Sukhothai Ancient City, Sukhothai Province

Flourishing between the 14th and the 16th century A.D., the Kingdom of Sukhothai spread across the Moei, lower Yom, Ping, Nan and upper Pa Sak river valleys. The area lay between two great kingdoms Pagan in the west and Khmer in the east.
Prior to the establishment of Sukhothai around the middle of the 13th century, people had already settled in those areas. Stone implements found on Khao Khen and Khao Ka hills in Sri Nakhon District of Sukhothai Province, as well as human remains and stone implements at Ban Bung Ya in Khirimat District of Sukhothai Province, are evidence of prehistoric settlements, related to those in Laos Cambodia, and Vietnam.
Those early settlements later developed into states. From the 7th century, the inhabitants had relations with people in the central and northeastern areas which were under the influence of Dvaravati culture. Archaeological evidence of Dvaravati style beads, bronze as well as implements, silver coins stamped with images of the sun, carved clay objects, human skeletons, were found at Wat Chom Chun in the old town of Si Satchanalai.
Around the 13th century, a great change occurred in the Khmer Kingdom when King Jayavarman VII adopted Mahayana Buddhism as the main religion of the Kingdom. In Khmer sanctuaries, Buddha images were enshrined in place of images of Hindu gods and decorative art centered on the theme of the life story of the Buddha. Evidence of Khmer sanctuaries under Mahayana influence has been found at Prang Sam Yot, the prang of Wat Mahathat in Lop Buri Province, and a prang of Wat Phra Phai Luang in Sukhothai.
Around the middle of the 13th century, those communities having cultural relations with the Khmer liberated themselves and established the Kingdom of Sukhothai.

Sukhothai Ancient City

Stone Inscription No. 2 found at Wat Si Chum in the northwest of Sukhothai deals with the history of the early period of Sukhothai. After the death of Pho Khun Si Nao Nam Thom, the first ruler of Sukhothai, a Khmer warrior named Sabat Khlon Lamphong besieged the town. Pho Khun Pha Muang, a ruler of Muang Rat and a son of Pho Khun Si Nao Nam Thom, joined forces with Pho Khun Bang Klang Hao, his comrade, to drive away the enemy. Pho Khun Pha Muang then gave his comrade the Sword of Victory and the title of Sri Indrapatindraditya, and consecrated him as Pho Khun Si Indraditya, a ruler of Sukhothai and the founder of the Sukhothai Dynasty.
After the death of Pho Khun Si Indraditya, Pho Khun Ban Muang, his eldest son, succeeded to the throne. It is still uncertain whether the centre of the town during the early period was located within the compound of Wat Phra Phai Luang, enclosed with moats and ramparts, or was moved to a new location with Wat Mahathat as its centre. However, according to Stone Inscription No. 1, it is evident that in the reign of Pho Khun Ramkhamhaeng, a younger brother of Pho Khun Ban Muang, Wat Mahathat became the centre of Sukhothai. Pho Khun Ramkhamhaeng was a great warrior who, at the age of 19, defeated Khun Sam Chon of Muang Chot. During his reign, the Kingdom of Sukhothai stretched as far as Luang Phra Bang in the northeast, the Malaya Peninsula in the south and Martaban in the west. Historians believe that the vast Kingdom of Sukhothai had friendly ties with its neighbours.
Pho Khun Ramkhamhaeng adopted Theravada Buddhism, at that time widespread in Nakhon Si Thammarat. Introducing a new religious faith to his people, Pho Khun Ramkhamhaeng initiated the preaching of Buddhism to the populace on the Buddhist sabbath.

The bronze Buddha image.

According to the Stone Inscription, Pho Khun Ramkhamhaeng acted as both temporal and spiritual leader of the Kingdom. With respect to state affairs, he was a great warrior who did everything for the happiness and welfare of his subjects. Sukhothai was a peaceful country. The people had freedom in trading. It is said that the ruler did not require his people to pay tax, and they could trade in anything they wanted. The ruler was also the upholder of the Buddhist faith. A shrine to Lord Buddha’s Relics was constructed during his reign in the heart of a town named Si Satchanalai, closely associated with Sukhothai. By his command, temples and Buddha images were also constructed in Sukhothai. At the end of Buddhist Lent, Pho Khun Ramkhamhaeng rode on an elephant to make merit offerings (Kathin) to monks at Wat Saphan Hin in the forest. He was a model king and set an excellent example for his successors. Under his reign, the Kingdom was peaceful and people were happy. Moreover, Pho Khun Ramkhamhaeng created the first Thai alphabets.
After the death of Pho Khun Ramkhamhaeng, the Kingdom of Sukhothai was not as powerful as it used to be. A number of principalities under its control declared their independence. In 1347. Phra Maha Dharmaraja Li Thai, Pho Khun Ramkhamhaeng’s grandson who had ruled over Si Satchanalai, fought against the rebel forces. He overcame his rivals and finally restored unity in the Kingdom of Sukhothai.
In the reign of Phra Maha Dharmaraja Li Thai, Sukhothai was a prosperous kingdom. The King fostered Buddhism. He invited to his Kingdom Venerable Phra Maha Sami from Nakhon Phan, a southern Burmese town where Buddhism from Sri Lanka was practiced. Deeply devout, the King entered the monkhood at Wat Pa Mamuang in western Sukhothai. He also wrote Tebhumikatha, or Trai Phum Phra Ruang, in order to teach morality and Buddhism.
Not only Buddhism but also art flourished during the reign of Phra Maha Dharmaraja Li Thai. Through deep devotion to Buddhism and highly skilled craftsmanship, art and architecture in Sukhothai were beautiful and unique. Characterized by a graceful Buddha image in walking posture and a famous lotus-shaped stupa, the reign of Phra Maha Dharmaraja Li Thai can be regarded as the golden age of art and architecture.
Pha Maha Dharmaraja Li Thai was a devout king who tried to make the best use of Buddhism for the stability and security of his Kingdom. The Buddha’s Relics were temporarily installed in various towns in the Kingdom in order to previde opportunities for his subjects and people in other dominions, especially those of the Lanna and Ayutthaya Kingdoms, to worship the sacred relics. The construction of lotus-shaped stupas, regarded as a symbol of political and religious ties, was prevalent during his reign in places such as Wat Phra Baromma That Nakhon Chum in Kamphaeng Phet, Wat Suan Dok in Chiang Mai , Wat Chedi Yod Thong in Phitsanulok, etc. (At present, there is no trace of these ancient monuments at Wat Phra Baromma That Nakhon Chum and Wat Suan Dok.)

