|CITY GATES OF AYUTTHAYA
|Text, maps & photographs by Tricky Vandenberg
|In the mid-18th century, the city walls of Ayutthaya consisted of palaces, small and large forts and proper thick brick walls, pierced by archways
and gates. Today not much remains of the city walls, as the walls and the forts were dismantled in the Early Rattanakosin period; their bricks shipped
to Bangkok for local construction purposes. King Maha Thammaracha (reign 1569-1590 AD) ordered the construction of new brick walls replacing
the stockades around the city under the pretext of a threat from Cambodia. These new walls were extended to the river banks around 1580 AD.
Ayutthaya bore Maha Nagara Dvaravati in its full Sanskrit name, what can be translated as "Great City with Gates" (from dvar "door gate"), this to
illustrate the importance given to its gates (1). In the old documents we find that there were 12 water gates, 11 land gates (with Pratu Chai it would
be twelve) and 12 great forts. The number 12 brings the Chinese zodiac (horasat) to mind. Perhaps there was initially a relation between the horasat
and the number of important structures along the wall.
Out of the Testimony of the Ayutthayans taken prisoners by the Burmese in 1767 and noted down in the Mon language; and out of other
miscellaneous documents collected in the early Rattanakosin era, we have a description of the city walls prior to the fall of Ayutthaya.
|(Pratu Chong Kut behind the Wat Rattanachai City
|The northern wall of the Grand Palace
The northern wall of the Grand Palace situated along the main river (2) was part of the city wall of Ayutthaya. The wall was 4 meters high from ground
level to the base of the parapet. The breastwork was one meter high which made the palace wall in total 5 meters high and 3 meters thick (3), while a
wall-walk for the guards ran below the crest. Between the two corner forts forming the northern wall of the palace there were six gates. Some sources
mention an additional gate called the Pratu Jan Thawan Phirom, being the first gate in the northern wall (as thus west of Earth Gate).
East of the Phak Tho Gate stood the Phak Tho Fort also known as the Thai Sanam Fort, a corner fort. The first gate in the northern palace wall was
the Bowon Nari Maha Phop Chon Gate, also called Pratu Din or Earth Gate giving out to Earth Gate Road. The second gate was Maha Trai Phop
Chon Thawara Uthok Gate or Water Cloister Gate leading to the Wasukri Landing on the main river. The third gate was the Sao Thong Chai Gate or
Victory Flagpole Gate, an elephant-ear gate. The fourth gate was the Jao Prap Landing Gate. (4) This gate was used to go out from the palace in the
case of ceremonies. The fifth gate was the White Elephant Gate used by white elephants and other royal elephants to bathe in the river. The sixth and
last gate was the Khoi Landing Gate also known as the Nobles Landing Gate giving the palace officials access to the Nobles Landing ferry. (5) Finally
we had the Tha Khan Fort or Boundary Landing Fort, again a corner fort standing at the north-east side of the palace.
|(The northern Grand Palace wall)
|The eastern wall of the Front Palace
The eastern palace wall of the Jan Kasem or Front Palace was not part of the city wall. The Front Palace, situated between the Maha Chai Fort and
the Fang Fort, had its own fortifications. Engelbert Kaempfer, a medical doctor working for the Dutch East India Company, indicates on his sketch
map (1690) four bastions, one at each corner of the palace. Jacques Nicolas Bellin, a French cartographer, mentions only 2 bastions on his map
(1752), while the Fine Arts Department (1974) draws the palace with three bastions. Along the eastern city wall in front of the Front Palace were
two large gates being the Gate of the Elephant landing (Pratu Tha Chang) and the Gate of the Water Cloister Gate (Pratu Chanoan Nam). The Front
Palace had - identically to the Grand Palace - a long roofed corridor leading to the main boat landing of the palace, in order to protect and screen off
|(The Front Palace with its 4 bastions on Kaempfer's
sketch map - 1690)
The City of Ayutthaya surrounded by the waters of what at that time was known as the Mae Nam, had two kind of gates: land and water gates.
