December 23, 2015
The Buddha head wrapped in the roots of a Banyan Tree is undoubtedly Ayutthaya Historical Parks most famous land mark. It is located near the ruins of the ancient temple of Wat Mahathat, or the monastery of the Great Relic, originally thought to have been built in the 14th century (at the same time as England and France were engaged in their ‘100 year war,’ it was not rediscovered until the 1950’s
The once great temple of Wat Mahathat, served as the religious centre of the then Ayutthaya Kingdom, it was later destroyed and reduced to ruins in 1767 during the invasion of the Burmese army. Even though the vast majority of the Burmese people were Buddhist they still decapitated all the Buddha statues and carried most off as trophies.
The legend goes something on the lines that after the looting of the ancient city, the head was either too big to carry off or simply got left behind by the conquering army. During the following centuries the head was slowly engulfed by the roots of the tree which now holds it in its loving arms and is said to be a spiritual reminder of this once great Kingdom.
Ayutthaya Kingdom Brief introduction
Ayutthaya (อยุธยา) also spelled Ayudhya) was a Siamese kingdom that existed from 1351 to 1767. Around the Time of the Ottoman Empire was founded and the Black Death (bubonic plague) spread throughout Europe. (It is estimated that of a population of 75 million people, between 19 to 35 million died). It was also around this time that Chu Yuan-Chang, A Chinese Buddhist Monk Founds the Ming Dynasty
Ayutthaya had good trading links with foreign traders, including the Chinese, Vietnamese, Indians, Japanese and Persians, and later the Portuguese, Spaniards, Dutch and French, permitting them to set up villages outside the walls of the capital, also called Ayutthaya.
By 1550, the kingdom’s vassals included some city-states in the Malay Peninsula, Sukhothai, and parts of Cambodia. In foreign accounts, Ayutthaya was called Siam, but many sources say the people of Ayutthaya called themselves Tai, and their kingdom Krung Tai “The Tai country” (กรุงไท)
In the sixteenth century, it was described by foreign traders as one of the biggest and wealthiest cities in the East. The court of King Narai (1656–88) had strong links with that of King Louis XIV of France, whose ambassadors compared the city in size and wealth to Paris.
Foreign trade brought Ayutthaya not only luxury items but also new arms and weapons. In the mid-seventeenth century, during King Narai’s reign, Ayutthaya became very prosperous. In the eighteenth century, Ayutthaya gradually lost control over its provinces. Provincial governors exerted their power independently, and rebellions against the capital began
The ruins of the historic city of Ayutthaya and “associated historic towns” in the Ayutthaya historical park have been listed by the UNESCO as World Heritage Site. The city of Ayutthaya was re-founded near the old city, and is now the present capital of the Ayutthaya province.
The Demise of the Ayutthaya Kingdom
In 1765, Burmese armies invaded the territories of Ayutthaya from the north and west. Major outlying towns quickly capitulated. After a 14 months’ siege, the city of Ayutthaya capitulated and was burned in April 1767. Its art treasures, the libraries containing its literature, and the archives housing its historic records were almost totally destroyed along with the Kingdom of Ayutthaya. The Burmese rule lasted a mere few months, when the Chinese forces threatened their own capital and they had to withdraw to defend it.
With most Burmese forces gone and the local forces in disarray, one general, Phraya Taksin, former governor of Taak, began the reunification effort. He gathered the remaining forces and began striking back at the Burmese. He finally established a capital at Thonburi, across the Chao Phraya from the present capital, Bangkok. Taak-Sin ascended the throne, becoming known as King Taak-Sin or Taksin. The first ruler of the Thonburi Kingdom
Map of Southeast Asia circa 1400 CE, showing Khmer Empire in red, Ayutthaya Kingdom in violet, Lan Xang kingdom in teal, Sukhothai kingdom in orange, Champa in yellow, Kingdom of Lanna in purple, Dai Viet in blue and surrounding states. sources http://ecaimaps.berkeley.edu/animations/2003_03_khmer_animation.swf
Pictures from Wikipedia