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Wat Chaiwatthanaram

Wat Chaiwatthanaram, one of the most imposing ancient Buddhist monasteries, was established by the command of King Prasatthong in 1630 A.D.. It is believed that the wat is located on the site of his former home. The reason for his building this monastery was to make merit for his mother. Prince Damrong Rachanuphap noted that its architecture was similar to that of Angkor Wat and infered that the wat might have been built to commemorate the king's victory over Cambodia.

This wat consists of a main prang (Khmer type tower) and four lesser prangs, all created on the same base and surrounded by eight lesser prangs and a gallery.

Along the gallery were placed 120 glit lacquered Buddha images in the attitude of maravijaya, or Victory over Mara, the Evil one. Within the eight lesser prangs there are twelve crowned Buddha images. The ceiling of each alcove under each prang was made of wood and was decorated with gilded star-like patterns on black lacquer. Walls inside have mural paintings while the outside walls were adorned with twelve stucco relief depicting stories from the life of the Buddha. The ubosatha (ordination hall) was located in an area outside the gallery and to the east of the main prang. On the left and right side of the ubosatha are two redented chedis. Four additional small chedis and a small prang were built in a later period. With the exception of the gallery, all the buildings in the courtyard of the monastery were encircled by there walls.

The main prang is in the early Ayutthaya style. The four lesser prangs, however, are in the style of King Prasattong. They have seven levels. The form of eight lesser prangs might have been taken from the shape of a royal cremation tower in the Ayutthaya period. Thai type of tower represents Mt. Meru, the center of universe.

Wat Chaiwatthanaram was a royal monastery. It is a wat where the king and his descendants would perform religious rites; thus removation would have been continuous. It was also used as a cremation site for the princes, princesses, and the royal family. When prince Thammathibet died, for instance, King Borommakot decreed that an area in the wat be used as the site for his cremation.

In 1767 A.D., Ayutthaya, the capital city of Thailand, was besieged by Burmese invaders and the wat became an army camp. After the fall of Ayutthaya, Wat Chaiwatthanaram was abandoned, Looting, the decapitation of Buddha images, and the selling of brick from the wat became common practices. Finally in 1987 A.D. the conservation of the wat was begun by the Thai Fine Arts Department and was Completed in 1992 A.D.

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