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 this wat is located on the site of
his former home. The reason for building this monastery was to make merit for
his mother. The historian Princre Damrong Rachanuphap noted that its
architecture was similar to that of Angkor Wat and inferred that the Wat might
have been built to commemorate the kings victory over cambodia.
This Wat consists of a main prang (Khmer-type
tower) and four lesser prangs, all built on the same base and surrounded by
eight lesser prangs and a gallery.
Along the gallery were placed 120 gilt 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 erlief 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 indented chedis, four additional small
chedis and a small prang that were built in a later period. With the exception
of the gallery, all the buildings in the courtyard of the monastery were
encircled by three walls.
The main prang, which stands 35 meters high, was
in the early ayutthaya sytle. The four lesser prangs, however, are in the style
of King Prasattong. They have seven levels. The form of the eight lesser prangs
might hamve been taken from the shape of a royal cremation tower in the
Ayutthaya period. This Thai type of tower represents Mt. Meru, the center of
Wat Chaiwatthanaram was a royal monastery. It was
a wat where the king and his descendants would perform religious rites; thus
renovation would have been continuous. It was also used as a cremation site for
princes, princesses, and other members of 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 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.
Her Majesty Queen Sirikit had the Tumnak
Siriyalai Palace built across the river from Wat Chaiwatthanaram.