Thursday, January 27, 2011

Phra Chedi Sisuriyothai - Ayutthaya

Somdet Phra Sri Suriyothai (Thai: สมเด็จพระศรีสุริโยทัย) was a royal consort during the 16th century Ayutthaya period of Siam (now Thailand). She is famous for having given up her life in the defense of her husband, King Maha Chakkraphat in a battle during the Burmese-Siamese War of 1548.
Somdet Phra (สมเด็จพระ) is her queenly rank; Sri (ศรี), pronounced and often transcribed Si, is an honorific. Her given name Suriyothai (สุริโยทัย) means Dawn. It is a compound of Suriya, from Sanskrit surya SUN; plus Uthai from udaya RISING, a cognate of Aurora and Ushas.
Suriyothai was queen during the early part of the reign of King Maha Chakkraphat (2091 to 2106 Buddhist Era, with another reign from 2111 to 2112 B.E.). In 1548 AD, barely six months into King Maha Chakkraphat's reign, the King of Burma invaded Siam with the intent of sacking the main capital, Ayutthaya.
As was the custom at the time, King Maha Chakkraphat led his troops in the defense of the city from atop his war elephant. Even though women were not permitted to take part in battle, Queen Suriyothai was so concerned for her husband that she disguised herself as a man and rode into battle on her own elephant.
During the battle with Burmese troops, King Maha Chakkraphat's elephant collapsed from wounds and he was in danger of being killed. Queen Suriyothai rode her elephant to protect her husband and was killed by a scythe.
A memorial chedi to Queen Suriyothai, Phra Chedi Sisuriyothai (Thai: เจดีย์พระศรีสุริโยทัย), was built by King Maha Chakkraphat in her honor. The white and gold coloured Chedi is located at Wat Suanluang Sopsawan at the banks of the Chao Phraya, southwest of the Wang Luang (Royal Palace). There is also a memorial park to her outside of Ayutthaya, featuring a large statue of the queen riding a war elephant. It’s of some interest as a proof of the honour that ancient Siamese society gave to woman. It was renovated in 1990, and during the renovations some antique objects were found such as a white rock crystal Buddha image in the posture of subduing Mara, a chedi replica, and a golden reliquary. These ancient objects were brought to be under the care of the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum.
In 2001, a Thai movie about her life, The Legend of Suriyothai, was released. The film was directed by M.C. Chatrichalerm Yukol of the Thai Royal Family and financed by Queen Sirikit.



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