Within the Park is the Phimai Sanctuary, one of the grandest and
most important Khmer historical sites in Thailand.
The word ‘Phimai’ appears in an inscription on a stone slab at the
front doorway of the building as well as in many other structures.
It is believed that the word ‘Phimai’ referred to a religious figure
The Phimai Sanctuary is rectangular in shape and is 565 meters wide
and 1,030 meters long. It consists of ornately carved sandstone
and laterite structures. The most special characteristic of the
sanctuary is that it is the only one that faces south while the
others usually face east. This is probably because it was built
to face the route that the Khmers traveled from the capital of the
empire, to the south of Phimai.
From stone inscriptions and the architectural style, the Phimai
Sanctuary was most likely built at the end of the 11th century during
the reign of King Suriyaworaman I. The architectural style is that
of the Baphuon style that prospered at the time. However, some characteristics
are similar to that of Angkor Wat, which became popular at a later
period. Some additions were made to the site in the early 18th Buddhist
century during the reign of King Chaiworaman VII when Phimai had
close relations with the Khmer Empire. The sanctuary was always
a religious site of the Mahayana sect of Buddhism because King Suriyaworaman
I and King Chaiworaman VII were followers of the sect.
Important Structures in Phimai Sanctuary:
The Naga Bridge is the first part you pass when visiting the site.
The bridge and lion figures stand in front of the Gopura (porch)
south of the main pagoda. The intention may have been to build a
link between earth and heaven according to both Hindu and Buddhist
beliefs concerning the universe.
The Gopura was adapted as the wall around the sanctuary and the
four entering porches. There is a large corridor connecting the
outer and inner areas of the main sanctuary. Above each porch is
a lintel of various designs.
The Main Prang or pagoda is on an open area in a curved walkway.
It is the centre of the site and is made entirely of white sandstone
and is different from the porches and walls that are made primarily
of red sandstone. This is because white sandstone is more durable
than red sandstone. The pagoda is 28 meters high, has a square base,
a portico and stairways and doors in all 4 directions.
The pagoda consists of a base, outer walls, columns, and porches
with beautiful designs. Of vital importance are the lintels that
mostly recount the tale of Ramayana from Hinduism and tales of the
Mahayana sect of Buddhism. The lintels above the 4 doorways of the
main pagoda’s inner chamber, the most important room of the pagoda,
are all about Buddhism reflecting the Buddhist influence that eventually
surpassed that of Hinduism. The carvings are of the Baphoun style
(1007-1107) and the Angkor Wat style (1107-1157) leading to the
belief that the main pagoda was built at the end of the 12th century.
There are other pagodas, which are Prang Brahmadat in front of the
main pagoda, Prang Hin Daeng and Ho Phram (Brahma Hall) to the right.
The park is open daily from 7.30 a.m. to 6 p.m. The admission is
40 baht. There are youth guides available to provide visitors with
information about the site for free.
Sites Outside Phimai Sanctuary:
The Phimai City Gate and City Walls were built during the reign
of King Chaiworaman VII. Of the 4 gates, the south gate is the most
important because the road from the ancient Khmer capital to Phimai
runs through it. The sanctuary can be seen when looking straight
through the gate.
The Men Brahmadat is southeast of the walls and is made entirely
of bricks. Its present form is a huge and round earth hill that
is about 30 meters high. The site is believed to have been the place
where a king was cremated.
However, the style of construction suggests it was built in the
late Ayutthaya period.
Other sites to the south are Tha Nang Sa Phom, Kuti Rusi and Arokhayasan.