Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wat Rachaburana - Ayutthaya

Wat Rachaburana (Thai: วัดราชบูรณะ) - also called the Monastery of the Royal Repairs or the Monastery of the Royal Restoration - is located on the city island in the central area of Ayutthaya at Tambon Tha Wasukri. The temple is situated on the corner of the present Chikun Road and Naresuan Road, just opposite Wat Mahathat in the vicinity of the former Pa Than bridge.The monastery stood on the west bank of Khlong Pratu Khao Pluak, an important canal, which has been filled up somewhere in the early 20th century. In ancient times the temple was likely fully surrounded by a moat. The structure has been registered as a national historic site by the Fine Arts Department on 8 March 1935 and is part of the Ayutthaya World Heritage Historical Park.
Wat Rachaburana at par with Wat Phra Ram, Wat Phutthai Sawan and Wat Mahathat, followed the Khmer concept of temple construction, and are as thus very similar to each other. We find nearly identical, but earlier built structures at Angkor. Phnom Bakheng, Preah Rup, East Mebon, Baphuon and Ta Keo were all Temple Mountains, consisting of a central tower surrounded by four corner towers, forming a quincunx; the latter also often was surrounded by a courtyard and a gallery. All temples in the early period of the establishment of Ayutthaya were Khmer styled, consisting primary of laterite structures and bricks, enhanced with stucco.
Wat Rachaburana was initially built as a basic quincunx surrounded by a covered gallery. At a later stage the monastic structure was expanded with a vihara and ubosot in an east-west axis. The vihara became partly incorporated into the gallery, while the ordination hall stood isolated on the western side. The monastery was surrounded by water, a symbolic representation of the oceans surrounding Mount Meru (represented by the prang). The complex faced Khlong Pratu Khao Pluak to its east and another Lopburi oxbow shortcut canal to the west (name not known by author).
Only the walls and foundations remain of the royal vihara. The main entry was in the east, leading to an elevated porch. The structure could also be accessed by different entries on the sides. The walls were windowless, having vertical slit openings, bringing ventilation and providing at the same time a diffused light into the inside. The vihara had a wooden multi-tiered roof structure, which collapsed (burned down). The eaves were supported by pillars with a lotus motif.
The ubosot or ordination hall stood in the west, isolated from the gallery. The hall was accessed via an elevated porch. There were two entries in the west and two in the rear, one on each lateral side.
The prang of Wat Rachaburana was still in fairly good condition and could be restored. The prang, representing the cosmic Mount Meru, is located in the middle of the ancient compound and is built on an indented pedestal protruding towards the north and south, resulting in a wing-like formation, which was characteristic for prangs of the early Ayutthaya period. The “cella” or central small hall inside the prang containing the crypt, can be accessed through a porch directed towards the east, by climbing the steep stairs leading to the entry of the porch. The prang has three staircases on the east, north and south side. Over the cubic “cella” rises the central tower, the bud-shaped prang. The “cella” housed a Buddha image. On the lowest level of the top-part of the prang are decorated Garuda and Naga sculptures still visible.
In 1958 excavation and restoration of Wat Rachaburana by Fine Arts Department finally began. A number of bronze Buddha images, precious stones, many golden artifacts, including royal regalia, miniature utensils and numerous votive tablets were found in the crypt.
The recuperated treasures of Wat Rachaburana were displayed at - a special built for the occasion - Chao Sam Phraya National Museum, named after the third son of King Intharacha. The national museum was inaugurated on 26 Dec 1961 and displayed next to the excavated objects of Wat Rachaburana also the excavated objects from Wat Mahathat and other important temples. The proceeds from the sale of some of the votive tablets found at Wat Rachaburana was used to fund the construction of the museum. The temple is certainly worthwhile a visit, in combination with Wat Mahathat and the Chao Sam Phraya Museum.



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