Between Bangkok and Chiang Mai is an ancient Thai capital full of ruins and evidence of its one-time glory as the Kingdom’s capital. The ancient city of Sukhothai was the first unified kingdom of Siam and was founded in 1238. Prior to this the area was governed by the Khmer empire of Angkor. The Sukhothai kingdom lasted for 200 years and then became part of the Ayutthaya.
The capital of the Sukhothai kingdom is now call the Old Sukhothai Historical Park. The park covers 27 square miles and is divide into 5 zones. The central zone is the largest and the focus of this post.
The central zone is protected by a mote and contains 21 temples that are scattered among ponds, canals, trees and green areas. In this post I will highlight only the 3 main temples.
1. Wat (Temple) Mahathat
The greatest temple in the central zone is Wat Mahathat and it is located in the heart of the central zone. This temple contains multiple buildings including several stupas, multiple Buddha and an assembly hall. The buildings and other structures that are within Wat Mahathat are defined in the following sections.
Chedi Prathan is the largest building in the Wat Mahathat complex with the tallest structure and several smaller structures surrounding it. This building is shown in the center of the photo below.
On the sides of this structure are many Buddha statues with some setting and others standing. These statues are shown in the two pictures below.
A stupa is a Buddhist commemorative monument that normally houses sacred Buddhist relics or the burial location of saintly person. There are many stupas in the complex and several are shown in the three photos below.
Vihan Soong is an ubosot with set of columns and a large setting Buddha that is still being worshiped as evidenced in the photo below.
The following 3 photos provide a better view of the details of this Buddha.
A Phra is a statue of a meditating Buddha and an Ubosot is building in a Buddhist Wat that contains a Buddha and is considered to be the holiest prayer room. So Phra Ubosot would have been the holiest place in Wat Mahathat. Although the building is gone, the Buddha still remains.
Phra Attharot is actually two 12-meter tall standing Buddha that are placed on each side of Chedi Prathan. The one in the picture below is on the right side and the one shown in the first photo is standing on the left side.
Chedi Hayod is a five tiered pagoda with setting Buddha on two sides. The first three photos show the pagoda and the surrounding structures. Then the following photos provide a better look at the two Buddha.
2. Wat Si Sawai
Wat Si Sawai is the smallest of the three temples that I am featuring. This temple looks out of place with its surrounding. There are a couple of reasons that this temple looks different:
1. It is the oldest temple built in Sukhothai and was built before the Kingdom of Sukhothai.
2. It was originally built by the Khmer as a Hindu sanctuary dedicated to Shiva.
The temples most distinguishing feature are its three prangs (towers) that are highly carved with various images.
3. Wat Sa Si
Wat Sa Si is located on a small island in the middle of a small lake filled with lotus flowers. This setting makes Wat Sa Si one of the most attractive temples in the Sukhothai Historical Park.
This temple is relatively small and consists of two stupas, an ubosot with a setting Buddha and a Sukhothai style walking Buddha.
The principle stupa is a bell shaped with a decorative pointed top and the second stupa is much smaller and sets on a square base.
The ubosot is located in front of the principle stupa with the stupa behind the setting Buddha.
King Ramkhamhaeng Statue
Just outside Wat Sa Si is a statue of King Ramkhamhaeng. He was the third ruler of the ancient Sukhothai kingdom and ruled from 1278 to 1298. One of his major achievements was the compilation of a new Thai alphabet which was adapted from the various forms of Khmer script and is essentially the same which is used in Thailand today.
Status of King Ramkhamhaeng often show him holding a stone tablet because of his association with education. This is the case with the statue at Sukhothai which can be seen in the second picture below.