Chaiwatthanaram, one of the most imposing ancient Buddhist
monasteries, was established by the command of King Prasatthong
in 1630 A.D.. It is believed that the wat is located on the
site of his former home. The reason for his building this
monastery was to make merit for his mother. Prince Damrong
Rachanuphap noted that its architecture was similar to that
of Angkor Wat and infered that the wat might have been built
to commemorate the king's victory over Cambodia.
wat consists of a main prang (Khmer type tower) and four lesser
prangs, all created on the same base and surrounded by eight
lesser prangs and a gallery.
the gallery were placed 120 glit lacquered Buddha images in
the attitude of maravijaya, or Victory over Mara, the Evil
one. Within the eight lesser prangs there are twelve crowned
Buddha images. The ceiling of each alcove under each prang
was made of wood and was decorated with gilded star-like patterns
on black lacquer. Walls inside have mural paintings while
the outside walls were adorned with twelve stucco relief depicting
stories from the life of the Buddha. The ubosatha (ordination
hall) was located in an area outside the gallery and to the
east of the main prang. On the left and right side of the
ubosatha are two redented chedis. Four additional small chedis
and a small prang were built in a later period. With the exception
of the gallery, all the buildings in the courtyard of the
monastery were encircled by there walls.
main prang is in the early Ayutthaya style. The four lesser
prangs, however, are in the style of King Prasattong. They
have seven levels. The form of eight lesser prangs might have
been taken from the shape of a royal cremation tower in the
Ayutthaya period. Thai type of tower represents Mt. Meru,
the center of universe.
Chaiwatthanaram was a royal monastery. It is a wat where the
king and his descendants would perform religious rites; thus
removation would have been continuous. It was also used as
a cremation site for the princes, princesses, and the royal
family. When prince Thammathibet died, for instance, King
Borommakot decreed that an area in the wat be used as the
site for his cremation.
1767 A.D., Ayutthaya, the capital city of Thailand, was besieged
by Burmese invaders and the wat became an army camp. After
the fall of Ayutthaya, Wat Chaiwatthanaram was abandoned,
Looting, the decapitation of Buddha images, and the selling
of brick from the wat became common practices. Finally in
1987 A.D. the conservation of the wat was begun by the Thai
Fine Arts Department and was Completed in 1992 A.D.