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Sukhothai: The beginning of Siamese History

July 29, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email
The old town of Sukhothai in “Sayam” was founded in the 13th century at the time, when the Angkorian Empire was declining after the death of Jayavarman VII (1181-1220).

After the legendary Phra Ruang had defeated the Khmer overlord of the region and chased him out of the town, Po Khun Si Intharathit became the first king of Sukhothai, while his eldest son Ban Muang ruled at the twin city of Si Satchanalai . When he died, Po Khun Ban Muang succeeded to rule Sukhothai and it was his younger brother Pho Khun Ramkhamhaeng, who became the third king from 1279-1298. Ramkhamhaeng is best known for inventing a Thai script in 1283 that was derived from the Khmer (Inscription No.1). In 1294, King Ramkhamhaeng opened relations with China and then brought Chinese potters to Sukhothai and Si Satchanalai to produce a thriving ceramic industry.
Actually Sukhothai was built and constructed as a typical “mandala” with four cities as its fortresses: Phitsanulok in the east, Si Satchanalai (Chaliang) in the north, Tak in the west and Kamphaeng Phet (Nakhun Chum) in the south. The Royal Road or Phra Ruang Road was linking Si Satchanalai in the north to Kamphaeng Phet in the south. The river systems of the Ping, Wang, Yom and Nan functioned to keep contact with other towns and trade reached to Chiang Mai and Phayao in the north and Lopburi and Nakhon Si Thammarat in the south. Sankhalok and celadon wares were priceless products and exported as far away as to Indonesia and the Philippines . Only when the kingdom of Ayutthaya in the south was established in 1350, Sukhothai’s importance declined and lost its power in the middle of the 15th century.http://www.itehcmc.com/
After King Ramkhamhaeng there were the following kings:
  1. King Loe Thai (1298-1346): Established forest dwelling monks from Sri Lanka
  2. King Ngua Nam Thom (1346-1347)
  3. Mahathammaracha I or King Li Thai (1347-1368): Wrote the treatise Trai Phum Phra Ruang and commissioned to produce golden Buddha statues
  4. Mahathammaracha II (1368-1398): Built Wat Si Chum
  5. Mahathammaracha III (1398-1419)
  6. Mahathammaracha IV (1419-1438)
During the reign of King Trailok of Ayutthaya (1448-1488) Sukhothai became a province of the Ayutthaya Kingdom , which lasted until 1767. Finally, Rama I ordered the people of Sukhothai to establish a new city in the east of the old one and a great number of the bronze images of the old town were taken to Bangkok . Today Sukhothai is a provincial town along both sides of the Yom River within the 76 provinces of Thailand .
The walls of Old Sukhothai consist of three concentric banks of earth and the space in-between were used as moats. The northern and southern walls are 1,800 meters long, the eastern and western 1,400 meters long. The old town of Chiang Mai was laid out in a similar way in 1296 by King Mangrai and is still heavily populated until now.
There are four gates in the main directions and inside the town are some 20 remains of monasteries and four tanks or reservoirs. Another 70 temple or so sites lie within a five-kilometer radius outside the walls. Laterite was used for foundations and pillars, bricks for the walls and sacred monuments such as prang, or mondop, or chedi, which were all decorated with stucco ornaments. There are Khmer, Burmese, Chinese and Singhalese influences in architecture and art with the “Walking Buddha” as classical style of Sukhothai.
Wat Mahathat is in the center of the old town and was originally functioning as a royal graveyard. The important Phra Ruang Dam is in the mountainous west of the town and the water of the dam once kept the ponds and moats of the town full the entire year. In the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum nearby in the east of the town all the details are neatly shown.
Recommended reading:
Gosling, Betty
            1991                Sukhothai: Its History, Culture and Art. Singapore .
Griswold, A.B.
            1967                Towards a History of Sukhothai Art. Bangkok .
Khoksantiya , Mali
            1972                Guide to Old Sukhothai. Translated, Bangkok .
Rooney, Dawn F.
            2008                                Ancient Sukhothai: Thailand’s Cultural Heritage. Bangkok.
Wyatt, David K.
            1984                Thailand : A Short History. Chiang Mai.
Written by : Reinhard Hohler

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