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Photography - Thai Sculpture - Wat Mahathat 023

Thai sculpture and painting, and the royal courts provided patronage, erecting temples and other religious shrines as acts of merit or to commemorate important events.

Thai Art (Thai Sculpture) :

Traditional Thai art is primarily composed of Buddhist art and scenes from the Indian epics. Traditional Thai sculpture almost exclusively depicts images of the Buddha, being very similar with the other styles from Southeast Asia, such as Khmer. Traditional Thai paintings usually consist of book illustrations, and painted ornamentation of buildings such as palaces and temples. Thai art was influenced by indigenous civilizations of the Mon and Khmer. By the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya period, thai art had developed into its own unique style and was later further influenced by the other Asian styles, mostly by Sri Lankan and Chinese. Thai sculpture and painting, and the royal courts provided patronage, erecting temples and other religious shrines as acts of merit or to commemorate important events.

Wat Mahathat :

Wat Mahathat or the Monastery of the Great Relic is located on the ancient city island in the central part of Ayutthaya in Tha Wasukri sub-district. The temple is situated on the corner of the present Chikun Road and Naresuan Road. The monastery of the Great Relic stood on the west bank of Khlong Pratu Khao Pluak, an important canal, which has been filled up somewhere in the early 20th century.

In ancient times the temple was likely fully surrounded by canals and moats. The structure has been registered as a national historic site by the Fine Arts Department on 8 March 1935 and is part of the Ayutthaya World Heritage Historical Park.

The exact date of the establishment of Wat Mahathat is difficult to assess. The Luang Prasoet version of the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya put its construction in 736 Chula Sakarat or 1374 of the Christian Era, during the reign of King Borommaracha I (r. 1370-1388), somehow 23 years after the establishment of Ayutthaya. The chronicles mention that the central prang had a height of 46 meter. Later versions of the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya state that Wat Mahathat was established by King Ramesuan (r. 1388-1395) after his attack of Chiang Mai in 1384 (746 CS). But this date is not corroborating with his period of reign.

In general, historians bet on the two horses and take as granted that the construction of the monastery was started by King Borommaracha I and completed in King Ramesuan’s reign. In the second version the prang was 38 meter high with on top, a finial of 6 meter.

An earlier source, Jeremias Van Vliet, a chief merchant of the Dutch East India Company in Ayutthaya, wrote in his Short History of the Kings of Siam in 1640, that it was Prince U-Thong, the later King Ramathibodhi I, who built Wat Mahathat. The chronicles mention that King Borommaracha II (r. 1424-1448) attacked Angkor in 1431 and had a large number of sacred images of oxen, lions and other creatures removed from the temples there. These images were brought to Ayutthaya and installed as offerings at Wat Mahathat.

Wat Mahathat was one of the most important monasteries of the Ayutthaya kingdom, not only because it was the religious centre and enshrined relics of the Buddha, but also because of its proximity to the Grand Palace. It was a royal monastery and the seat of the Supreme Patriarch of the City Dwelling sect till the end of the Ayutthaya period – at par with the Supreme Patriarch of the Forest Dwelling sect, which had its seat at Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon (called Wat Pa Kaeo in earlier times). Van Vliet wrote in 1638 in his Description of the Kingdom of Siam that from the highest ecclesiastic regents, namely the four bishops of the principal temples of Judia, “The bishop of the Nappetat has the supreme dignity”.

More photos Wat Mahathat here.

Our group trip photos in Instagram.

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