stairs, one on each side, ascend to the second base.

2012_08_11 Wat Phu Khao Thong (4)

2012_08_11 Wat Phu Khao Thong (5)

2012_08_11 Wat Phu Khao Thong (7)

A nondescript passageway on the upper base leads to a sacred Buddhist shrine in the heart of the structure.

2012_08_11 Wat Phu Khao Thong (14)

The chedi dominates Ayutthaya’s landscape and offers great views of the countryside west of the city.

2012_08_11 Wat Phu Khao Thong (9)

A contemporary Buddhist temple built on the ruins of its predecessor lies to the south.

The remains of a canal that once linked the temple to the Chao Phraya River borders it to the east. Now accessible by road, the canal fell into disuse following the destruction of Ayutthaya in 1767.

2012_08_11 Wat Phu Khao Thong (11)

To the north is a monument dedicated to King Naresuan with a statue of the legendary king mounted on horseback. Large, colorful statues of chickens surround the monument, reportedly paying homage to the king’s fondness for the bird.

While not as famous as other historical sites in Ayutthaya, Wat Phu Khao Thong is worth a visit to climb the great chedi and enjoy the view. It’s one of the few places where you can bestride a remnant of ancient Ayutthaya.

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More About Ayutthaya, Thailand

Click here to read about the City of Ayutthaya and the Ayutthaya Historical Park

Click here to read about Wat Chaiwatthanaram, the ruin of a former Buddhist temple

Click here to read about Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, a historical Buddhist monastery

Click here to read about Wat Mahathat, the ruin of a former Buddhist temple

 

buythumb[4]M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. His books are available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

Wat Chaiwatthanaram in Ayutthaya, Thailand


This is the second in a five-part series on Ayutthaya, Thailand about the temple ruins at Wat Chaiwatthanaram. The first article described the City of Ayutthaya. The remainder will feature other sites in Ayutthaya Historical Park, including Wat Phu Khao Thong, Wat Mahathat, and Wat Yai Chai Mongkon.

Wat Chaiwatthanaram is a restored Buddhist temple on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River across from Ayutthaya Island. In 1991, UNESCO designated the complex a World Heritage Site in Ayutthaya Historical Park. The temple ruin, one of Ayutthaya’s most popular tourist destinations, offers picturesque views that capture the essence of this fascinating place. The site is remarkable for its once-innovative square chedi or stupa (pagodas) with indented corners that are now common structures in contemporary Thai Buddhist temples.

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (2)

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (16)

According to the information resource History of Ayutthaya, the name Wat Chaiwatthanaram is roughly translated as the “Monastery of the Victorious and Prosperous Temple.” It was built over two decades from 1630 to 1650 by King Prasat Thong of the Ayutthaya Kingdom. Dedicated to the memory of his beloved foster mother, the temple was used to perform royal ceremonies, including the cremation of deceased royals.

The temple’s centerpiece is the “Phra Prang Prathan,” a 35-meter tall prang (tower) built in Khmer (Cambodian) style popular at the time of construction.

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (7)

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (9)

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (10)

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (11)

The rectangular outer wall and gates that once surrounding the symmetrical complex were gone when I visited in August 2012, and only the foundations and a few of the eight chedi that served as chapels remained.

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (3)

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (19)

The wall, which symbolized the crystal walls of the world in Buddhist lore, once enclosed a large courtyard. In its center stood a still-intact, five-pointed structure (quincunx) that included Phra Prang Prathan, a symbol of the legendary Buddhist mountain Meru (Phra Men), and four smaller prang representing four continents pointing in different directions toward the sea. The courtyard represented seven oceans.

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (6)

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (8)

On the angled base of Phra Prang Prathan graced by large Buddhist statues, sets of stairs climbed to what was once an ordination hall where ceremonies were performed and to a gallery that symbolized seven mountains.

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (14)

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (15)

Two restored Thai-style chedi next to the Chao Phraya River interred the ashes of King Prasat Thong’s mother.

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (17)

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (18)

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (21)

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (22)

Destroyed by the Burmese in 1767, Wat Chaiwatthanaram lay deserted and was looted for bricks, Buddhist statues, and other artifacts for more than two centuries until it was restored by the Royal Thai government in 1992. The site sustained damage during the flooding of Ayutthaya in late 2011, and was still closed for restoration when I visited. I managed to take some fantastic photos of the complex from the site perimeter.

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (24)

While some of the temple’s splendor remains, many of its structures, statues, artwork, and the royal boat landing at the river’s edge disappeared ages ago. Enough of it has been preserved to give visitors of glimpse of its former glory.

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram

A video clip with a 360-degree view of the Wat Chaiwatthanaram site.

Video clip of Wat Chaiwatthanaram in Ayutthaya, Thailand
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More About Ayutthaya, Thailand

Click here to read about the City of Ayutthaya and the Ayutthaya Historical Park

Click here to read about Wat Phu Khao Thong, a historical Buddhist monastery

Click here to read about Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, a historical Buddhist monastery

Click here to read about Wat Mahathat, the ruin of a former Buddhist temple

 

buythumbM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. His books are available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.