Historical Park in Sukhothai
The Text below is from the brouchure the Sukhothai Historic Park officer hands out with every entrance ticket to the park.
Around the middle of the 13th century A.D.. a town named Sukhothai was founded. According to the stone inscription found at Wat Si Chum. a Khmer warrior named Sabat Khlon Lamphong besieged Sukhothai after the death of Pho Khun Si Nao Nam Thom. its first ruler. Pho Khun Pha Muang who was a ruler of Muang Rat and a son of Pho Khun Si Nao Nam Thom. joined forces with Pho Khun Bang Klang Hao. his comrade, in driving away the enemy. Pho Khun Pha Muang then gave his comrade the Sword of Victory and also the title of Si Inthrabodinthrathit and consecreated him as Pho Khun Si Inthrathit. a ruler of Sukhothai and the founder of Sukhothai dynasty.
Sukhothai grew prosperously and stretched far and wide in the reign of Pho Khun Ramkhamhaeng. the third king and a son of Pho Khun Si Inthrathit. Through his courageous victory over the enemy. Sukhothai extended as far as Phrae. Nan and Vientiane. He also introduced Theravada Buddhism which was prevalent in Nakhon Si Thammarat into hiskingdom.
The cultural foundation of Sukhothai was laid by ho Khun Ramkhamhaeng who upheld Buddhism and supported the arts. He created for the first time the Thai alphabet. He gathered different principalities under his control. He was a powerful king who applied the teachings of Lord Buddha in ruling his Kingdom in peace and prosperity.
The security and stability of Sukhothai were built undeniably through the charisma of Pho Khun Ramkhanhaeng. Without him, the Kingdom of Sukhothai became weaker. A number of principalities liberated themselves and declare their independence.
According to the stone inscription, in 1347 A.D. Phra Maha Thammaracha Li Thai. Pho Khun Ramkhamhaeng's grandson who ruled over Si Satchanalai, led his troops marching into Sukhothai and killed the enemy. Ascending the throne he finally brought back unity in his Kingdom.
During the reign of Phra Maha Thammaracha Li Thai. the King expanded his territory in all directions. He. at the same time. fostered Buddhism. He invited to his kingdom Venerable Phra Maha Sami from Nakhon Phan, asouthern Burmese town where Theravada Buddhism was flourishing. With deep faith in Buddhism. he himself entered the monkhood in 1362 A.D.
Phra Maha Thammaracha Li Thai was a king of great competence. He composed a religious writing known as Trai Phum Phra Ruang. By his command. a bronze image of Buddha was made to be enshrined at Wat Mahathat This Buddha image was later called "Laung Pho To" by Sukhothai people during the early Rattanakosin period and was removed. by the
command of King Rama I. to be installed in the Royal Chapel of Wat Suthat Thepwararam in Bangkok. The name. Phra Si Sakaya Muni. was finally given to this Buddha image by King Rama II.
Fifty years after the death of Phra Maha Thammaracha Li Thai around 1370 - 1371 A.D. : later kings who were the descendants of Phra Maha Thammaracha Li Thai reigned over Sukhothai under the influence of the Suphannaphum dynasty of Ayutthaya. Through intermarriage between members of the two dynasties. penetration into aristocratic system and exertion of fources : the Ayutthaya kings made every effort to gradually dominate over Sukhothai and they finally did it. In 1438 A.D. the king of Ayutthaya sent his son whose mother was a Sukhothai princess to rule over the nothern region at Pitsanulok as Maha Uparat (viceroy). Sukhothai then became part of the northern region which was annexed to the Ayutthaya Kingdom.
The Town Wall
According to the stone inscription. the town wall of Sukhothai was mentioned as Tribun. It has a rectangular layout and is 1,300 metres wide and 1.800 metres long. To defend Sukhothai against enemy attack. two outer earthen ramparts and an inner wall of earthen structure covered with laterite were built with moats in between serving as channels to carry away water for flood prevention. A town gate and defensive tower were constructed in the middle of each side of the wall.
Situated in the heart of the town, this significant temple is believed to be the place where Lord Buddha's Relics has been enshrined. Its main chedi in lotus bud shape characterizes the typical style of Sukhothai art. Presumably, the main stupa was originally constructed in prasat shape like the style of those surrounding on its four sides. Located between the north and south of the principle chedi. a standing Buddha image of 9 metres in height is believed to be Phra Attharot as mentioned in Stone Inscription I.
