Four major rivers sustain steadily broadening plains, crossed by their tributaries, and ultimately converge to funnel their vital waters into a vast wetland, known as Bueng Boraphet, which overflows into the main stream of Thailand’s central plain, the Chao Phraya River. To the east, separated by a mountain range, flows the fifth major river, named Pa Sak River, through a comparatively narrow valley, ultimately to converge with the Chao Phraya River as well.
Rivers were lifelines in several aspects. They and their tributaries provided reliable water supply to fulfill human requirements for water, served as a source of food stuff, and facilitated crop production and animal husbandry. Rivers were the earliest lines of communication and transportation, linking river banks as well as upstream, midstream and downstream sections. Rivers also provided water that was needed to keep intruders at bay, by making use of their natural course, by diverting water into canals and ditches, and by keeping moats filled. Beyond being used as sources of supply, directly through water use and indirectly by navigating boats loaded with commodities, and as defensive means, rivers also facilitated the flushing out of effluents and disposing of waste.
The comparatively large plains around the downstream sections of the Ping, Wang, Yom and Nan rivers and the elongated plain of the Pa Sak River had been settled early in history. Their sheer expanse facilitated the formation of larger territorial units than did narrow valleys. In contrast to river estuaries and coastal areas, the midstream and downstream plains of those five rivers were much less exposed to health hazards such as lethal diseases endemic to marshy and swampy regions. Settlements in airy surroundings on higher and firm ground offered a good measure of protection from malaria, to name only one such threat. The alluvial downstream region formed a buffer zone and, thus, enhanced security and safety. This had especial relevance with regard to invaders and pirates.
Traces of human habitat in the form of well laid-out settlements, early in history, attest to the awareness of unique opportunities inherent to the physical endowment of the said four river mid-stream and downstream sections, namely, Ping, Wang, Yom and Nan, and of the valley of the Pa Sak River.
Following the path of the sun, ancient sites of settlements that were the seats of might wielding power over large areas are called up from east to west.
MONUMENTS AND ARTEFACTS TRACED TO EARLY HISTORY UPTO THE 13TH CENTURY DVARAVATI, LAN NA, AND KHMER CULTURES
Near the east bank of the Pa Sak River, about mid-stream around the confluence of the Hiang River, are the historical town of Si Thep and nearby ancient sites, nowadays in the south of Phetchabun Province. The two oldest remains are called Khao Klang Nai and Khao Thamoratana, both dating from the 5th to 7th centuries1 and belonging to the Dvaravati Period. Artefacts found through archaeological excavations in the 1930s include the very beautiful statues of a style that reflects the transition from the Dvaravati to the Khmer epoch; they are preserved in the National Museum, Bangkok. The third ancient site, some kind of layers-upon-layers, is Si Thep. Today, this former regional centre of the Khmer Empire from the 9th century onward is a ruined city, girded by two concentric walls and moats. Numerous ponds, remnants of gates and five monasteries, terraces and the edifices known as Prang Si Thep and Prang Song Phi Nong, some situated inside, others outside the city walls, indicate that Si Thep was densely populated until the 13th century, when the Khmer rulers deserted it. The Shivalingam of Si Thep was transferred and consecrated as foundation stone in the City Pillar Shrine of the present-day town of Phetchabun. There, the monument of King Pha Muang, ruler of the realm of Rat, commemorates the alliance through which the town of Sukhothai was relieved from Khmer occupation and the Thai realm of Sukhothai established.
In the mountainous headwater area of a major mid-stream tributary of the Nan River, in Nakhon Thai District of Phitsanulok Province, there is archaeological evidence of an ancient settlement in the valleys of the Kok Yai River and its tributaries named Om Sing, Nam Phrik and Nam Khamuen. Not only are there murals in the Kangkhao Chang Luang Cave and on the Keed Cliff but also the ancient monasteries called Wat Klang Si Pruettham, Wat Nuea and Wat Hua Rong. Finds include ancient Buddha images, earthenware and coins.
Further downstream on the Nan River, where the Yom River runs in parallel at close distance and the wide plain is crisscrossed by tributaries of both rivers and dotted with wetlands, is the area where the ancient town of Nakhon Chaibovorn, also known as Ban Kontanyakam, or else as Mueang Pak Yom, was located. Evidence includes moats encircling an area of about five square kilometers with mounds that supposedly are remnants of a chapel and of part of the city wall. Among the inhabitants of the ancient city, which is praised as beautifully built, referred to as sunthorn which is synonymous with phichit, lived Brahmins, as recorded in an inscription in the Khmer language that was excavated at the Phra That Chedi of Wat Phra Si Rattana Maha That, its deserted monastery.