Water gates stood at the entry and exit of the canals running through the city, while land gates gave access extra-muros to the city's main streets. The
earliest description of Ayutthaya’s gates I found, is from Jeremias Van Vliet, a merchant of the Dutch East-India Company. He mentions 17 water
"Through Judia there are running eight rivers. At the places where these rivers enter and leave the town, gates have been built consisting
of two straight vertical posts about eight fathoms long and one and a half fathoms thick. These posts are on top connected by two
horizontal beams and the space between these beams is provided with some wooden ornamentation. Including the Petoutsiau or Gate of
the Hearts (the entrance to the court) there are thus seventeen gateways."
|Van Vliet interpreted Petoutsiau as the Gate of Hearts instead of the Gate of Victory (Pratu Chai). He wrote that there existed eight rivers within
Ayutthaya with at each begin and end a gate, which makes sixteen gates and were the Gate of Victory has to be added as the 17th gate. I believe
Van Vliet did not really counted the gates, but just made a mathematical conclusion of the numbers of canals he thought to be in existence. There
were likely less water gates as we will see later. There is still uncertainty on whether the Victory Gate was a land or water gate. Van Vliet mentions it
as a water gate. In the Old Testimonies the Gate of Victory is also described as a water gate, but Phraya Boran Ratchathanin had its doubt and
believed it was a land gate. If we look at Kaempfer’s drawn map we can see a water gate, but there is also something what looks like a triumphal
arch on the main road north towards the palace next to Khlong Chakrai Noi. This triumphal arch could also have been called the Victory Gate as it
was the location were the important processions towards the palace headed off.
|(The Nai Kai Gate at the mouth of the Nai Kai Canal, present
Makham Riang Canal in Ayutthaya on Vingboon's map)
|(Detail of Kaempfer's drafted map - 1690)
|In the Old Testimonies dating back to the end of the Ayutthaya era is mentioned that there were twenty-three great gates with red-painted peaks,
which could be divided in 12 water gates and 11 land gates.
The 12 water gates mentioned in the documents were the following: the Tower of the Jewels of Victory Gate (Pratu Ho Rattanchai) at the exit of the
Tower of the Jewels of Victory Canal (Khlong Ho Rattana Chai); The Nai Kai Gate (Pratu Nai Kai) at the exit of the Nai Kai Canal (Khlong Nai
Kai); the Chinese Gate (Pratu Jin) at the exit of the Chinese Gate Canal (Khlong Pratu Jin); the Thesami Gate (Pratu Thesami) at the exit of Thesami
Canal (Khlong Thesami, also called Thepmi or Khao Sami); the Chakra Noi Gate (Pratu Chakrai Noi) at the exit of Chakra Noi Canal (Khlong
Chakrai Noi); the Victory Gate (Pratu Chai) between the Chakra Noi and Chakra Yai Canals, gave access to a short canal inside the wall, which led
to an open space for disembarking from the boats; the Chakrai Yai Gate (Pratu Chakrai Yai) at the exit of Chakra Yai Canal (Khlong Chakrai Yai);
the Rice Husk Canal Gate (Pratu Khlong Klaep) at the exit of Rice Husk Canal (Khlong Klaep also called Khlong Tha Phra); the Maha Chai
Granary Canal Gate (Pratu Khlong Chang Maha Chai) at the exit of the Maha Chai Granary Canal (Khlong Chang Maha Chai); the Fang Canal
Gate (Pratu Khlong Fang) at the exit of Fang Canal (Khlong Fang); the Pak Tho Gate (Pratu Khlong Pak Tho) at the exit of Tho Canal (Khlong
Tho) and the Paddy Gate (Pratu Khao Pluak) at the exit of the Paddy Gate Canal (Khlong Pratu Khao Pluak).
The 11 land gates were: the Elephant Landing Gate (Pratu Tha Chang) and the Water Cloister Gate (Pratu Chanoan Nam) from the Jan Kasem
Palace also called the Front Palace; the Jao Jan Gate (Pratu Jao Jan) at the end of the Pa Thon Street or Pa Than Street (6) (where it is forbidden to
take corpses out); the Rear Palace Landing Gate (Pratu Tha Wang Lang); the Sat Kop Gate (Pratu Sat Kop) north of Sat Kop Fort; the Goose
Gate (Pratu Han) south of Wat Tuek; the Mu Taluang Gate diagonally opposite the Dock of Royal barges (used to embark the corpses of children
and grandchildren of the royal family in procession to cremations at the pyre of Wat Chai Watthanaram); the Boundary Landing Gate (Pratu Tha
Khan) at the end of Rong Ma Street, just east of the Grand Palace; the Laundry Landing Gate (Pratu Tha Sak); the Ten Cowries Landing Gate
(Pratu Tha Sip Bia) where elephants come down to bath and the Kalahom Landing Gate (Pratu Tha Kalahom) at the end of the Tha Kalahom Street.
|Haunted gates (7)
There is something more about the gates. Though the early habitants of Ayutthaya were Buddhists, they still conducted terrible human sacrifices.
