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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrWat Chaiwatthanaram is one of the most impressive temples in ancient Ayutthaya. Its literal meaning is “the temple of long reign and glorious era.”
Wat Chaiwatthanaram was built as a memorial for King Thong’s mother. There is an underlying political story behind it. When Prasat Thong ’s mother died, he invited the previous king, King Chetthathirat’s top advisers, to attend the funeral. The King had also scheduled a gathering at the same time as the funeral service, and he became furious when none of his advisors showed up. He blamed Prasat Thong and waged war against him. In the end, Prasat Thong won the battle and overthrew the King, and he was proclaimed king instead. And his first undertaking as king was to build the Wat. The temple has become a place for religious ceremonies, including cremations and burials of princes and princesses.
The Wat is composed of a central “prang”, or spire, that is 35 meters high. Smaller spires sit at its immediate four corners. At the outer perimeter walls, there is a total of eight “chedis”, or stupas, standing at the corners and at the sides. The exterior walls illustrate the life of Buddha through relief sculptures, while the interior walls are adorned with paintings. The chedis were originally painted gold and black, and inside them are statues of Buddhas, which are now chipped off and crumbled. As one of Thailand’s more valuable and eminent landmarks, thousands of tourists visit it every year.
Though rustic and deteriorating, Wat Chaiwatthanaram is still an inspiring sight to see. The lush landscape complements the reddish color of the temple buildings. For centuries until today, it is still considered a place for spiritual contemplation and reflection.
Temple ConstructionThe construction period of the Wat reached almost 20 years before it was finally completed. The layout is based on the Buddhist principle called “the three worlds of the King Ruang”, or “Traiphum Phra Ruang”. The tallest “prang” at the center is equivalent to Mount Meru or the center of the universe. The four smaller “prang” at the corners represent the four directions of the sea world. The eight “chadis” at the perimeter stands for the Iron Mountains.
UNESCO World Heritage SiteThe building of the temple was started under the command of King Prasat Thong in 1630. Its architecture has a great resemblance with that of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, which was the seat of the Khmer Empire. The city of Ayutthaya was, around seven centuries ago, prosperous since it was the capital city of Siam, from 1350 until 1767. It is 80 kilometers away from the new capital city, Bangkok. However, the physical structure of the temple was degraded after the city was attacked by the Burmese army. It was only in 1987 when repairs and preservation efforts were implemented by the Department of Fine Arts. And in 1991, it was defined as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Meanwhile, in 2011, Thailand was hit by a strong typhoon causing flooding and it damaged the Wat even more. UNESCO has taken efforts to repair and restore the Wat after that occurrence and portions of the complex have been closed off as they are unsafe and unstable.
How to Get ThereOne can approach the temple as it was done in historical tradition, and that is by riding a boat along the Chao Phraya River from the Chankasem Palace. If land travel is preferred, one can rent a Tuk-tuk or a three-wheeler motorcycle from downtown. If travelling by Sky Train, get off at Victory Monument Station and then ride a mini-van for ฿120 ($3.72). Travel time will take around one and a half hours.
The best time to visit is during the afternoon to late afternoon. Wait for the sunset because it is a beautiful backdrop when taking photos of the shrine's ruins. The temple is open daily from 7:30 AM to 6:00 PM and the entrance fee is only ฿50 ($1.55) at the northern entrance while the southern entrance is free.
Read about the site beforehand to appreciate its history and carry around a guide book or printouts. Tourists can hire a tour guide to make the trip more informative and interesting.
Restaurants are also situated along the riverside, offering a view of the temple as well as other pleasant sceneries. A “clean food” mark certifies a restaurant for good quality.
Nearby LandmarksNearby landmarks, other famous attractions in Ayutthaya, include the Ayutthaya Historical Park, Wat Phra Mahthat, Bang Pa-In Palace, Tevaraj-Kanlai Gate, and the Elephant Village.
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Author: LisaN505. Last updated: Jan 12, 2015