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.
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.
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.
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
Sukhothai Province History|
Guide to Sukhothai|
Si Satchanalai His..Park Map|
Inside the Citywalls|
|King Ramkhamhaeng Monument|
|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 Sa Si|
|Wat Si Sawai|
|Wat Son Khao|
|Wat Tra Kuan|
|Wat Traphang Ngoen|
|Wat Traphang Thong|
Outside the Citywalls : West|
|Wat Chang Rop|
|Wat Chedi Ngam|
|Wat Khao Phra Bat Noi|
|Wat Khao Phra Bat Yai|
|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|
|Phra Ruang Dam|
Outside the Citywalls : North|
|Wat Phra Phai Luang|
|Ruin of Old Celadon Factory|
|Wat Hin Tang|
|Wat Khung Wai|
|Wat Mae Chon|
|Wat Om Rop|
|Wat Si Chum|
|Wat Tao Thu Riang|
|Wat Tra Phang Phak Top|
Outside the Citywalls : South|
|Wat Chedi Si Hong|
|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|