The physical environment of the historical sites of Sukhothai, Si Satchanalai and Chaliang appears predestined for the establishment of settlements. The Yom River served as the lifeline and thoroughfare for waterborne transportation. The plain at its mid-section is sufficiently wide for extensive land use, with numerous tributaries as the vital water resources flowing from the nearby western mountains and hills. Among the historical monuments are several which originated from the period of Khmer dominance in this area.
The ruins of Chaliang belong to a Khmer settlement dating from the reign of King Jayavarman VII (1181- 1220), ruler of the Khmer Empire, with its capital Angkor. Predating the city of Si Satchanalai, the site of Chaliang likely was established as a staging post. Its laterite shrine of Wat Chao Chan was built in the Bayon style as a Mahayana Buddhist structure. Nearby is the Wat Lak Mueang, a small, Khmer-style sanctuary with the city’s foundation pillar.
At the historical site of Sukhothai, Wat Chom Chuen is assumed to be the most ancient structure, originally of Khmer style, owing to twelve human skeletons dating from around the year 200 and features of the Khmer-style tower or prang among its large number of 7th century stupas or chedi. The edifice known as San Ta Pha Daeng is a Khmer sanctuary that once housed sandstone Hindu icons, built during the reign of King Suriyavarman II [1113-1150] of Angkor. Wat Phra Pai Luang was originally a Hindu sanctuary, converted into a Mahayana Buddhist monastery in the 13th century. This is evident from three Khmer-style towers called prang. Also, the lower part of a stone Buddha image in the meditation posture is similar to those built by order of King Jayavarman VII [1181-1220]. Another example is Wat Si Sawai, which reflects traces of Khmer architecture of an older Hindu shrine, dating from the 12th to 14th centuries, i.e. predating the Thai takeover of the city, and given such artifacts as Shiva images, a reclining Vishnu lintel and several small shiva lingas.
The historical site of Si Satchanalai shows traces of a sanctuary established by Mon and modified by Khmer in the 12th century. They include Phra That Mu Tao, a Mon-style chedi, and Khmer-style artefacts such as fragmented eaves with images of deities and stucco images of Phra Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. The vihara of Wat Phra Si Rattana Maha That was built on top of an ancient brick structure.
Excavations by a team of Thai and Australian researchers yielded evidence of the existence of an indigenous ceramic industry predating the establishment of Sukhothai and Si Satchanalai. Finds include terra-cotta tiles, balustrades, pediment decorations, dishes, and bottles fired with the bluish-green glazes that characterize Sangkhalok ceramic ware. Near the site of the historic city of Kamphaeng Phet, where tributaries of the Ping River flow from mountains to the west and from hills to the east, four ancient settlements were uncovered. West of the Ping River are three sites, Trai Trung, Nakhon Chum and Sa Mon. At Trai Trung, a stone inscription refers to its foundation by King Chaisiri of Chiang Saen in the year 957 A.D. There, remnants of several structures in disrepair, mainly ruins of chedi and ramparts, held such items as small beads, Roman lamps and blue ceramic fragments. Nakhon Chum has remains of brick structures of comparatively smaller size than at the other sites. In its centre lies Wat Phra Borommathat with a Burmesestyle chedi, built in recent history. Sa Mon is the site of a palace girded by a square arthen wall, with moats on three sides, a pond in the middle, yet no standing structures remaining. East of the Ping River is the ancient site of Chakangrao. Inside its up to three-metre high earthen wall are edifices such as Kamphaeng Pom Thung Sethi, a fortification of 83 metres in length and six metres in height built from laterite, where famous votive tablets were found.
CONSOLIDATION OF THAI POLITY AND CULTURE THE ROYAL CITY OF SUKHOTHAI AND ITS ENVIRONS
As the terrain was conducive to further expansion, larger realms were formed by ethnic Thai population groups and more powerful centres established by Thai rulers, in comparison to the older yet smaller centres in upstream valley sections, there under spatial constraints.
