Wat Phra Mahathat
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Ayutthaya – Wat Phra Mahathat

by Dr. David

Wat Phra Mahathat was established right in the middle of the city and became one of the most important temples in the Ayutthaya period. The relics of Buddha were found here, hence its name means the temple of the Great Relics, and the head of Thai monks resided there. The temple was royal, and as such, located next to the palace, it served the royal family for their ceremonies and rituals.

The temple was established in 1374 by king Boromma Rachathirat I, and featured a tall, tower-shaped structure (Prang), which is typical for Khmer temples, and was built to keep the sacred relics of Buddha.

Throughout the years, the main tower has collapsed and was restored several times. In the early 17th century, after the tower had fallen, it was rebuilt larger and taller (towering to 50 meters high). At the same time, additional structures and halls were built, and the temple remained as is until the early 20th century. In 1904, in the days of King Rama V, the main tower collapsed partially and continued to fall in 1911, in the days of King Rama VI. It was partially restored and what you see today is merely its symmetrical foundation with stairs from the 4 sides of what used to be a splendid royal tower, soaring to a 50 meters height.

One of the main attractions in the temple is the Bunyan tree, as between its roots you can see the head of Buddha sticking out, and most visitors enjoy taking their pictures there. This is also one of the famous pictures you’ll find in the different brochures and materials advertising Thailand. Wat Phra Mahathat

One of the common assumptions is that thieves who plundered the temple, have left the statue’s head buried in the tree, as they wanted to return later and take it. Over the years, the tree roots wrapped around the head from all sides as you can see today. Please keep in mind that this site is sacred to the Thai people so you should honor it and act accordingly.

When Ayutthaya was conquered, the temple was robbed and plundered by the Burmese, who also decapitated most of the Buddha heads on-site and set the place on fire. The place hasn’t been restored properly to this day and you need much imagination to envision how big and marvelous its relics once were.

My Opinion:  Historically, this was one of the most important, famous sites in Ayutthaya, but its destruction level is rather high. However, I still recommend visiting there to see the relics.

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