WAT MAE NANG PLUM (วัดแม่นางปลื้ม)
Wat Mae Nang Plum is situated off the city island in the northern area of Ayutthaya in
Hua Ro sub-district. The monastery is located near the confluence of
Khlong Hua Ro,
Khlong Mueang and the junction canal of the old eastern city moat, all being the river
bed of old
Lopburi River in the Ayutthaya era. Wat Phrao and Wat Mongkut were
situated on its north side, while
Wat Tha Khlong was on its west. The temple is still in
use by the Buddhist clergy. Following the tamnan (1) history, this monastery is in
existence since 1377.

The name of this temple is mentioned in the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya related to a
herd of elephants which showed up close to the monastery and were rounded up near
Wat Song around end 1548, begin 1549. [1] (2)

The monastery bears the name of a certain Lady Plum, an old woman being visited by
King Naresuan (r. 1590-1605) during one night, following a local legend. Van Vliet
describes the event in an account from 1640 -  "The short history of the Kings of Siam".
[2] The story goes as follows:

"One evening when His Majesty was on a perahu in the river, he was caught in a
great rainstorm before he was able to return to the palace. Consequently, he went
to a small house where an poor old woman lived and entered unrecognized with
great commotion. The woman was very frightened and said, "My son, don't you
know, that our King is often close by?" In reply His Majesty said vehemently,
"Mother, and so what if he should hear it? What would it matter if he kills me.
That would be my misfortune which strikes many people unexpectedly." The
woman fell at his feet and pleaded dejectedly that he not speak of the king in such
a way. She said, "The gods have provided us with His Majesty; therefore, he never
does things which are bad. He is an avenger of the gods and the implementer of
their sentences against our evil. We must obey those who have been placed here to
rule us ".

The more the woman tried to silence the king with such reasons, the more
vehemently His Majesty bellowed. Finally, the woman asked that he leave her
house because she did not want to become a party to his misdeeds. The king said
that he would, but first demanded a drink of arak because he had become cold
from the rain. The woman answered, "Son, you know of course that this is the fast
and that as long as it lasts, no one may buy or drink arak. But if you want dry
clothes such as those I am wearing, I will give them to you. I will wash and dry
what you have on. In the meantime go rest and sleep a little."

The king accepted the clothes offered to him, had his clothes washed and dried,
but would not desist from his wish for arak. He said that he did want to be bound
by the strict laws of the king. Finally, the woman filled a tiny little jug with arak.
She swore that she had bought the arak before the start of the fast and had not
drunk any of it since then. She offered it to the king and made him promise that he
would not report her to anyone. After he had drunk, the woman led him to her
little mat to sleep while she dried his washed clothes. When the king awoke, he put
on his dried clothes, thanked the woman, and said his farewells. The woman said,
"Son, remain here until daylight or go home with your boat quietly so that you do
not make too much noise for the king and have something evil befall you."

His Majesty answered, "I will do that," and left the old woman and her poor little
house. He then returned with his little perahu to his bodyguards, who were waiting
with their perahus not far from that little house.

The next day His Majesty sent a royal ceremonial perahu (on which was a small
pyramidal house) to the poor woman's simple little house where he had lodged at
night. This was the same perahu and the same little house that carried the king's
mother or first wife on great feast days. Besides this, the clothes which Their
Majesties had worn were also on board. He instructed to servants that after
presenting these clothes to the old woman, they were conduct her with the royal
perahu to court and bring her before him. When the old woman saw the royal
servants coming towards her, she became frightened and started trembling,
thinking that His Majesty had heard what happened in her home that night.
Although these servants reported why they had been sent, the woman could not
believe that she would remain unharmed. Furthermore, out of fear she beseeched
the servants in a pitiful manner to tell the king that she had died. Meanwhile she
wanted to save her life by fleeing to the monks. The servants, however, paid no
heed to the woman. Since she did not want to go willingly, they respectfully seized
her, clothed her, brought her on the perahu to court, and then presented her to the
king.

When His Majesty saw the woman, he took her by the hand and told her that he
was the person who had lodged and been cared for at her little house at night.
"And because in time of need you accepted me for your son," said the king,
"henceforth I will call you Mother and love you for this."