River basins, with fertile plains and communication as well as transportation arteries, and their hinterland, rich in natural resources such as water of tributaries, forests abundant with timber, lumber, firewood and non-timber products, and wildlife, were covered with settlements. The creation of a largely hydraulic infrastructure facilitated the building of productive communities and improvements of communication and transportation.
Nodes of social cohesion, economic strength and political might underpinned the formation of power centres, among them the emergence of the regional lead-power centred in the ancient city of Sukhothai. At times in competition with such places as Kamphaeng Phet and Phitsanulok, these three power centres known as the “royal cities”, drew on resources available and surplus generated in the neighbouring areas around the towns of Phichai, now called Uttaradit, Phichit and Phetchabun. The grandeur of Sukhothai City was enhanced by the splendor of the town of Si Satchanalai, at close distance.
As evident from the physical geography, the mid-section of the Yom River with its tributaries provided a unique natural environment for human habitat. The sheer number of tributaries, named Pha Wiang, Mae San, Mae Sung, Tha Phae and Fa Kradan, particularly the Fa Kradan river basin with its own, four major tributaries called Mae Thulao, Dayang, Saket and Kaphung, and the marsh known as Nong Khlong Nam Tan secured a steady supply of water. With the essential components of site selection in place, namely, forests on nearby mountains as well as hills and water running from headwater areas therein, two of the indispensable requirements for the establishment of a power centre were met. They were also essential for the building of a sanctuary with monastery, temple, shrine and pagoda in the centre of a fortified city, girded by walls and moats. The surrounding plain was transformed into cropping land, mainly paddy fields in which to produce rice, the staple crop, and straw to feed the draught animals, typically buffaloes.
In such setting, the city of Sukhothai flourished. The large number of some 40 sanctuaries in an area of about 70 sq km is testimony to the concentration of power and the population density in historical time. Evidence of its pre-eminence is manifold. In Wat Mahathat, its principle temple with its main chedi built in a style known as Phum Kao Bin, four prang at the cardinal points and the ruin of its eleven-bay vihara, a seated bronze Buddha image, Phra Si Sakayamuni, cast in 1362, was situated. Of the palatial, royal buildings on elevated terrain, Noen Prasat, only brick foundations remain as well as remnants of the scripture hall from one of two ponds. Wat Si Chum houses the giant Buddha image named Phra Atchana and features 50 engraved slate slabs on the ceiling of the access passageway depicting episodes in the Lord Buddha’s incarnations. Wat Chang Lom with its Sri Lankan-style, bell-shaped chedi adorned by 36 stucco elephants is believed to have been built by King Ramkamhaeng the Great [1278—1317]. On an island in the middle of a large pond rises the Sri Lankanstyle, bell-shaped main chedi of Wat Sa Si with its vihara and other structures built in a blend of Sivichayan and Sri Lankan styles. This ensemble creates the impression of elegant simplicity. Wat Traphang Ngoen with its ubosot in an artificial rectangular lake and its chedi of superb elegance is the venue of the annual Loy Krathong festival. Wat Chedi Sung, deemed the finest chedi of the Sukhothai Period, impresses through its bell-shaped superstructure and stepped platform that cap a massive base, an ensemble of Sivichayan and Sri Lankan architectural features. The stucco walking Buddha image of Wat Chetuphon, one of originally four that is preserved together with a standing image, is considered a masterpiece of Sukhothai sculptural art. Near the main structure is a small sanctuary with a Buddha image known locally as Phra Si Ariya, Lord Buddha the Saviour, the Future Buddha. The southern panel of stucco decorations at Wat Traphang Thong Lang shows the descent of Lord Buddha to earth, exuding solemnity for which it is valued as one of the masterpieces of Sukhothai art. Attractive temple complexes representing the Sukhothai style include Wat Traphang Thong with its lotus pond; Wat Takuan with its restored Sri Lankan-style, bell-shaped chedi; Wat Chana Songkhram with its squat Sri Lankan-style chedi; Wat Sorasak with its square base adorned with 24 restored stucco elephant buttresses; Wat Saphan Hin, once the seat of the Buddhist patriarch; and Wat Traphang Thong where a Footprint of Lord Buddha is enshrined. Among edifices of Khmer origin that were transformed into Buddhist sanctuaries are Wat Phra Phai Luang, Wat Si Sawai and Wat Chom Chuen.