The bronze Buddha image.

The End of the Kingdom of Sukhothai

After the middle of the 14th century, the establishment of two kingdoms, Lanna in the north with Chiang Mai as its centre and Ayutthaya in the south, put the Kingdom of Sukhothai in a difficult situation. Lanna was in a position to occupy Tak, which once was a dependency of Sukhothai, while Ayutthaya could possibly control the Chao Phraya basin.
Somdet PhraRamathibodi I (King U-Thong) of Ayutthaya besieged Song Khawae (Phitsanulok) and captured of the town. Phra Maha Dharmaraja Li Thai had to pay tribute for Song Khawae, and subsequently moved there, leaving his younger sister to reign over Sukhothai. This incident clearly indicates that the Sukhothai kings began to lose their authority over the whole Kingdom.
When Somdet Phra Ramathibodi I of Ayutthaya died in 1368. Phra Maha Dharmaraja Li Thai tried to restore Sukhothai to its earlier status as centre of the Kingdom. With his royal vassal allies, Phra Maha Dharmaraja Li Thai returned to Sukhothai. However, he could not consolidate his political rule and died around 1370-1371. In the meantime, Somdet Phra Borommarachathirat I (Pho Ngua) reigned over Ayutthaya and sent his armed forces to seize Sukhothai and other towns in the Sukhothai Kingdom.
Thereafter the Suphannaphum dynasty in Ayutthaya and Suphan Buri made every effort to gradually dominate the Kingdom of Sukhothai by means of intermarriage between the two dynasties, peaceful penetration into the aristocratic system, and supply of man power to Sukhothai royalty who were related to the royal family of Suphannaphum.
By 1438 at the latest, the entire Kingdom of Sukhothai was apparently annexed to Ayutthaya and was called the northern region by the Ayutthaya people; in that year Somdet Phra Borommarachathirat II (King Sam Phraya) sent his son, Phra Ramesuan, born to a Sukhothai princess, to rule over the northern region at Phitsanulok as Maha Uparat (Viceroy) of a dependency of the Ayutthaya Kingdom.

Sukhothai Province
Sukhothai Province History
Guide to Sukhothai
Si Satchanalai His..Park Map
Sangkhalok Kilns
Inside the Citywalls
King Ramkhamhaeng Monument
Noen Prasat
Ta Pha Daeng or Deity Shrine
The City Pillar Shrine
The Ramkhamhaeng National Museum
The Royal Palace and Wat Mahathat
The walls of The Old City
Wat Chana Songkhram
Wat Mahathat
Wat Mai
Wat Sa Si
Wat Si Sawai
Wat Son Khao
Wat Sorasak
Wat Tra Kuan
Wat Traphang Ngoen
Wat Traphang Thong
Outside the Citywalls : West
Wat Aranyik
Wat Chang Rop
Wat Chedi Ngam
Wat Khao Phra Bat Noi
Wat Khao Phra Bat Yai
Wat Mangkon
Wat Pa Mamuang
Wat Phra Yun
Wat Saphan Hin
Wat Si Thon
Wat Tham Hip Bon
Wat Tham Hip Lang
Wat Tra Phang Chang Phuak
Wat Tuk
Phra Ruang Dam
Thewalai Mahakaset
Outside the Citywalls : North
Wat Phra Phai Luang
Ruin of Old Celadon Factory
Wat Sangkhawat
Wat Hin Tang
Wat Khung Wai
Wat Mae Chon
Wat Om Rop
Wat Sangkhawat
Wat Si Chum
Wat Tao Thu Riang
Wat Tra Phang Phak Top
Outside the Citywalls : South
Namo Gate
Wat Asokaram
Wat Chedi Si Hong
Wat Chetuphon
Wat Kon Laeng
Wat Mum Langka
Wat Phrong Men
Wat Si Phichit Kirati Kanlayaram
Wat Wihan Thong or Wat Thaksinaram
Wat Ton Chan
Outside the Citywalls : East
Wat Chang Lom
Wat Thraphang Thong Lang
Wat Chedi Sung
Wat Hot Phayom
Wat Ko Mai Daeng

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