Published: February 25th 2009November 22nd 2008
As always, I happened to steal this opportunity to visit another UNESCO site near my workplace in Thailand.
These were the ruins of Ayuthaya...a culturally rich kingdom once upon a time.
Some history -
Ayutthaya, the capital of the Thai Kingdom was found by U-Thong King in 1350. Ayutthaya as an island is formed by the gathering of three rivers, the Chao Phraya, the Pasak, and the Loburi and surrounded by rice terraces. It is easy to see why the Ayutthaya area was settled prior to this date since the site offered a variety of geographical and economic advantages. The Thai kings of Ayutthaya became powerful in the 14th and 15th centuries, taking over U-Thong, Lopburi, and Ayutthaya.
The Burmese invaded Ayutthaya again in 1765. This time Burmese caused much fear to Thais. Burmase soldiers destroyed everything, including temples, manuscripts, and religious sculpture. After the capital fell in their hands for two years, the Burmese effectiveness could not further hold the kingdom. Phaya Taksin, a Thai general, promoted himself to be the king in 1769. He ruled the new capital of Thonburi on the bank of Chao Phraya River, opposite Bangkok. Thais regained control of their country and
thus scattered themselves to the provinces in the north and central part of Thailand. Taksin eventually turn himself to be the next Buddha and was dismissed and executed by his ministers who did not approve his religious values.
Only recently was I educated about the difference between Khmer and Thai (Ayutthaya) prang structures at temple compounts and religiously important sites (like Phimai and Phanomrung in Isaan province).
The prang was an important monument in Khmer and Ayutthaya architecture. Prangs can also be found in various forms in Sukhothai, Lopburi, Bangkok (Wat Arun). Sizes may vary, but usually the prangs measure between 15 and 40 meters in height, and resemble a towering corn-cob like structure.
Prangs essentially represent Mount Meru. In Thailand Buddha relics were often housed in a vault in these structures, reflecting the belief that the Lord Buddha is a most significant being in having attained enlightenment and having shows the path to enlightenment to others.
In Khmer (read my Cambodia blog) structures, of course, Hindu deities were housed in the center of the prang monument.
The 'cella' or central (small) hall inside the prang, can be accessed through a porch, located
in the east. With Thai (Sukhothai, Ayutthaya) architecture, the cella could often only be accessed by climbing stairs. Later on, the cella even disappeared in some prang structures, and was only suggested on the outside by niches (usually in the four important cardinal directions), where a Buddha image would be located. In Thai architecture, Garuda images were often present halfway the prang in four positions. Later on, they were omitted from the structure.
Now, what are differences between Khmer and Thai prangs. Well, to start with, the materials used to construct them would often be different. Khmer structures often used sandstone and laterite, if available in the area. Ayutthaya prangs were mostly built with bricks, then covered with stucco.
But the main visible difference is that Khmer built prangs taper off stepwise (in tiers of decreasing size). Ayutthaya prangs taper off gradually in a smooth way (without clearly visible steps).
Unfortunately I jst had 2 hours in hand..and missed seeing the entire site.
Could catch a glimpse..and took some representative pics....
Happy reading !
There are more photos below