This is Wat Mahathat or Temple of the Great Relic, a Buddhist temple situated in Ayutthaya, Central Thailand which is one of the sites that form part of Ayutthaya Historical Park. It sits east of the former Royal Palace at Pratu Chai sub-district & about 80km north of Bangkok City.
Ayutthaya Historical Park spans 289ha & covers the ruins of the old city of Ayutthaya, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Province of Thailand. It was inscribed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.
This Octagonal Chedi (Pagoda) is located in the east of the temple complex. It is made of brick & mortar built in 4 layers sitting on a square base with 20 indented corners. The first 3 layers had decorative stucco of divine figures whilst the 4th layer was embellished by miniature Prangs (pagodas) interspersed with Brahma stucco. At the very top sat a bronze Stupa which is currently on display at the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum. The Chedi’s architectural style & stucco reflects the influence of Lanna Art.
In 1969 the Fine Arts Department started restoration works of the ruins but only concerted efforts were made when it was declared a historical park in 1976. It came under UNESCO protection in 1991 as it was an excellent witness to the period of development of a true national Thai art.
Blocks of stone torsos amidst a pile of debris, which would probably piece together to form buddha statues.
Remnants of a Vihara (Hall of Worship) with the legs of a buddha sitting in Padmasana (Lotus position) in contemplative meditation. Right behind it, is a Chedi, an alternative name of a Buddhist stupa used mainly in Thailand.
The city of Ayutthaya was founded in 1351 by King Ramathibodi. Many valuable & artistic objects were destroyed during the sacking of Ayutthaya by the Burmese Army in 1767
& the royal temple was tragically set afire. 35 kings ruled during the existence of the Ayutthaya kingdom. Seen here is another Vihara (Hall of Worship) with several Prangs (typical South East Asian temple spires) close by.
The Royal Vihara (Royal Sermon Hall) was a brick & mortar building situated at the east of the Main Prang on the same axis line. The end of the hall is connected to the Cloisters. Presently, only the platform & the southern wall remains.
Rectangular holes run perpendicular to the wall at intervals, making them look like the wall’s rails. They are decorated by square flower-shaped sculptures making them known as “square flower-shaped balustrade”, an architectural style used in the Early-Middle Ayutthaya period.
This is perhaps the most photographed & fascinating sight at Wat Mahathat. The sandstone Buddha head fell to the ground & got trapped in the roots of the constantly growing Bodhi tree. Do capture a selfie or wefie but be sensitive to their religious & cultural practices; sit or squat on the platform do not stand before it as a sign of respect. This sculpture with a rather flat & wide facial structure, thick eyebrows, big eyelids, straight wide lip with a discernible lip edge reflects the art of Middle Ayutthaya period around the mid 1600s.
This is what is left of the Main Prang (Stupa) which is constructed mainly out of Laterite stone which is a soil & rock type rich in aluminium & high iron oxide content giving it a reddish hue. After the Burmese attack in 1767, the Pagoda fell to decay during the reign of King Rama VI leaving only the symmetrical base with the 4 staircases.
The roofed Cloister comprised of 2 walls surrounding the Main Prang or Stupa.. Buddha statues along the outer walls all face the Main Prang which was in stylised Khmer architecture.
The Main Prang or Main Pagoda was made of Laterite bricks & mortar. Brick work at the base suggests that the stairs led to porches facing the cardinal directions. According to the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya these porches were added during renovations carried out in 1633 during King Prasat Thong’s reign.
The pagoda is surrounded by low walls which connected it to the Royal Vihara (Sermon Hall) & the Ubosot (Ordination Hall) in the architectural style of the Early Ayutthaya Period (1351-1491).
The Main Pagoda survived until the reign of King Rama V in the Rattananakosin Period as seen in a photograph taken during his reign (1868-1910). The Pagoda collapsed in 1911 during the reign of King Rama VI.
Wat Mahathat which was built during the Early Ayutthaya period was of significant importance & it was extended & renovated several times. Porticoes were added to the Main Prang (Main Pagoda) with supplementary, straggly smaller stupas of various sizes interspersing the bigger Chedi’s in the closing years of the Ayutthaya period.
In spite of the degradation, the beauty of Wat Mahathat is not in the least diminished.
3-D Jigsaw puzzles?
Wat Mahathat followed the Khmer concept of a Temple Mountain consisting of a central tower surrounded by 4 corner towers forming a quincunx usually surrounded by a courtyard & a gallery. The Main Prang rose up to 46m in height.
View of the Rahieng Khot ( Gallery) where Buddha statues with big & peculiar robes, stout bodies in Bayon style with sharp chins considered to be from before the Sukhothai period. Some experts think that they were possibly looted from Angkor or modelled from Khmer war loot.
The Wat Mahathat has the main entrance facing the East, similar in formal approach to Hindu shrines. This was in keeping with Khmer architecture which was heavily influenced by the Hindu belief that a temple must be built correctly according to a mathematical system in order to function harmonious with the universe.
The sanctuary or abode of gods was built in the centre of the city with the town layout in a square, corresponding with the Mandala concept which indicated the boundaries of the universe.
This is a model of the entire Wat Mahathat temple complex with the Main Prang rising 46m right in the centre.

The scorching sun & blistering heat is something that bothers me greatly but I slathered on the sunblock, put on my shades & wide brimmed hat just so I could see Wat Mahathat.

There are countless temples in Ayutthaya itself but this was the one that left the deepest impression on me. The once resplendent royal temple has unfortunately been devastated but wandering around the ruins still gives one a sense of the grand scheme of things & the serenity that pervades!

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