Category: Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya Historic Park :: About

AYUTHAYA

The sacred city, the sacked city, Ayuthaya is complexly intertwined with Thai nationalism and religion. As the former royal capital, Ayuthaya earned the emerging Thai nation a place among the great empires of Southeast Asia, and placement on the map used by the international merchants sailing between India and China during the era of the trade winds.

As a city that was destroyed by an invading army, Ayuthaya is eulogised like a slain hero. But what is recounted in history and legend is not easily recognisable today. The ancient monuments retain little of their bygone majesty, with only a handful in recognisable forms. The modern city that grew among the rubble
is busy and provincial, adding a distracting element of chaos to the meditative mood of crumbled kingdoms.

Still, the city is a necessary stop on the culture trail, because of its position in the historical hierarchy and because its story as a kingdom is more approachable and better recorded than Thailand’s other ancient capital, Sukhothai. Ayuthaya’s proximity to Bangkok also makes it an alternative base for recent arrivals who find the modern capital just plain crummy.

History

In 1350, during the reign of the grandson of Rama the Strong (the true founder of the kingdom of Sukhothai), a Thai vassal revolted and obliged the king to make an oath of allegiance to him. He had himself crowned, taking the name Ramadhipati, and made Ayutthaya his capital, which thus became the second Siamese capital.

The city was relatively close to the border with Cambodia because the new king wanted to make the Khmers his vassals. The new dynasty had to defend itself against numerous revolts and invasions and the Siamese state became, above all else, a military state.

Regarding its cultural life, several distinct phases can be seen:

-the period between its foundation and the annexation of Sukhothai (1350-I 438);

-the period of the great wars (1438-1628);

-the period of Westernization (1628-1733);

-and the apogee, before its destruction (1733 to the end of the 18th century).

Initially, Ayutthayan art was a mixture of local traditions with strong influences from Sukhothai. It was only during the second period that a true “national” art was born, the product of diverse cultural influences. As the state opened up politically toward Europe in the 17th century, traces of Western culture began to appear. Once these new influences were assimilated, Siamese art
entered a period of rich mannerism.

The city was destroyed by the Burmese and today nothing remains but a few vestiges of the splendor that was Ayutthaya. The main architectural feature of the town was the “prang”, a reliquary tower which did not exist at Sukhothai. To compete with the old capital, the kings of Ayutthaya richly endowed the monasteries, which acquired gigantic proportions (Wat Mahathat, 14th-17th centuries; Wat Si Sanphet, 15th century, etc). Another feature of Ayutthayan art was the increased use of mural painting used to decorate all monuments, for example, the crypts of Wat Raj Burana.

Today, the site’s characteristic architecture of brick and stucco is devoid of its decoration and completely exposed to the elements. In 1967 the site was classed a historic park, but only part of it is proposed for inclusion on the World Heritage List.

– Criterion Ill. This site bears excellent witness to the period of development of a true national Thai art.

Orientation

Central Ayuthaya is surrounded on all sides by water, having been built at the confluence of three rivers (Mae Nam Chao Phraya, Mae Nam Pa Sak and the smaller Mae Nam Lopburi). A wide canal links them, encircling the town. The town’s historic sites are often classified as being ‘on the island’ (within the boundaries of the rivers) or ‘off the island’ (on the opposite river banks). The most prominent sites are on the island, except for a few temples accessible via ferry. Accommodation
and some transport options are located within central Ayuthaya, while the train station and the long-distance bus station are located off the island in the eastern
part of town.

Ayutthaya City Map

Category: Ayutthaya