Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Wat Lokaya Sutharam - Ayutthaya

Wat Lokaya Sutharam (Thai: วัดโลกยสุธาราม) is located directly west of the Royal Palace. It is part of a park that includes three restored ruins including Wat Worachet and the original Wat Worapo. It is easiest to access this site via the western side of Khlong Tho. There is a small side alley leading to it as well as a newly constructed road. Wat Lokaya Sutharam can also be accessed from a third road in its southwestern corner, which also serves as a route to Chedi Suriyothai.
Wat Lokaya Sutharam is a massive temple ruin. It is aligned toward an east/west axis. There are two small chedi outside of its compound, and a portion of the spire of a third chedi is still in situ. These are all in a late-Ayutthaya period style. The monastery itself has been heavily restored, including floor tiles and brick floors throughout. Most of the temple exists only at the basic foundation level. This includes some stubs of pillars and basic walls. At the eastern entrance are the remnants of three viharns. Behind these sermon halls is a large 30 meters high, late-Ayutthaya period, Khmer-style prang (Kasetsiri & Wright 92). This prang-tower has a hollow entrance on its eastern side. The remains of an ubosot can be seen behind the prang. Only the basic foundation layer has survived, but there are many sema stones and the detritus of Buddha images. A large bell tower stands on the southwestern corner of this ubosot.
The highlight of this temple is its enormous Reclining Buddha image, which is located behind the ubosot. It was once encased by a viharn, but that has also collapsed to the basic foundation level. The Reclining Buddha is 42 meters in length and 8 meters high, and its name is "Phra Buddha Sai Yat" (Thai: พระพุทธไสยาสน์). The reclining Buddha image is aligned to a north/south axis, and it is facing west. All the Buddha’s toes are of equal lengths. The arm supporting the head is vertical, instead of being folded as in the early Ayutthaya and U-Thong periods. This vertical arm is a characteristic of reclining images made in the middle Ayutthaya period - after the 16th century (Amatyakul 47). The reclining Buddha image is usually wrapped in brightly colored orange cloth. A small altar exists beside it where visitors can make offerings. Many people have covered portions of the image in gold leaf.
There is an interesting Lanna-style chedi northwest of the reclining Buddha image. This non-restored chedi is often buried in heavy vegetation, so it may be difficult to see. Nevertheless, it is one of the most amazing sights at this temple ruin. This chedi has an octagonal base, and it takes an almost prang-like shape. However, the stucco is very well preserved. There are a large number of arched niches built around the relic chamber. Many of these niches still have standing Buddha images formed from stucco (including their heads). There are also several meditating Buddha images near the spire. These are also fairly well preserved. This type of architectural is sometimes associated with the Haripunchai Kingdom in Lamphun - implying that this monastery may have provided services to be people from the north.
There was once a canal leading from Chao Phraya River to the Royal Palace, which passed by Wat Lokaya Sutharam. Although the canals ancient name is unclear, on some modern maps it is referred to as Klong Fang. This canal formed a moat around Wat Lokaya Sutharam, and its connection to the Royal Palace implies that this monastery once had great importance. However, despite its massive size and prime location, there isn’t much known about the history of Wat Lokaya Sutharam.
The reclining Buddha image was restored in 1954 by the Alcoholic Beverages Factory (once located in the same neighborhood). It was restored again in 1956 during the time of Field Marshall Phibunsongkhram (Kasetsiri & Wright 94-95). This prime minister also did major renovations in the Ayutthaya Historic Park at the same time. In 1989, the family of former Prime Minister Luang Thamrongwasawat (1946-1947) contributed to renovations at this monastery. The Fine Arts department has continued to maintain it since then.

Source: http://www.ayutthaya-history.com
Images: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Wat_Lokayasutharam_(Ayutthaya)


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