Wat Mahathat, Sukhothai Province|
Situated in the heart of town, Wat Mahathat was built in
accordance with the ancient Indian concept of the mandala. This
significant temple comprises the main chedi (stupa), a vihara (assembly
hall), mandapa, an ordination hall (uposatha) and 200 subordinate chedis.
Surrounded by 8 chedis, the centre one has the graceful shape of a lotus
bud, which characterizes the art of Sukhothai. 8 chedis form the 4 sides of the
main stupa. The four at the corners belong to the Hariphunchai remove spaces
Lanna style, and the four in between have prasat-shaped bodies topped with
spires in the Sukhothai style. They are decorated with stucco reliefs in the style of
Sri Lankan art. The main chedi was probably originally constructed in Sri Lankan style before being rebuilt in the lotus bud shape.
The base of the main chedi is decorated with stucco reliefs of Buddhist
disciples walking with their hands clapped together in salutation.
Stone Inscription No. l says “.... At the centre of Sukhothai are a vihara,
a golden Buddha image, Phra Attharot Buddha images, large Buddha images, medium Buddha images ....”
The golden Buddha image referred to in the inscription is understood to be a
bronze Buddha image in the posture of subduing Mara enshrined in the royal vihara
of Wat Mahathat by the command of Phra Maha Dharmaraja Li Thai in 1362. In the
reign of King Rama I of the Rattanakosin Period, this Buddha image was removed by raft to Wat Suthat Thepwararam in
Bangkok. The Buddha image was later named Phra Si Sakkayamuni by King Rama II. At present, the large pedestal of
this Buddha image still remains in the royal vihara of Wat Mahathat.
The Buddha images called Phra Attharot refer to standing Buddha images,
12 metres in height, enshrined in the mandapa on both sides of the principle chedi.
Next to the royal vihara to the east stands a tall vihara, its 1.5 meter base
decorated with lotus moulding. This vihara was built later in the Ayutthaya style,
and the small space between the front of the vihara and the wall enclosing it is
out of proportion to the height of the building. This is why it was called the tall vihara.
Within the compound of Wat Mahathat is a group of stupas situated south
of the main chedi. At the centre stands one with five spires, second only to the
main chedi in size. According to the inscription on golden plate, it is indicated that
the relics of Phra Maha Dharmara~ja Li Thai were enshrined in this stupa.