|PHRA PATHAWI (พระปฐวี)
|In the "Geographical description of Ayutthaya: Documents from the palace" are eight sacred places mentioned outside the city of Ayutthaya, being the
glory of the capital since olden times.  One of these eight places is Phra Pathawi (1) located at Wat Phra Phuttha Chai in Nong Pla Lai sub-district of
Sara Buri, featuring a natural relief-like image of the Buddha on a limestone rock face. The location is 8 Km south of the center of Saraburi City and 33 Km
from Phra Phuttha Bat.
Legend has when the Buddha set foot in the area of Sara Buri, he went to the Kataka Mountain (2) (Phra Phutthachai Mountain) to teach a hunter,
what lead the latter to become a saint. When the Buddha wanted to return, Phra Kataka (the former hunter) asked for a memorial gift for him to worship.
The Gautama Buddha revealed himself by projecting his image on the rock face of the Phra Phuttha Chai Mountain.
The part of the rock wall displaying the image is embedded in a pagoda, with a terrace offering a panoramic view of the surrounding area. On the east side is
a reclining Buddha with the feet in an uncommon posture, with next to it a number of Gandara-styled Buddha images. Near the large Buddha image
are gilded carvings in the rock said to be engravings by the Kings of the Chakri Dynasty on visit to Phra Phuttha Chai. The monastic enclosure can be
reached by stairs.
I found two references of royal visits in the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya. The chronicles mention a visit of King Süa (r. 1703-1709) to Phra Patahwi in
1709, shortly before falling sick and dying and a visit of King Suriyamarin (r. 1758-1767) in begin 1765. The texts speak of the "Mountain of the Earth"
which is a reference to Pathawi (1), while the Holy Mirror could be the so called shadow (mirage) of the Buddha (เงา); though it remains a guess.
"Then [the King] offered veneration, took His leave, advanced the procession of His warriors, groups of elephants and brave forces along
towards the east and, crossing the Teak Forest Branch of the Mother of Waters in the district of the Teak Forest, went to the Mountain of the
Earth. His Majesty ascended it to offer veneration to the image of the Holy Buddha and then remained there for three days." 
"When the first month arrived His Majesty the Supreme Holy Buddhist Lord Omnipotent went up in holy royal procession to venerate the Holy
Mirror at the Mount of the Earth and stayed for two days. Then His Majesty came back down and went up to venerate the Footprint of
the Holy Buddha and perform the Buddhist celebration of revolving the holy tapers for an entire seven days. Then His Majesty returned to the
Holy Grand Metropolis." 
Without much doubt this place must have been visited by the Ayutthayan Kings during their stay at Wat Phra Phuttha Bat. Legend said that Phra
Pathawi was discovered in the reign of King Songtham (Intharacha) (r. 1610/1611-1628) after the Footstep of the Buddha was found.
Henri Mouhot visited the place end 1858 and noted that Pathawi was visited by Laotian pilgrims, while the Phrabat was mainly done by the Siamese. Here
under is a description of Pathawi by Mouhot.
"... and at last reached Patawi. As at Phrabat, there is a bell, both at the foot of the mount and at the entrance of a long and wide avenue
leading to the pagoda, which the pilgrims ring on arriving, to inform the good genii of their presence and bespeak a favourable hearing to their
prayers. The mount is isolated, and about 450 feet in height; its formation is similar to that of Phrabat, but, although its appearance is equally
grand, it presents distinct points of variation. Here are not to be seen those masses of rock, piled one upon another, as if hurled by the giants
in a combat like that fabled of old. Patawi seems to be composed of one enormous rock, which rises almost perpendicularly like a wall,
excepting the centre portion, which towards the south hangs over like a roof, projecting eighteen or twenty feet. At the first glance might be
recognised the action of water upon a soil originally clay. There are many footprints similar to those of Phrabat, and in several places are to be
seen entire trunks of trees in a state of petrifaction lying close to growing individuals of the same species. They have all the appearance of
having been just felled, and it is only on testing their hardness with a hammer that one feels sure of not being mistaken. An ascent of several
large stone steps leads, on the left hand, to the pagoda, and, on the right, to the residence of the Talapoins, or priests, who are three in
number, - a superior and two assistants, appointed to watch and pay reverence to the precious "rays" of Somanakodom. Were the authors who
have written about Buddhism ignorant of the signification of the word "ray" employed by the Buddhists ? Now, in the Siamese language, the
same word which means "ray" signifies also shadow, and it is through respect for their deity that the first meaning is applied." 