The historical monument of Chedi Ngam also serves as a landmark of the worldly necessity to ensure water supply. Nearby lies an ancient reservoir in which water from mountain streams has been stored to supply the capital of the Sukhothai Kingdom. To this day, that reservoir supplies the modern city of Sukhothai with mountain spring water.
At medium distance to the north from Sukhothai, on the banks of the Yom River near the confluence with its tributary Mae Sung, lies the ancient town of Si Satchanalai. The so-called “royal road”, known asThanon Phra Ruang, linked the cities of Sukhothai and Si Satchanalai. It was the most important satellite city of the Sukhothai Kingdom. Some historians consider its ancient site as the apogee of Thai city planning. It was an important commercial centre owing to its highly esteemed ceramics that were exported to realms throughout Southeast Asia and to China.
To some experts, the ruins of Si Satchanalai appear to be more interesting than those of Sukhothai. At the heart of the ancient site, once girded by a wall and moats, is the huge Sri Lankan-style, bell-shapedchedi with stucco elephant buttresses around its base that forms the centrepiece of Wat Chang Lom. It is thought to be the first Sri Lankan-style chedi of the Sukhothai Kingdom, built in the reign of King Ramkamhaeng the Great (1278-1317). The 33 minor chedi and mondop of various styles, namely, Sri Lankan, Sivichayan, Sukhothai and Burmese, containing relics of royalty and surrounding the main, lotus-bud chedi and, behind it, a derelict vihara built in unique Sukhothai style, make Wat Chedi Thaeo one of the most beautiful ensembles. Wat Nang Phaya encompasses an attractively decorated vihara. On a low and wooded hill north of Wat Chang Lom stands Wat Khao Phnom Phloeng; among its ruins is a seated Buddha together with a chedi and few columns. On another, nearby hill top is what remains of Wat Suwan Khiri, a single chedi. Its site offers a panoramic view of the ancient site below.
Nearby, visible from Si Satchanalai on the banks of the Yom River, is the ancient site of Chaliang. Though originally a Khmer staging post, its most important structure and principal monastery is Wat Phra Si Rattana Maha That. Its statue of the walking Buddha in the Sukhothai style is considered a masterpiece. The temple’s structure underwent many transformations in architectural style, ultimately resulting in the present-day, Ayutthaya-style main prang that is believed to have been built over a Khmer-style tower. It is deemed one of the finest structures of its type in Thailand.
The Si Satchanalai – Chalieng Historical Park forms, together with the magnificent, much larger ancient site of Sukhothai, the Sukhothai National Historical Park, and along with Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park a UNESCO World Heritage Site, established in December, 1991.
The plain along the Yom River is dotted with ancient pottery kilns, especially in the areas of Ban Ko Noi and Ban Pa Yang where some of the finest Sangkhalok ceramics were produced. To date, more than 500 kilns were uncovered. At Ban Ko Noi, 19 kilns found lying on top of each other enable archaeologists to trace the development and refinement of pottery over an extended period. Finds in abundance include exquisite glazed ceramics, stoneware, celadon, decorated vases, household utensils, human and animal figurines, and ornamental pieces for temples and palaces as well. Those potters produced some of the world’s finest in the 14th to 15th centuries. Examples are ceramics produced at 49 Thuriang kilns which feature on their bottom three different monogrammes, or trademarks rather, either a disc, or a fish, or else a blossom. Recent research findings rendered evidence that the technology had been developed by Thai potters themselves.
CONSOLIDATION OF THAI POLITY AND CULTURE THE ROYAL CITY OF KAMPHAENG PHET AND ITS ENVIRONS
Another royal route, much longer than the one linking Sukhothai with Si Satchanalai, connected Sukhothai with the another “royal city”, Kamphaeng Phet, located in the southwest. It ran parallel with another, equally important, perhaps even vital infrastructure facility built and operated to supply Sukhothai with water that was diverted from the Ping River. This double-purpose connection, also known as Thanon Phra Ruang, was a unique accomplishment in that the aqueduct, known as Tho Pu Phraya was designed and constructed as a conduit which kept water flowing by natural gravity. Considering the sheer distance and the difficult terrain, bypassing the valley of the Ping tributary called Wang Chaliang, cutting across the watershed and bypassing, again, the valley of the Yom tributary called Sarabop, this aqueduct constituted a major technical achievement in the development and application of advanced hydraulics. In the year 1981, H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej initiated the Khlong Tho Thongdaeng irrigation project, thus reviving the same technical approach and following the same route. A piece of an old log found along the track might have been part of the ancient aqueduct.
