Saturday, we headed back to Ayutthaya to share this wonderful city with James’ dad! I mentioned in a previous post that this is one of my favorite cities in Thailand and this marked my third trip (in 9 months). Each trip, I discover at least one new Wat and always revisit my favorites, discovering new secrets each time.
This trip we started with Wat Yai Chaimongkhon, pictured above (by James).
Signage at the Wat explained that it was built to recognize King Naresuan the Great’s victory over Phra Maha Uparacha of Burma, in battle (on elephant back!), in 1592. While King Naresuan defeated the Burmese Crown Prince, he could not destroy the Burmese army because his own army was far behind. Furious, he wanted his commanders put to death, but the Supreme Patriarch (monk) persuaded him to build a large Chedi to celebrate the victory. Thus, the name of the Wat translates to the “Great Monastery of Auspicious Victory”.
The huge Chedi rises (I’d guesstimate) at least 4 or 5 stories and is a landmark outside of the main island. Your eyes are immediately drawn up to it upon arriving. A smaller detail that stuck out to our group were the bricks of the stairs though. They had deep groves, after hundreds of years of use and probably millions of visitors. James’ dad joked that they were probably no longer under warranty and we watched our footing as we went up and down the many sets of stairs.
The main set of stairs is flanked by two large Buddhas and leads up to a small room that contained many Buddha images. Upon entering, you could purchase gold leaf to put on the Buddhas. The gold leaf, no more than 2 centimeters square, is sandwiched between a sheet of paper. Next to the Buddhas sat large bags overflowing with these tiny pieces of paper, representing thousands. I was surprised that the Buddhas were not covered in gold leaf, given all the visitors, as the papers would suggest.
Gold leaf also decorated beams that stood around a deep chamber that dropped a couple of stories into the ground. It used to contain treasures and many people also dropped their gold sheet into this chamber too. The room was a tight squeeze with so many visitors so we took to another level giving a view of the grounds and surrounding city.
The square base of the chedi was mirrored with low walls decorated with many complete Buddhas. This wouldn’t be noteworthy unless you’ve visited the other Wats where there are predominately headless Buddhas, casualties from the invading Burmese army. These Buddhas are new though and contain the ashes of the dead, per this website.
On the other side of the stairs also stood a large (new) seated Buddha, surrounded by Disciples. And a long row of various hedges added some nice green to the grounds.
Leaving we passed a large reclining Buddha, although not as large as the one at Wat Pho, and headed across from the Wat to a shrine to King U-Thong.
A new large building enshrined a statue of the King, youthful, seated with a sword in one hand and pitcher in right hand. King U-Thong founded Ayutthaya as the capital of his Kingdom. An interesting fact, I learned from this website is it was named after the Hindu holy city Ayodhya, which is the birth city of the Hindu god Rama. He declared the official religion to be Buddhism though.
Most interesting is the THOUSANDS of rooster statues that decorate the grounds. Trying to clarify why they were here, our friend just told us he liked them. The roosters came in all sizes from about 8 feet tall to small ones about half a foot (or smaller). The sea of roosters that lined the road was definitely an interesting sight.
We walked the grounds for a few then headed off to share more of the sites with James’ dad, enjoying the cooler day and the city so rich in history.