Sunday, June 13, 2010

Item From the Past: Wat Yai Chai Mongkol

Here's hoping the Thais find political stability at long last, but not at the cost of their liberty. Too much of the former without the latter equals Burma, just to name a neighbor for whom government is a cruel master.

Speaking of Burma, 16 years ago this month we visited Ayutthaya Historic Park, Thailand. The connection might not be obvious unless you know that in 1767, a Burmese army destroyed the city of Ayutthaya, which marked the end of the Siamese kingdom whose capital had been Ayutthaya. It was a teeming and wealthy place in its heyday, holding sway over much of southeast Asia for centuries.

Its ruins endure, helped along by restoration in the late 20th century. It's a fairly large place with much to see under the tropical sun. Perhaps that's why Buddha reclines.

Remarkably, more-or-less agrees with me, asserting that "if supporting the head of the Buddha, the image denotes that the Buddha is resting." Otherwise, he's "entered into nirvana." Since my knowledge of Buddhist iconography is pretty much on par with my understanding of particle physics, I'll leave it at that. In any case, that's the reclining Buddha at Wat Yai Chai Mongkol in Ayutthaya.

Discovery Thailand says, "Built by King U Thong (Ayutthaya’s first ruler) in 1357, the temple... has a large chedi that dominates the skyline. The chedi was built in 1592 to celebrate King Naresuan’s single-handed defeat of the then Burmese Crown Prince after an elephant-back duel.

"The size of the chedi was intended to match that of Phu Khao Thong – a Pagoda purportedly built by the Burmese which is visible in the distance from the temple."

The Thais and the Burmese have long been mixing it up, it seems. It's what neighbors do (sometimes with war elephants, no less). Chedi is Thai for stupa, and the one at Wat Yai Chai Mongkol is impressive indeed, whether or not it was in competition with a Burmese edifice.

More pics of the temple, and more recent ones, are at this site.

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