Situated at the southwestern end of this route-cum-aqueduct, Than Phra Ruang and Tho Pu Phraya, was the ancient royal city of Kamphaeng Phet. Its surrounding plain received water not only from the Ping River but also from its tributaries such as Kachaeng and Mae Raka, of which the latter formed a large river basin with four major streams. Thai people settling there first, in the 11th century, were refugees from Fang, who were subjugated when an outpost of the Khmer Empire was established, early in the 13th century.
Within the boundaries of the Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park, two areas are distinguished, the one within the old city walls and the one beyond. Remains of structures in the city, a garrison town established 1347 by King Li Thai and a satellite of Sukhothai, include Wat Phra Kaeo, the largest complex with ruins of several vihara, a bot, and a chedi; Wat Phra That with a fine, octagonal-base chedi of the late Sukhothai Period; ancient moats and crenellated walls forming a trapezoidal shape with forts; and San Phra Isuan, built in the 10th century to install a bronze image of Shiva. Attached to its base is Inscription #13 which relates the restoration of temples, aqueducts, roads and irrigation canals, and invokes blessings to secure water supply.
Located outside the city walls, to the north, are ancient buildings known as the Aranyik Ruins of forest monasteries built during the 14th to 1ÿ6th centuries. Wat Phra Non had housed a large reclining Buddha statue; only some laterite columns of its vihara remain. At Wat Phra Si Iriyabot, of four Buddha images in the attitudes of standing, walking, seated and reclining, only a standing Buddha, considered one of the masterpieces of Sukhothai Art, remains in good condition. In the ruined ubosot of Wat Sing is the laterite core of a Buddha image. Wat Chang Rop has remains of a very large, square-based chedi, once flanked by the forequarters of 68 elephants sculpted from laterite whose appearance attests to excellent Sukhothai-style craftsmanship and represents one of the finest monuments in the region.
CONSOLIDATION OF THAI POLITY AND CULTURE THE ROYAL CITY OF PHITSANULOK AND ITS ENVIRONS
To the east of Sukhothai, the point in the mid-section of the Nan River, from which the river was navigable in downstream direction, is the site of ancient settlements. The narrow plain wedged between mountains and the main river was well supplied with water by the tributaries of the Nan River, particularly Pat and Tron as well as the lakes named Mai, So, Lom and Boek.
Given this physical endowment, several ancient settlements existed there. The oldest is thought to be the one at a site named Ban Bueng Wang Ngiu where finds such as human bones, ancient tools, pottery fragments, coloured paintings and bronze tools were uncovered. The site of the original town of Uttaradit was called Bang Pho Tha It, on the right bank of the Nan River. Another site is that of Wiang Chao Ngo, believed to have been built at the turn of the 12th to 13th centuries, serving as an outpost of the Sukhothai Kingdom. Its city lay-out is rectangular in shape, with remnants of moats and earthen ramparts. Of the same period are the towns known as Tha Chu Chok and Sawangkhaburi. During the Ayutthaya period, 16 more towns were set up, one of which is Pichai, where Phraya Tak Sin, then Governor of Kamphaeng Phet, had his troops rest and muster before attacking Lan Na. Mueang Phichai, south of modern Uttaradit Town, developed into the old centre around the northernmost river port. Between Wat Phra Borom That and Wat Phra Thaen Sila At lie walls and moats, the remnants of Pichai or Old Uttaradit. The name “Uttaradit” was bestowed by King Rama IV [1851- 1868] upon Pichai, in 1852 , meaning the “northern port”.
With the Nan River not being navigable further upstream, the said settlements had grown into important entrepets between trade areas. Numerous sanctuaries render evidence of their significance especially for the Thai kingdoms in the downstream regions. Wat Phra Borommathat Thung Yang, also known as Wat Maha That, has a large, circular, Sri Lankan-style chedi housing a relic. Standing and seated Buddha images of the Sukhothai period, among them the most venerated Phra Si An Tat, are preserved in the vihara of Wat Phra Thaen Sila At. Two seated Buddha statues of the Sukhothai Period in Wat Phra Yuen Phra Bat Yukhon are made from an alloy of gold, silver and bronze. Wat Phra Fang, built in the Sukhothai Period, has a beautiful chedi and a small ubosot restored in the Ayutthaya period. Door panels moved from Wat Phra Fang to Wat Thamma Thipatai were crafted in the graceful, late Ayutthaya style, and are rated second only to those of Wat Suthat in Bangkok. Wat Phra Borommathat has a chedi built in the Sukhothai period, and a beautiful vihara built in the Lan Chang style, which was restored in the 18th century. Situated near Wat Tha Thanon is a small Chinese shrine with a beautiful, highly venerated seated Buddha image sculpted in the Chiang Saen Style.
