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  • December 2009 (39)
  • Old Sukhothai Historical Park

    Wed, Dec 9, 2009


    Old is Gold of Old Sukhothai Historical Park.

    The Old Sukhothai Historical Park is ruins of ancient city and it is preserved and restored. As it is said Old is Gold, this very proverb is meant for this place. How aesthetically and beautifully the ruins have been saved and efficiently the Park is managed and well maintained. As a highlight in Thailand’s tourist place and being a dream destiny for the followers of Buddhism and benchmark in the heritage culture of Thailand. The name Sukhothai translates as “the dawn of happiness”. Here is once a prosper capital of Sukhothai dynasty, though now what remains are its ruins yet there are the beautiful monuments and relics with past rich history and culture.

    Sukhothai historical park

    Located near the New Sukhothai, it is 12 km from the north of the town. To travel to the old Sukhothai Historical Park you can rent bicycles and also songthaews which connect with all different cities. It can also be reached via trains from Bangkok and Chiang Mai connecting to New Sukhothai. You can travel also by long distance buses. It’s also possible to fly directly to Sukhotai from Chiang Mai and Bangkok using Bangkok Airways. Facility of shuttle buses is available to transfers tourist to hotels, guest parks and to the park.

    The visiting hours is 6am to 6pm very day, however the charges of visitation differs according to the places in park that you would like to visit.

    The Old Sukhothai Park’s city walls are forming a rectangle of about 2km east-west by 1.6 km north-south. Somewhere around 70square kilometer of land in all you can see 193 ruins. Here remain the ruins of the twenty six temples and royal palace.

    The park is very well maintained and taken care of by the Fine Arts Department of Thailand. It’s proclaimed to be protected by Royal Gazette on June 6 1962.  Its restoration process started in 1976 and thus park was opened in July 1988. Declared as World Heritage site on December 12 1991, in association with Historic Town of Sukhothai and Associated Historic Towns with the Historic parks in Kampheng Phet and Si Sarchanalai.

    The Park has around more then thousands of visitors each years who come to enjoy and marvel at ruins with its crafts and admire the arts and regal in old palace buildings and feel saintly in temples and the best part being the ancient Buddha figures. You either tour on rented bicycle or even on foot.

    The saga of these ruins can be dated back in 1238 when Sukhothai kingdom was first unified under the Intradit as the first ruler. The King Ramkhanheang who was the youngest son of the founding king established Theraveda Buddhism as the national religion. He also introduced the early form of the Thai alphabets. By the end of fourteen century the Sukhothai started its decline and Ayutthya’s power raised and it loosed its independence and become vassal state. This kingdom flourished for more then 200 years and during this period Old Sukhothai was the capital and it flourished and prospered as it was a center for political administration and main religion center.

    In the park we come across the important ancient monuments and well preserved relics of Sukhothai kingdom. It is city with the city walls.

    Architecture of Sukhothai temple has Lotus-Bud Chedi. It is structure which has features like a conical spire finial on a square sided on top of three tiered base. The Lotus shape Chedi are the remarkable and hallmark of the park. They also have touch of Cambodian and Sri Lankan and Srivijaya type designs and monuments present. The whole park is divided into five structures, in which the central zone is the royal zone. The outer zones are North, South, East and West. It takes more then a day to visit a park, so it is better to lodge yourself and visit.

    The central zone of the park is the spiritual destiny where the journey takes you to Wat Mahathat. While walking in the midst of central zone you shall feel the essence of peace and most of all the touch of divine power. The temple of Wat Mahathat is the greatest temple surrounded by lotus covered pools, trees, beautiful gardens with blooming flowers and greenery that soothes your mind and body. The place is so picturesque that for your entire life it will leave you with fond memories of visitation. You can take bicycle but it’s more fascinating if you take a walk. The first king of was the founder of this temple but the out of the ordinary large central chedi was given by the King Lo Thai in the year 1345. This temple was regularly expanded. The monk Sisatta brought with himself from Sri Lanka two relics of Buddha. These relics are kept in central chedi. The overall monastery is of 200 meters square in size, the compound contains no less then 200 chedis. An attention grabbing feature of the center chedi of temple is its decoration of stucco relics of one hundred and one monks sculpted praying. The chedis have the ashes of nobleman. Many of the original Buddha sculptures are still present among the ruins. Wat Mahathat has also ten viharns and around eight mondaps. The ruined viharns are worthy of note for tranquil Buddha statues are seated in there.