These primitive animistic rites were likely inherited from India, where such customs were apparently once prevalent. In the Jataka tales, a voluminous
body of literature native to India concerning the previous births of Gautama Buddha, we find a reference to a foundation sacrifice mentioned in the
Now the chaplain caused the old gate to be pulled down, and the new was made ready; which done, he went and said to the king, "The gate
is ready, my lord: to-morrow is an auspicious conjunction; before the morrow is over, we must do sacrifice and set up the new gate."
"Well, my teacher, and what is necessary for the rite?" "My lord, a great gate is possessed and guarded by great spirits. A brahmin,
tawny-brown and toothless, of pure blood on both sides, must be killed; his flesh and blood must be offered in worship, and his body laid
beneath, and the gate raised upon it. This will bring luck to you and your city." "Very well, my teacher, have such a brahmin slain, and set
up the gate upon him." 
The Phi (spirits), which had the duty to guard the gates of the city, needed to be created. For this purpose pregnant women were taken off the streets
in Ayutthaya and brought to the Grand Palace, where they were treated as semi-deities. The victims were taken well care off until the day of their
fate. The Dutch merchant Jeremias Van Vliet, at that time junior merchant at the Dutch settlement under Joost Schouten as chief, wrote:
The kings counted their subjects so little that if palaces, towers, or resting places had to be built for them, under each post which was put
into the ground, a pregnant woman was thrown, and the more near this woman was to her time, the better. For this reason there was often
great misery in Judia during the time that palaces or towers had to be built or repaired. For as all houses in Siam are built at a certain
height above the ground and stand on wooden posts, many women have endured this suffering. Although this description seems to be
fabulous, these executions have really taken place. The people, who are very superstitious, believe that these women after dying turn into
terrible monsters or devils, who defend not only the post below which they are thrown but the whole house against misfortune. The king
usually ordered a few slaves to catch without regard all the women who were in a pregnant state. But out of the houses no women were
taken unless in the street: nobody could be found. These women were brought to the queen who treated them as if they were of high birth.
After they had been there for a few days, they were (excuse these rude words) thrown into the pit with the stomach turned upwards. After
this the post was put on the stomach and driven right through it.
Van Vliet continues with an example of these foundation sacrifices in the reign of King Prasat Thong (1629-1656).
At the commencement of 1634 the present king renewed them all, and as these gates, whether they belonged to temples, monasteries,
houses, or courts (however ugly or unimportant they might be), are sacred places in Siam, His Majesty ordered two pregnant women to be
thrown under each post. There were thus necessary 68 women for the 17 gates. For this purpose some Women had already been brought
into the palace. But at that time it happened that on each of two succeeding days five women were caught who at the same moment that
they were brought inside the palace gave birth. This caused great dejection in the court of the king, and it was believed to be a miracle.
Oya Sycry (who has at present the title of Oya Sucethay and who is a man of great self-confidence) was so bold as to tell the king that
apparently the supreme god of His Majesty's gods did not approve of women being thrown under each post of the gates. But in order to
reconcile the devil (who as the Siamese think has taken possession of these gates), Oya Sycry proposed to the king to perform this
ceremony at the Petoutsiau only. His Majesty agreed with this and ordered the keeping of only four of the pregnant women. The other
women (those who already had given birth as well as those who had not) had their hair shaved off and received two cuts on the head, and
they were told that God had given their lives into the hands of the king and that they ought to die; but as the king was merciful and more
gracious than the gods, they could all go home, except the four already mentioned women, who were thrown under the posts of the
Petoutsiau. [Petoutsiau - Gate of Victory]
François Valentyn (1666-1727) got access to the secret archives of the Dutch East India Company. In his work Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indiën
published in 1724-1726 he mentioned also the foundation sacrifices, but I presume this information could have been based on the earlier accounts of
One picks up these wretched women on the street, and after receiving them nice and well for some time in the apartments of the Queen,
they were crushed in this detestable way under these posts. In later times, however, one have found Siamese, who did not only knew better,
and abhorred this as well as we do; amongst them there were also Courtiers, remarkably being enlightened, by dealing with us, and other
peoples of Europe, who took the liberty, to show the groundlessness of this argument to their Kings, and saved thereby many of such
miserable, and already seized women, although however it usually claims the lives of some of them (for the people and the Priests, which
are difficult to dissuade).
Even in the Early Rattanakosin period these foundation sacrifices still occurred in the new capital of Bangkok. Barthélémy Bruguière (1792-1835),
the Bishop of Capse and member of Missions Étrangères de Paris, gives in a letter written in the year 1829, an account of the ceremony as
performed in the early days of Bangkok. He wrote that there were not yet five years passed, since one had seen this ceremony 'worthy of cannibals'
repeated at Bangkok.