Given the physical setting of a plain crossed by the Nan River and its tributaries called Khwae Noi, Hang Ka and Wang Thong, which by themselves form large river basins, and with the Yom River running almost in parallel to the west, environmental conditions have been outright conducive for the establishment of productive communities. Moreover, this plain is dotted with wetlands. The major ones are named Kam Lai, Pla Nao, Baen, Thale Kaeo and Taling Chan. The obvious challenge has been to avail of this potential by making ample use of the know-how of applied hydraulics. One historically ubiquitous feature, which has been preserved over the centuries and appears to be unique, is the waterborne habitat of floating houses, a landmark of Phitsanulok, at present.
Legend has it that the site of present-day Phitsanulok already had existed during the lifetime of Lord Budhha, who had accepted alms and partaken of his meal under a tree at the Samor Krang Mountain. Hence, that settlement is believed to be much more ancient than others in the region. One of the oldest towns in this area, originally a Khmer outpost, was called Sa Luang Song Khwae. As part of the Sukhothai Kingdom, it was a military bastion whose ruins are situated near the wetland of Thale Kaeo. Another old settlement by the name of Ban Wang San existed during the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya periods, as evident from the remains of monasteries such as Wat Luang and Wat Wang San, especially their Buddha images and ceramics, and Wat Bang Saphan with its inscription known as Suphamit Chadok , “words of religious wisdom”. Wat Phra Sri Rattana Maha That Wora Maha Wihan, locally known as Wat Yai, the most eminent monastery, is believed to have been constructed on the order of Si Tham Traipidok, King of Chiang Saen, after having defeated the realm of Si Satchanalai, to enshrine three Buddha images known as Phra Buddha Chinarat, Phra Buddha Chinasi and Phra Sri Sasada, all of the subduing Mara posture. The most serene and graceful is the Phra Buddha Chinarat, a Sukhothai-style image cast of bronze and gilded, created around 1250. Likely from the same time dates the image of PhraAttharot, a standing Buddha statue housed in a Sukhothai-style chapel that is based on a more ancient foundation.
The vihara housing the Phra Buddha Chinarat statue had originally been built in the Sukhothai style. It was repeatedly renovated, probably even rebuilt, in 1482, by King Borom Trailokanat [1448-1488], who had governed Phitsanulok for 25 years before ascending the throne. This chapel was renovated, once again, during the reign of King Boromakot (1733-1758). Its interior as of today is a symphony of shape, colour and proportion, befitting the image of Phra Buddha Chinarat, the eminent example of Sukhothai Art. In the middle of the doors of the vihara there is a mullion which is regarded as a sacred item protecting people from dangers.
The chedi of Wat Yai was originally a Sukhothai-style, lotus-shaped pagoda with a Buddha relic enshrined. On the order of King Borom Trailokanat (1448-1488), who resided in Phitsanulok during 1463 through 1483 to wage military campaigns against the Lan Na Kingdom in the north, the original structure was built over to create the principal prang in the Ayutthaya style, as it is seen today.
An ancient site called Wang Chan Kasem served as residence of Thai rulers,including King Ramkamhaeng the Great [1278-1317], King Boromrachjadhirat I [1370-1388], King Boromrachadhirat II [1424-1448], King Borom Trailokanat [1448-1488], King Boromrachadhirat III [1488-1491], King Boromrachadhirat IV [1529-1533] and King Naresuan [1590-1605], whose birthplace it is. In commemoration, the King Naresuan the Great Shrine was built.
At another ancient site of a former town, King Borom Trailokanat had Wat Chula Mani built, where the King entered the monkhood in 1465. A small stupa in the precinct of this monastery is originally of the Mon style adorned with an intricate design featuring swans. The apsis of the vihara is decorated with delicate stucco figurines of running geese and blossoms.
