Buddhist Towers with Remains of Kings : The Historic City of Ayutthaya and Associated Historic Towns

This is the ancient city of Ayutthaya in Thailand. The city thrived as capital of the Ayutthaya Kingdom for some 400 years from the mid-14th century. Ayutthaya is located alongside the Chao Phraya river about 100 kilometres north from its estuary. The city flourished as a safe haven, far away from sea pirates.

This is a map of Ayutthaya published in the Netherlands during the 17th century. The city is situated on an island about 4 square kilometres in area at the confluence of three rivers. It served as a strategic point for river transportation and also distributing goods.

33 successive kings of the Ayutthaya Kingdom deified themselves and reigned powerfully over the people. Within this ruined temple complex stand some towers resembling Indian Stupa. Stupa are towers housing the remains of Buddha, however these three towers house the remains of three Ayutthayan kings.

Successive kings considered erecting temples as part of their duty and felt the need to construct as many temples as possible. About 400 temples were built by this dynasty. People worshiped the Buddhist towers housing the remains of their kings. Buddhism was used to control the people spiritually and Kings proclaimed that they were as divine as Buddha.

Ayutthaya thrived under the reign of deified kings, its convenient location attracting many foreign ships. The city soon became a centre for international trade. Unique Buddhist art also developed here. The strong power of the Kings being portrayed through the use of Buddhist statues. All of the seated statues here have their right hands pointing downward. It is a gesture to drive off evil spirits, known as Go-main. The statues have a unified style and identical posture. It suggests that the Kings had control over the expression in Buddhist art. Most of the standing Buddhist statues hold their hands up at shoulder level. For kings who intended to unify god and royalty, these statues represent not only Buddha but also themselves.

In the Ayutthayan period, they did not make portraits of their kings as they do nowadays. Instead Kings made statues of Buddha, as they believed that they were as virtuous as Buddha. During its heyday, Ayutthaya was known as a world-class trading city but was plundered and completely destroyed in an attack by the Burmese in 1767.

All glories must fade a Buddhist proverb that applied also to this glorious Kingdom where Kings once divinized themselves as Buddha. A marvellous creation of nature formed through the mists of time. Buddha is smiling gently.

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