Whenever a new gate is to be built in the city wall, or an old one to be repaired, it is fixed by I do not know which superstitious article, that
three innocent human victims have to be immolated. Here is how one proceeds a this barbaric execution. The King, after having secretly
held council, sends one of his officers to the gate about to be repaired. This officer had the appearance of wishing to call somebody; and
from time to time repeats the name to be given to the gate. It happens more than once that by-passers hearing the call, turn their head;
upon which the officer, helped by other men stationed nearby, seized until they had three of them. Their death is from then irrevocably
fixed. No service, no promise, no sacrifice can deliver them. Within the gate is a ditch, and at a certain height above is a great beam; this
beam is hung by two ropes, and suspended horizontally almost in the same way as in a wine-press. On the appointed day for the fatal and
horrible sacrifice, a splendid banquet is prepared for the three victims, after which they are led in ceremony to the ditch. The king and the
whole court come to salute them. The king charges them in particular to guard well the gate confided to them, and to give notice of the
approach of enemies, or rebels who come to take the city. Instantly the ropes are cut, and these victims of superstition are crushed by the
heavy load that falls on their heads. The Siamese think that these unfortunates are transformed into the genii called phi. 
Henry Alabaster (1836-1884) arrived in Bangkok in 1857 as one of the first British diplomats to the Court of Siam and later became adviser to King
Chulalongkorn. He also seems to have received some notice regarding this barbarous custom. There's no smoke without fire ...
Formerly, in Siam, when a new city gate was being erected, it was customary for a number of officers to lie in wait near the spot, and
seize the first four or eight persons who happened to pass by, and who were then buried alive under the gate posts, to serve as guardian
angels. The governess at the Siamese court declares this was done when a new gate was added to the palace a few years ago, but her
book is, to my knowledge, so untrustworthy that I may decline to believe this story, the more so as it is quite inconsistent with the humane
character of the late King. 
Next to the large land gates there were also smaller gates or archways. The Old Testimonies give 61 archways, but the two archways of the Front
Palace mentioned in the Description of Ayutthaya are not included. There was even an arched gate which was an entry for the waters of the old
Lopburi River; the Maha Thera Sae gate fed Bueng Chikan. Today we still find an example of such a slit in the city wall behind the premises of the
Wat Rattanachai City Council School opposite Wat Phanan Choeng. This archway was about 2 meters wide and 2.5 meters tall.
List of Archways
Starting at the eastern city wall below Hua Ro in clockwise direction...
1-2 Two archways between Elephant Landing Gate (Pratu Tha Chang) and the Water Cloister Gate (Pratu Chanoan Nam (mentioned in the
Description of Ayutthaya but not in the Old Testimonies).
3-5 Three archways between the Water Cloister Gate and the Wat Fang (Wat Khwang) Fort.
6 One archway between Wat Fang (Wat Khwang) Fort and the Tower of the Jewels of Victory Gate (Ho Rattana Chai Gate).
7-9 Three archways between the Tower of the Jewels of Victory Gate and the Jao Jan Gate.
10-11 Two archways between the Jao Jan Gate and the Ho Racha Khrue Fort.
12 One archway between the Ho Racha Khrue Fort and the southeast corner of the city of Ayutthaya called Hua Sarapha.
13 One archway between Hua Sarapha and the fort at the harbour (Hua Sarapha Fort).
14 One archway between the fort at the harbour and Diamond Fort.
15-16 Two archways left and right of the Diamond Fort for walking out onto the walkway around the fort.
17-21 Five archways between Nai Kai Gate and the Ok Kai Fort.
22-23 Two archways between Ok Kai Fort and the Chinese Gate.
24-25 Two archways between the Chinese Gate and the Thesami Gate
26-27 Two archways between the Thesami Gate and the Chakrai Noi Fort (area of Dan Chi Landing).
28 One archway between the Chakrai Noi Fort and the Chakrai Noi Gate (area of Dan Chi Landing).
29-30 Two archways between Chakrai Noi Gate and Victory Gate.
31-33 Three archways between Victory Gate and Chakrai Yai Gate.
34-35 Two archways between Chakrai Yai Gate and Wang Chai Fort.
36 -39 Four archways from Wang Chai Fort to the Rice Husk Canal Gate aka Monk Landing Gate (Pratu Khlong Klaep aka Pratu Khlong Tha
40-41 Two archways between Rice Husk Canal Gate and Rear Palace Landing Gate.
42-43 Two archways between Rear Palace Landing Gate and Maha Chai Granary Canal Gate.
44-46 Three archways between Maha Chai Granary Canal Gate and Fang Canal Gate.
