Sunday, December 15, 2013

Final Research on " Wat Mahathat : Great Relics of Buddha "

                                                     A S H W A T I   T E R E S A  J O S E P H                                           
                                              Religious Temple at Ancient City Ayutthaya

Wat Mahathat : Isometric Diagram of Past and Present Context

Now as ruins, Wat Mahathat used to be a Temple idolized for major worship containing the Buddha’s relics. Surrounded by canals in the past, the main royal ceremony included the Barge ceremony which included the King travelling from the Grand Hall to offer prayers and sacrifices at Wat Mahathat. Standing as tall as 50 meters, Wat Mahathat symbolized the major religious site within the city. Constant addition of stupas and increment of height to the main prang of the temple was done in order to symbolze the structures grandeur and influence of Buddhism. Sheltering the supreme patriarch, Wat Mahathat emerged as an important monastery and religious centre. History dates it as collapsing twice during the reign of two kings, consequently bothered with theft and robbery as well as beheading the Buddha statues during the Thai-Burmese War.

VI3 Members at Wat Mahathat Ruins
Declared as a World Heritage Site within the Historical Park of Ayuthaya, Wat Mahathat is left as ruins for visitors to observe. However, the structure still remains as a ruin making the main tourist attraction as the Buddha’s head stuck in a Bodhi Tree. The main circulation involves of passing this attraction afterwards proceeding to the grand vihara and later to the actual main prang further passing the monastery structure. Two gates border the site based on an east west axis symbolizing how axial plans developed in Hinduism carrying on to Buddhism. Many stupas of Various heights are placed surrounding the main prang in order to embellish and make the main prang look more huge in size.

 VI3 Members at the Ubosot (Monastery) Ruin                                                                               Wat Mahathat Ruins at Sunset

Research on Past and Present Conditions

Wat Mahathat, the most holy and nominated structure of Ayuthaya City. Containing within the main prang is the Buddha's relic. Constructed mainly of laterite in the lower part to be topped in the upper part with brick and mortar. Now only the base remains, the collapsed part being probably looted after the fall of the kingdom. The prang collapsed twice, second collapse during the reign of King Rama VI. Continuous additions of various types of chedis, stupas were added to nominate the main prang and constant renovations were done in order to make it larger than the other structures. Placing smaller stupas, a clever method approached to make the taller and larger prang to stand out.
Present Wat Mahathat as Ruins : Location of  Market ,People Circulation, Spotlights.
1. Crow Bad Omen: Legend has it that just before when they city had collapsed, two crows had fought above the Wat Mahathat and supposedly died by falling on to the spire of the prang, their body pierced. This was recorded as one of the bad omen for the kingdom.

2. Reconstruction : Wat Mahathat, literally meaning "Great Relics of Buddha" should be constructed as large and elegant as possible (belief) since it houses the Buddhas relic. Built at a before 38 meters that collapsed, it was reconstructed again to reach a critical height of 42 meters in order to signify the religion's importance within the city.(However other sources mention that the new height went up to 50 meters) Mainly the prang collapsed due to the heavily ornate statues of garuda and devas that was built on the upper part of the main prang. However, now it remains as ruin. The base projects on sides hinting the presence of porch which may have been added during later reconstruction.

3. Royal Barge Ceremony : A Boat ceremony where the King had to travel from the Grand Palace in his barge along with other royal people to offer praise and worship to the Buddhas relics. In the past, Mahathat was surrounded by water canals making waterway the only possible way to travel to Mahathat.

4. Vihan Luang : Approximately 40 by 20 metres in size, this main vihan contained a mural painting of Vessantara Jataka. The deisgn of the vihan is known for its Early Ayuthaya era's square pattern with vertical lines. Currently this is the first place that current tourists enter after witnessing the fallen head of Buddha(stuck in Bodhi tree).

5. Ubosot: The Monastery is believed to be constructed  during the reign of King Boromrachathiraj I completed  in King Ramesuans time. This monastery is believed to be the residence of the Supreme Patriarch and other monks that lived nearby in other smaller ubosots. Another bad omen that followed was the consequent deaths of the patriarchs, one after the other that also proved as a bad omen for the fall of the kingdom. Their bodies were laid side by side at Mahathat.

6. Buddha's Relic : The main prang housed the relics of Buddha which made it the foundation and religious symbolic centre of the kingdom. This follows the practice of many countries who follows the Mandala concept where to imitate Mount Meru(centre of Universe) results in a square shaped town layout. Situated at the heart being the Buddha's  relic, which was protected entombed in a crypt beneath the ground (15 meters deep) in a seven layered pagoda, each of different material namely pewter,silver,nag(amalgam of copper and gold), twice of wood with gold spire, crystal layers, dark gamet topped with emeralds and rubies, the innermost gold box with lid containing the relic in sandalwood oil.

7. Beheaded Buddha Statues: Many stone buddha statues are located within the borders which is supposed to convey the life cycles of Buddha reaching to enlightenment. These however were beheaded during the Burmese captivity of the kingdom. Current tourist circulation occurs path through here, where a huge Buddhas statue(not beheaded) is present to which many pray and worship.

8. Buddhas Fallen Head : Stuck in a Bodhi Tree's roots, this proves to be the most attracted spot for tourists to take photographs of. The past recordings say the head might have been fallen from a thief who was stealing it or that it had fallen during the war.

9. Current Market and Ticket Counter : Located on the Southern side of Wat Mahathat is the current Market(small scale) which follows the Ticket Counter (Thai Citizen :20 Baht, Foreigner : 50 Baht).

Wat Mahathat Analysis from Ash Joseph on Vimeo.


  1. nice work... good job....Keep it up and Keep Going...!!

  2. Fantastic page you have here! Good work!