In July 1994 the Fine Arts Department - 3th Region started the restoration of Wat Pra Phuttha Chai. During this restoration a 2.5 meter large "Buddha
Footprint" was discovered carved in the rock. The footprint is believed to date from the Mon-Dvaravati period (6th to the 13th century), prior to the
"Khmerization" of the area by Angkor.
From the top of the hill you have a majestic view over the area. Who better than Henri Mouhot can describe the feast of the eyes:
"I went to the extreme north of the mount, where some generous being has kindly had constructed, for the shelter of travellers, a hall, such as is
found in many places near pagodas. The view here is indescribably splendid, and I cannot pretend to do justice either with pen or pencil to the
grand scenes which here and elsewhere were displayed before my eyes. I can but seize the general effect and some of the details ; all I
can promise to do is to introduce nothing which I have not seen. Hitherto all the views I had seen in Siam had been limited in extent, but here the
beauty of the country is exhibited in all its splendour.
Beneath my feet was a rich and velvety carpet of brilliant and varied colours; an immense tract of forest, amidst which the fields of rice and the
unwooded spots appeared like little streaks of green ; beyond, the ground, rising gradually, swells into hills of different elevations; farther still to
the north and east, in the form of a semicircle, is the mountain-chain of Phrabat and that of the kingdom of Muang-Lom ; and in the extreme
distance those of Korat, fully sixty miles distant. All these join one another, and are, in fact, but a single range. But how describe the varieties of
form among all these peaks! In one place they seem to melt into the vapoury rose-tints of the horizon, while nearer at hand the peculiar structure
and colour of the rocks bring out more strongly the richness of the vegetation; there, again are deep shadows vying with the deep blue of the
heaven above; everywhere those brilliant sunny lights, those delicate hues, those warm tones, which make the tout ensemble
The spectacle is one which the eye of a painter can seize and revel in, but which his brush, however skilful, can transfer most imperfectly to his
canvas. At the sight of this unexpected panorama a cry of admiration burst simultaneously from all mouths. Even my poor companions, generally
insensible to the beauties of nature, experienced a moment of ecstacy at the sublimity of the scene. "Oh! di, di" (beautiful), cried my young
Laotian guide; and when I asked Kue what he thought of it, " Oh ! master," he replied, in his mixed jargon of Latin, English, and Siamese, " the
Siamese see Buddha on a stone, and do not see God in these grand things. I am pleased to have been to Patawi." On the opposite side, viz. the
south, the picture is different. Here is a vast plain, which extends from the base of Patawi and the other mountains beyond Ayuthia, whose high
towers are visible in the distance, 120 miles off. At the first glance one distinguishes what was formerly the bed of the sea, this great plain having
taken the place of an ancient gulf: proof of which is afforded by numerous marine shells, many of which I collected in a perfect state of
preservation; while the rocks, with their footprints and fossil shells, are indicative of some great change at a still earlier period." 
The site is located in Geo Coord: 14° 27' 35.43" N, 100° 56' 56.31" E.
(1) ปฐวี = ground, earth, soil
(2) कटक = Kataka (Sanskrit); the side or ridge of a hill or mountain.
 พรรณนาภูมิสถาน พระนครศรีอยุธยา เอกสารจากหอหลวง (ฉบับความสมบูรณ์) - Geographical description of Ayutthaya: Documents from the
palace - Dr Winai Pongsripian - Bangkok (2007) - page 107.
 The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman (2006) - page 396 / Source: British Museum, Reverend
Phonnarat & Royal Autograph - The King Continues His Tour and Falls Ill.
 The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman (2006) - page 492 / Source: Royal Autograph - Royal Pilgrimage to the Buddha’s Footprint.
 Travels in the Central Parts of Indo-China (Siam), Cambodia, and Laos, during the years 1858, 1859, and 1860. - by the late Henri Mouhot, French
naturalist. In two volumes - vol. I - John Murray, Albemarle street - 1864. Page 124-8.
|Text & photographs by Tricky Vandenberg