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Three Countries In Ten Days: Wat Mahathat of Ayutthaya

September 25th, 2009 by

We cannot believe that we already visited a lot of interesting sights in Ayutthaya. This olden city truly has a lot to offer any curious traveler. My partner and I were really thankful that we went out of our way to book the two hour trip to Ayutthaya from Bangkok.

Welcome to Wat Mahathat

Without wasting any more precious time, we left Wat Yai Chai Mongkhol and headed to another famous temple called the Wat Mahathat. The Wat Mahathat was an imperial monastery that served as the headquarters of the Sangaraja or the head of the Buddhist monks belonging to the Kamavasi Sect. This started when Mahathera Thammakanlayan was in power. It should be noted also that the extraordinary Buddha image set on a throne that was made of green stone was sheltered at the Wat Mahathat. It was during the reign of King Rama III in the Rattanakosin Period when this Buddha image was moved and transferred to Wat Naphrameru.

It was during the reign of King Borommarachathirat I in 1374 A. D. when the construction of the famous Wat Mahathat began. But the completion did not happen during the reign of this King. It was only when King Ramesuan was in power between 1388 to 1395 A. D. when the entire grounds were completed. Unfortunately, the main prang or the Khmer styled tower collapsed during the reign of King Sontham sometime between 1610 to 1628 A. D. Of course, the Thai people did not leave the prang in this state. The damaged prang was rebuilt and restored to its original state during the reign of King Prasathong sometime between 1630 to 1655 A. D. In the process of restoration, the prang’s height was considerably increased which made it much more impressive.

Prang of Wat Mahathat

Due to several uncontrollable natural factors, the temple has undergone deterioration. Because of this, Wat Mahathat was renovated further under the reign of King Borommakot between 1732 to 1758 A. D. To improve the look of the temple, four doorways were added to the structure. It was quite unfortunate that a huge fire destroyed this temple in 1767 A. D. From this day on, Wat Mahathat was in ruins and no longer touched.

In 1911 A.D., the main prang of Wat Mahathat collapsed for the second time and thieves took the chance to go on a treasure hunt by digging through the ruins. This happened when King Rama VI was also in power during the Rattanakosin Period. It was a great thing that the remains of the Buddha were found in the stupa as well as other pieces of archeological finds. The antiquities that were recovered included stone tables, Buddha figures, olden boxes, and golden plaques. Since these items were of high value most especially to the history of Thailand, these treasures are now being guarded at the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum. For sure, these items will be preserved for future generations to appreciate them.

Lord Buddha Head in Wat Mahathat

But the most famous attraction of Wat Mahathat would have to be the Lord Buddha’s head enclosed within a tree trunk close to the ground. There is not enough information related to the main reason why the Buddha’s head was placed in such a state. The closest explanation was that the temple was practically burned to the ground when the Burmese defeated Ayutthaya. Most of the religious images were thrown to the ground due to the bombings. After this battle, Wat Mahathat was abandoned for over a hundred years. During this time, numerous trees have grown on the spot and covered the head of one of the Buddha images. Another probable explanation was that a thief tried to steal the Buddha’s head but was forced to leave it on the ground because of its weight. The thief was not able to come back for it anymore and the Buddha head was left there until a tree grew around the Buddha’s head. As expected, there were a lot of people waiting for their turn to take souvenir photos of this head. There were also set rules to follow on how to behave beside the head.

From here, we explored the rest of the temple grounds and took all the photos that we wanted. After a few minutes, we took note of the time and decided to say goodbye to Wat Mahathat. There were still two stops in our tour of Ayutthaya and we had to hurry before we run out of time.

Those who prefer to spend a few nights in Ayutthaya can book a room in any of Ayutthaya’s reputable hotels like the Krungsri River Hotel Ayuthaya.

(To be continued)

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