47 One archway between the Sat Kop Fort and the Sat Kop Gate.
48 One archway between the Sat Kop Gate and the Supharat Fort.
49 One archway between the Supharat Fort and the Goose Gate.
50 One archway between the Goose Gate and the Mu Taluang Gate. The latter was used for transporting the remains of royal family members by
boat to Wat Chai Watthanaram for cremation.
51 One archway between the Mu Taluang Gate and the Pak Tho Canal Gate.
52 One archway between Boundary Landing Gate and Laundry Landing Gate.
53-55 Three archways between Laundry Landing Gate and Ten Cowries Landing Gate.
56 One archway between Ten Cowries Landing Gate and the Maha Thera Mai Sae archway. At the Maha Thera Mai Sae archway water of the old
Lopburi River was diverted to flow under the main road, along the Pak Sra (Mouth of the Pond) ditch through earthenware pipes into Bueng Chikan.
The waters ran further under the Nak Bridge Road through buried pipes to join the Khao Sami Gate Canal and to exit again in the main river.
57-58 Two archways between the Maha Thera Mai Sae archway and the Kalahom Landing Gate.
59-60 Two archways between the Kalahom Landing Gate and Paddy (Canal) Gate.
61 One archway between Paddy (Canal) Gate and Jampaphon Fort.
62-63 Two archways between Jampaphon Fort and the Maha Chai Fort.
The eastern city wall from the Maha Chai Fortress until Hua Sarapha had as thus four large gates with peaks, twelve small arched gates, two large
forts and four smaller ones.
The southern city wall from Hua Sarapha until the Wang Chai Fortress had six large gates with peaks, 23 small arched gates and 3 large forts and
three smaller ones.
The western city wall from Wang Chai Fort until Sat Kop Fort at Hua Laem had four large gates with peaks, 10 small arched gates and one great
The northern city wall from Sat Kop Fort until Maha Chai Fort had nine large gates with peaks, 18 small arched gates, the Maha Thera Mai Sae
arched gate, three great forts, two palace forts and one small fort.
(1) In 1757 the Prime Minister, Chao Phya Channan Boriraks, wrote in Pali to the Prime Minister of the Kandyan Kingdom in Ceylon using the full
title of Ayutthaya being: Deva Maha Nagara Dvaravati Siri Ayuddhya Mahatilakabhava Nabaratana Rajadhani Puriramya.  A nearly same title
was given in the Phrakat Phraratchaphrarot being, Krungthep Mahanakhon Bowon Thawarawathi Si Ayutthaya Mahadilokphop Nopharatana
Ratchathani Buriram Udomphrarachaniwet Mahasathan 
(2) In the Late Ayutthayan era the main river ran from Bang Phutsa over Lopburi to Ayutthaya (Hua Ro) where it split up direction west further
around the island and direction east into the Khu Na or the eastern front moat. The digging of the shunt connecting the main river with the Khu Na
dates back to the second part of the 17th century as part of the north-eastern defenses of the city.
(3) Phraya Boran measured the palace wall south of Wat Phra Sri Sanphet and found the width as being only 2 to 2.5 meters.
(4) The Jao Prap Landing is not mentioned in the list of landings found in the old documents.
(5) Also called Tha Kan or Boundary Landing.
(6) Phraya Boran was not sure at the end of which street.
(7) This paragraph is mainly based on the work of Quaritch Wales, Horace Geoffrey - Siamese State Ceremonies (London, 1931) - page 304-7.
 The City of Thawarawadi Sri Ayudhya - HH Prince Dhani Nivat - Bangkok, 11 August 1939 - a Journal of the Siam Society [JSS] Publication -
  Baker, Chris - Final Part of the Description of Ayutthaya - The Journal of the Siam Society (2014) Volume 102 - page 188.
 Van Vliet, Jeremias - Van Vliet's Siam - Chris Baker, Dhiravat Na Pombejra, Alfons van der Kraan, David K. Wyatt - Silkworm books (2005)
- page 114.
 The Jātaka, or Stories of the Buddha’s Former Births, edited by E.B. Cowell, published by The Cambridge University Press - Book 13
Terasanipāta - 481. Takkariya Jātaka.
 Letter from Barthélémy Bruguière (1792-1835), Bishop of Capse (Missions Étrangères de Paris) to M. Bousquet, Vicar-General of Aire,
Bangkok 1829 in the Annales de l' association de la propagation de la foi Vol 5 - Paris, 1831 - page 164.
 Alabaster, Henry - The Wheel of the Law - (1871) - Trubner & Co, London - page 212-213.
|(An arched gate with as function to control the flow and water
level between the city moat and the Lopburi River in Lopburi)
|(Example of archways in the city wall on Vingboons' map - 1665)