Monday, January 31, 2011

Wat Phukhao Thong (Chedi Phukhao Thong) - Ayutthaya

Chedi Phukhao Thong (Thai: เจดีย์ภูเขาทอง) is a 50-metre chedi, or Buddhist tower, in the village of Phukhao Thong near Ayutthaya in central Thailand. Visitors can climb as far a landing halfway up the chedi, from which the surrounding rice fields and the town of Ayutthaya can be seen.
In 1569, having taken Ayutthaya, King Bayinnaung of Hongsawadi (now part of Myanmar) built a large chedi in the Mon style, next to the Buddhist temple of Wat Phukhao Thong, to commemorate his victory. Over the next two centuries the chedi fell into disrepair. In a restoration during the reign of King Boromakot (ruled 1733–1758) a new chedi in Thai style, having a square plan with indented corners, was built on the base of the ruin. The adjacent temple, founded by King Ramesuan in 1387, is still in use.
The history of this chedi reflects a tug-of-war struggle between Thailand and Burma. The temple was originally built by King Ramesuan during his second reign (1388-1395). The Burmese built a Mon-style tower over it in 1569 to celebrate its victory over Siam. Before this monument could be properly completed, Thailand retook Ayutthaya. King Naresuan (1590-1605) decided to add the crowning touch of a Thai-style chedi on top of the Mon-style base to celebrate his victory. However, some reports claim that this late construction was actually finished much later by King Prasat Thong (1629-1656). Other sources claim that it was King Boromakot (1733-1758) who added the final touch, but this was perhaps just a renovation. This temple was established near a major battle site. A Buddhist monk supervised the digging of a large canal (Klong Mahanak) nearby to defend the city from Burmese boats. This monk left priesthood to prepare Thai men for the siege, but his defensive moat proved unsuccessful in the end. The canal was named after this monk. Wat Phu Khao Thong was originally accessible by a series of canals, but unfortunately they have been covered over today.
This pyramidal, Mon-style, chedi is tied with Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon as the largest standing building in Ayutthaya. It really should be on everyone’s schedule as a site not to miss. Try to time your visit with the sunset or the sunrise, because the view can be breathtaking sometimes. There is a tunnel at the top of the chedi that leads to a hidden alter. If you’re lucky enough to find it open, don’t forget to crawl inside for a closer look. When you visit this massive chedi make sure to see the adjacent temple as well. There is an active temple built on the remains of an ancient ruin. The old pillars can still be seen. The active monastery has a nice Buddha footprint, which is covered with gold leaf. Underneath this Buddha footprint is a hidden alter. You must walk through the tiger protected staircase to enter it.
The statue of King Naresuan is built a few hundred meters away in front of the Chedi. The statue is quite impressive. On the four corners of the base, are images of the important weapons King Naresuan used during his life. At present, there are numerous colorfully painted images of fighting cocks all around the statue of the King.



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