About 1.5 hours north of Bangkok is Ayutthaya, the 2nd capital of the Siamese Kingdom and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city was founded around 1350 and remained an important metropolitan center through the 18th century when it was destroyed by the Burmese. This is a magical place! Although I visited on a very hot day, there are plenty of trees to shade you from the Thai sun as you explore.
I was fascinated by how different these structures appear to be constructed compared to other temple ruins that I have visited. These structures had distinct bricks that were stacked and stuccoed to form the overall shape. There were still the distinctive architectural features prevalent in this region, but how each gets its shape was both interesting and thought-provoking.
Wat Maha That
We visited Wat Maha That on a hot morning. The compound is well maintained and the grounds highly manicured; you can tell they take pride in welcoming visitors here. One of the first things we see is a Banyan tree that has grown with a Buddha's head in the trunk. While I was hoping for some grand mythical story about how this happened, it turns out that it was basically a ruin of a Buddha statue whose head was captured by the vine-like trunk of the tree as it grew. While less mythical, it is still quite magical.
The compound is contained within a wall-lined square perimeter made of the same bricks as the structures themselves. The center of the compound is also square-shaped and contains a towering structure that inspires my curiosity. What must it have been like to live here when it was the center of the kingdom?
As I walk along the perimeter, gazing at the center, I notice several Buddha statues with their heads cut off. I learned that this was the Burmese people, who I believe were Hindu, cut off the heads because of their religious differences.
One of the large Buddha statues had remained intact and was beautiful. It is placed on a central site line to the main structure and the photo I captured is one of my all-time favorites. This depiction is in the "Calling The Earth To Witness" pose, which is said to represent the moment of enlightenment for the Buddha.
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