Wat Maha That is believed to be one of Ayutthaya’s oldest temples and is thought to have been built by King Boromaraja I around 1370 to 1388 A. D. It is located on the city island in the central part of Ayutthaya and is also called the Monastery of the Great Relic.
The points of interest in Wat Maha That include remains of important buildings such as the Royal Hall, prangs, chedis, small temples, but the most famous attraction is the head of the Buddha entwined with a tree’s roots.
The most prominent structure in the temple is the Royal Hall. At the end of the hall is a very well preserved stone Buddha in front of a prang. On each side of the Buddha are rows of stone Buddha that have been damaged. Photos of the Royal Hall are shown below.
A prang is a tall tower that were common in Buddhist architecture in the Khmer Empire. Prangs normally were covered with elaborate carvings. There are several prangs in the temple and the prang behind the Buddha at the Royal Hall is shown in the photo below
There are many stone Buddha throughout the temple but most of them have sustained significant damage over the years. One of the best preserved Buddha is seen in the photos below.
The most famous site in Wat Maha That is the Buddha head entwined with the tree roots of a Banyan Tree. No one knows how the head came to rest near the tree but this phenomenon happened during the period when the temple was abandoned and overgrown. The tree grew around the Buddha head creating an awe-inspiring image that will probably be the most lasting memory of visiting Wat Maha That.
There are many Chedis within the temple but three (3) stood out the most to me mainly because of the architecture at the top.
The first has a smooth bell shaped section with five (5) rings above and topped with a long cylinder.
The second has a section with flat surfaces on four (4) sides with twelve (12) rings above and it is also topped with a long cylinder.
The third seems to have had a smooth bell shaped section topped with a multi-ring spire supported by small columns.
Other structures in the temple
There are many other structures around the complex that are interesting to check-out. Most of these are showing wear from the years of when the temple was abandoned but they are fascinating to see so I have included some photos from around the complex.
Wat Maha That is a historic site for Ayutthaya and for Thailand. Most of the plaster that originally covered the brick structure is gone but there is enough remaining that it is easy to visualize how the temple looked during its initial construction.
The Buddha head in the Banyan Tree roots is by far the most lasting memory of my visit to this temple. This unintended event created by nature makes a powerful statement. This is just one of several places in my travels where I have seen nature reclaim places that were abandoned by people.
Visiting historic places that are in mint condition is a wonderful experience but visiting historic places that show their scars of time can be equally meaningful and they are usually less crowded.