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Phra Mongkhonbophit  

In the early Ayutthaya period there was no place specially used for cremations. When a King died an area would be chosen for that royal ritual. After the ceremonies had been performed the location where the cremation took place became the site of a monastery; for example. Wat Phra Ram is located where King U Thong was cremated. Only as of the reign of King Songtham is there evidence of a specific area having been reserved for this purpose.

The chronicles mention that in 1610 A.D. King Songtham ordered the image known as Phra Mongkhonbophit to be moved from the east to the west and commanded the constuction of a mandapa to house this image of the Buddha. In 1612 A.D. an order was carried out to level the earth in front of the vihara so that cremations could take place there Phra Mongkhonbophit has been identified as the image which King Chairachathirat had ordered sculpted in 1538 A.D. at Wat Chichiang.

From available evidance we know that King Thairachathirat ordered the building of Wat Chichiang and a chedi in the vicinity of a cremation spot, and the casting of an image. King Songtham chose to limit the area for cremations to the central part of the town, near Wat Chichiang; this was the reason for moving the Buddha image (Phra Mongkhonbophit) to a new spot in the western sector, after which its original site was used for a cremation area.

In the reign of King Sua (1697-1706 A.D.) lightning struck the top of the mandapa and it collapsed. The head of Phra Mongkhonbophit fell off. As a result the King had the mandapa rebuilt and turned into a vihara. In the reign of King borommakot (1732-1758 A.D.) another restoration took place. When Ayutthaya was sacked the vihara was apparently burnt.

The Phra Mongkhonbophit image was last restored in 1955 A.D. . At that time a quantity of buddha images were found on the left shoulder of Phra Mongkhonbophit. They are now kept in the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum.

In 1990 A.D. the Mongkhonbophit Foundation in Ayutthaya desired to cover the image with gold leaf. This was approved by the Fine Arts Department. The work was completed two years later.

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