    There is Sukhothai Stone inscription describing the temple and its construction.

    The north zone has the memoirs of historical significance coz here we have one of the oldest temple which preceded Sukhothai Kingdom. Journeying through 500m north of the city walls we come across composed temple of Wat Phra Phai Luang.  Dated to be around year1238, this temple was constructed by Khmers which has not only Buddhist touch but also the Hindu elements. Its believed that this area was of significance during the reign of Khmers. It is said to be the center of the Khmer city. This temple shows us the link that Sukhothai had cultural contact with Khmer empire displaying through there arts. Present here are the monuments with great significance among which a stucco relief depicting the life of Buddha being the most important. Originally there were three buildings in prasat style but only stucco relief is left of that time. When this temple was converted to Thai temple Wat, numerous structures were built in the east of prangs. A viharn, a reclining Buddha, a mondop with four standing Buddha and chedi in which there was a statue of seated Buddha were added by Sukhothai.

    Some of the reliefs are now displayed in Ramkhamhaeng National Museum.

    Wat Si Chum is most visited for here is the Large sitting Buddha which is the largest in Sukhothai. This seated Buddha made up od brick and stucco measuring upto 49ft is known by the name of Phra Atchana(Anjana). Its name is mentioned in the Sukhothai stone inscription. On the ceiling of mondap surrounding the Buddha is ancint drawings depicting incarnations of Buddha (Jatakas), it tells us the stories. Image of this Seated Buddha has his giant hand draped over his leg, and the fingers are elegantly tapered and done with Gold nail polish. Also in interesting belief about this Buddha is that it was believed that this Buddha used to speak with his followers and devotees. As there is a passageway that leads up to the side of the madop, a tricky human may have spoke on his behalf. Also this passage which is rarely open provides aerial view of the great sculpture.

    In the east zone you can pursuit the temple called Wat Chang Lom is “Temple surrounded by Elephants”. The Temple has main bell-shaped chedi which has Sri Lankan style as a distinguishing feature with thirty two elephant’s statues around its base. The sculptures of elephants give the majestic and imperialistic appeal to the temple. The temple is located along the road to New Sukhothai. Similar temple compounds are found at Si Satchanalai and Kamphaeng Phet.

    The west zone is more of a forested area and appealing site there is Wat Saphan Hin I.e. Temple of the Stone Bridge. As the name is explaining with a grin, you have to climb stairs to reach the large Buddha and also offering the best aerial view of whole old Sukhothai. The stair case is a steep 650 foot made of long stone slabs. Its hell of an experience to climb  the stairs and reach on the top.

    Wat Si Sawai is a temple that is on 350 meters of south of Wat Mahathat. Built in Lopburi Style, it was initially a Hindu sanctuary but then transformed to a Buddhist temple. With three prangs filled with lintels and fragments of Hindu images and Linga.

    Wat Si Sawai

    A walking distance from Wat Mahathat is The Ramkhamhaeng National Museum named after the King Ramkhamhaeng who is credited with originating the Thai written Language. The museum houses different Buddha images of different styles and origins which are majorly the ruins and relics of past. It’s a good starting point for exploration and studying the artifacts of those periods. Also here is the replica of famous Ramkhamhaeng inscriptions. The attractive feature of the museum to the linguist is a section which displays evolution time of Khmer, Thai, and Mon script.

    It’s a delight to visit Sukhothai Historical Park to celebrate Loy Krathong. It’s the festival of Thailand celebrated in any time between October to November ie it is held for nine nights during the full moon of the twelfth month of Lunar calendar. There is blissful view to the park when the ponds are jazzed by floating candles and scintillating the ruins with decorations of lights on them. The exhilarations is reached with parades and concerts along with an ecstatic light show held at Wat Mahathat with firework displays. Booking accommodations in advance will be better as during this period the accommodations are generally full.

    The Sukhothai Historical Park is the narration of the Sukhothai Kingdom and example of its flourished glory and grandeur. The significance of Sukhothai kingdom cannot be under stated in Thai’s chronologies.

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