Other historical monasteries include Wat Chedi Yot Thong with its Sukhothai-style, lotus-bud shapedchedi, the sole such structure preserved in Phitsanulok Province; Wat Aranyik surrounded by moats dating from the Sukhothai period; and Wat Ratburana, built by King Borom Trailokanat [1448-1488], with its graceful, three-headed Naga.
CONTRASTING BEAUTIFUL SURROUNDINGS
Amidst a real maze of numerous streams and wetlands, forming a broad plain crossed by the Nan and Yom Rivers further downstream, the town of Phichit is situated, in the province of the same name. To its east, the Nan River tributaries of Wang Thong, Sak Lek and Khlong Dan form wide river basins. A large wetland named Bueng Mong is located to the northeast of Phichit Town. Mueang Sa Luang, also known as Kao Phichit, was founded more than 900 years ago. Besides walls and moats, its remaining ancient structures, built either during the Sukhothai or Ayutthaya period, include the monastery of Wat Phra Sri Rattana Maha That with its large, bell-shaped Phra That Chedi, a repository of hundreds of votive tablets. A Khmer inscription, excavated at this chedi, describes the ancient town with the word “sunthorn” meaning beautiful, a synonym for “phichit”.
The “Old City Park”, Mueang Kao, has several attractions. There is the city wall of the historical town. At Wat Phra Si Rattana Maha That, a deserted monastery with traces of a huge wall and a ruined Sri Lankanstyle pagoda, excavations of a mound yielded stone slabs inscribed in Khmer. A Sukhothai-style, plastercoated brick ubosot remains of the deserted Wat Nakhon Chum, built about 800 years ago. A high mound surrounded by a moat, situated outside the city wall, is known as Ko Si Mala. On another mound, a pagoda with four entrances called chaturamuk mondop houses the city pillar and a sculpture of the city founder.
Wat Nakhon Chum, built in the Sukhothai Period, has an ubosot with narrow openings for ventilation in its walls instead of windows and a large Sukhothai-style Buddha statue. Situated on top of a hill which looks like an elephant due to the formation of the white stone, Wat Kao Rup Chang has a Sri Lankan-style pagoda and the story of Trai Bhum Phra Ruang depicted in its murals. Wat Rong Chang , formerly called Wat Khlong, dates back to the Ayutthaya Period. It has three big Buddha images outdoors, one reclining, one in subduing Mara posture and one in the posture of appeasing relatives. The centre of attraction is a large pagoda containing inscriptions of Lord Buddha’s 84,000 sermons, Phra Traipitaka. Wat Pho Prathap Chang was built by Ayutthaya’s King Phra Chao Suea [1703-1709] at his birthplace. The site of its ruined, huge vihara is surrounded by double walls. The modern city of Phichit dates from its relocation to the west bank of the Nan River in 1845. There, the monastery named Wat Tha Luang houses a Chiang Saenstyle bronze Buddha statue.
At the lower reach of the upstream section of the Pa Sak River, the town of Phetchabun is located in an elongated plain receiving water from the river basins of the numerous Pa Sak tributaries, among them the major ones named Saduang Yai, Nam Phung, Chang Talut, Lao and Pa Daeng.
Excavations at the archaeological site of Non Tum yielded stone bangles, stone axes, stone-drilling tools and earthenware. Wat Maha That traces the history of the reign of Phra Chao Phetchabun and is, therefore, thought to be as old as the city itself. It has a Sukhothai-style stupa with a lotus-bud-shaped spire. A festival known as Um Phra Dam Nam commemorates the legendary supernatural power of thePhra Buddha Maha Thammaracha image. This had been found by fishermen in the Pa Sak River and placed at Wat Traiphum. From there, it mysteriously disappeared, only to be recovered from the bottom of the Pa Sak River at the same spot where it had been salvaged, in the first place. Annually, the image is
submerged in the river by the governor of Phetchabun Province, believing that this rite will ensure fine weather conducive to the growth of field crops.
Taken from: Thailand: Traits and Treasures. The National Identity Board, Royal Thai Government 2005.
Please note that we cannot take any responsibility for the correctness of the data shown on this Web site. We try our very best, but we depend on universities, their Web sites, and fellow students and lecturers, to get updates when ever programs, conditions, or tuition fees change.