There is a group of stupas situated to the south of the main chedi. At its centre stands the one with five spires. second to the main chedi in size. According to the inscription on golden palm leaf, it is believed that the relics of Phra Maha Thammaracha Li Thai has been placed in this stupa
It was formerly believed that the Palace of Sukhothai had been located on the brick base known as Noen Prasat in front of Wat Mahathat. But the excavation of this ancient monument undertaken twice by the Fine Arts Department could not give any evidence to verify the said supposition. Morever. an old map in the reign of King Rama V of the Rattanakosin period indicates that Noen Prasat is remains of the building pertaining to Wat Mahathat.
Based on the stone inscription found at Wat Sorasak and a study conducted in comparison with the layout of a Khmer palace in Angkor Thom, the palace of Sukhothai is likely to be located to the north of Ta Pha Daeng shrine and to the west of Wat Sorasak
Ta Pha Daeng Shrine
Situated within the town wall adjacent to the northern town gate, this shrine was built in Khmer style during Angkor Wat period (1107 - 1157 A.D.). Several god and goddess images carved from stone were found in situ. These stone images are now displayed at the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum in Changwat Sukhothai. This ancient monument serves as evidence for the embrace of Khmer culture during the early Sukhothai period.
Wat Si Sawai
Important ancient monuments in this temple include three Khmer-style cornshaped stupas situated to the south of Wat Mahathat. Fragments of images of Hindu gods found in situ and a Siva image enshrined in the porch of the second stupa in the middle indicate that these ancient monuments were associated with Hinduism and Saivaism. This Hindu sanctuary was afterwards transformed into a Buddhism temple by adding a wihan to its front.
Monuments outside the Town Wall
In the west of Sukhothai. there is a row of hills known as the Prathak hill range stretching out as far as the eye can see and forming a beautiful background. This range of hills abundant in vegetation of all kinds including herbs also serves as a receptacle for rainwater. Out of local wisdom of the Sukhothai period, this ancient earthwork of large size was constructed between two hills. namely Khao Kiew Ai Ma and Khao Phra Bat Yai in order to carry water into canals for irrigation and water supply in Sukhothai. This earthen dike is believed to be mentioned in Stone Inscription I as Saritphong. According to the said stone inscription. water from Saritphong was brought along a southwestern canal named Sao Ho into the town. At present. in cooperation with the Fine Arts Department. Saritphong has been developed by the Royal Irrigation Department to retain water up to
400.000 cubic metres.
Wat Saphan Hin
Situated on the mound of 200 metres high. this temple is wellnown for a standing Buddha image of large m
size as was mentioned in Stone Inscription I. "In the heart of the forest Aranvik. there is a beautiful larae wihan. a Buddha image called Attharot in standing posture...". Wat Saphan Hin is supposed to be the temple where Pho Khun Ramkhamhaeng went on a white elephant named Ruchakhiri to worship a Buddha image every Buddhist Sabbath day. An ascent of 300 metres long from the foot of the mound to the temple was built and paved with stone from which the name of the temple derived
Wat Pa Mamuang
Situated in the west of Sukhothai, this temple was mentioned in several stone inscriptions of the Sukhothai period. Stone Inscription VI found at this temple refers to the importance of the temple as a place where Phra Maha Thammaracha was ordained as a priest in 1362 A.D. .
At present, buildings in the temple include the ordination hall and chedis. The temple is not far away from Thewalai Mahakaset where bronze images of Hindu gods like Vishnu. Siva and Brahma in Sukhothai style were found.
Wat Tra Phang Thong Lang
This ancient monument is well known for stuccoes reliefs decorated on three sides of the wall of its mondop.
These reliefs. made by local craftsmen of Sukhothai under the influence of Ceylonese style during the period of Polonnaruwa. depict the story of Lord Buddha. The northern side deals with an episode of Lord Princess Pimpa. his wife, the southern side depicts Lord Bud¬dha descending from heaven af¬ter preaching his mother and the western side deals with Lord Buddha preaching his father and the Sakayawong clan.
Wat Phra Phai Luang
Located adjacent to the outer rampart wall of Sukhothai, this ancient temple bears evidence of the evolution of art and architecture during the Sukhothai period. Important ancient monuments in this temple include 3 prasat style buildings. Two of them are still in existence. Stuccoes reliefs found in situ are similar to those decorated on the southern porch at the main stupa of Wat Mahathat in Lop Buri. All these serve as evidence for the diffusion of Khmer influence through Lop Buri.
Evidence found in this chedi points to the fact that new chedis were rebuilt in different periods of time to replace the To the east of these prasats of Khmer style is situated a chedi in pyramid shape with a superimposed receding porch on every side. This chedi was built in the same style as a chedi of Wat Ku Kut in Changwat Lamphun