His Majesty ordered a place for the old woman in the palace, and had her served
and cared for till the end of her days as if she had been his own mother. At her
death she was also cremated as a queen."
[2]

Following the tamnan history, this temple was repaired by King Naresuan and renamed
as Wat Mae Nang Plum, in commemoration of the old lady.

The monastery has the classical outfit of vihara, ubosot and chedi. The temple area has
been cut in two by the road leading from the city to the elephant kraal. On the south side
of the road are the monk's living quarters. In the ordination hall a beautiful Buddha image
called Phra Pho Khao or White Buddha can be seen.

The chedi of this monastery is built in a particular style. The base is surrounded with
decorative stucco lions, with exception of
Wat Thammikarat and Wat Maheyong
nowhere else seen in Ayutthaya.

The decorative style was likely inspired on the northern Sukhothai style. Chedis with a
base of decorative elephants are seen in Sukhothai (Wat Chang Lom), Sri Satchanalai
(Wat Chang Lom) and Kamphaengphet (Wat Chang Rop). Some studies indicate that
the  idea of decorating the base of the chedi with lions on a couple of temples in
Ayutthaya, should be attributed to King Borommaracha II (r. 1424-1448) after having
conquered Angkor in 1431. Following the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya he brought
images of lions and other creatures from Angkor, hence the inspiration. [3]

The main bell-shaped stupa of Wat Mae Nang Plum at par with Wat Maheyong built in
the reign of King Borommaracha II is estimated being constructed in the Early Ayutthaya
period and based on the Sukhothai style.

Wat Mae Nang Plum's stucco lions are different from the lions at Thammikarat. The
Khmer Bayon-styled lions from Wat Thammikarat seems here to be more "Thai-styled",
which could lead to the conclusion that the chedi at Wat Mae Nang Plum must have
been built or remodeled later than the caitya at Wat Thammikarat.

There was a boat ferry between the landing above the
Maha Chai Fortress at the Hua
Ro corner across to the landing of Wat Mae Nang Plum. This landing on the city island
was also called Tha Khun Nang or the
Noblemen Landing and was in fact the second
official landing.

In the Ayutthayan era there were twenty-two ferry routes between the main land and the
city island. The northern side had seven ferries. The six other crossings were: Tha Nuea
to
Wat Khun Yuan, Tha Ma Ap Nam to Wat Choeng Tha, Tha Khan to Sala Trawen,
Tha Sip Bia to
Wat Pho, Wat Tha Sai to Wat Rong Khong, Wat Song to Wat Pa
Khonthi. [4] See "The Boat & Ferry Landings of Ayutthaya".

The monastery is indicated on
Phraya Boran Rachathanin's map drafted in 1926 and
figures also on a
mid-19th century map.

Wat Mae Nang Plum is located in Geo Coord: 14° 22' 5.32" N, 100° 34' 9.30" E.

Footnotes:

(1) Tamnan is a term frequently used for documents dealing with the history of Buddhism
or particular Buddhist monuments. It came into existence well before the 15th century
and though it began to decline in the 17th century,  its influence lasted until the 18th
century. Tamnan histories begin at the point when the Gautama Buddha made a vow to  
reach enlightenment. [5]
(2) It is clear that most of the Chronicles of Ayutthaya has been written after the fall of
Ayutthaya. The monastery is following these chronicles already named Mae Nang Plum
during usurper King Worawongsa's reign (r. 1548), but following the tamnan's history
this temple was only renamed Mae Nang Plum by King Naresuan (r. 1590-1605),
somehow about sixty year later. The temple's original name remains unknown.

About fifteen days later the officials in Lopburi sent down a report about a male
elephant, [E: over] six sòk [BCDF: and four niu] high, whose ears and tail all
bore the marks of its belonging to a herd. The chief ministers informed the King
who said, “We will go up to take it. In two days we will set out, so we order that
an official command be sent up to have the [BCDF: officials] [E: Department of
Elephants] go ahead and catch it.” About seven days later a herd of elephants,
breaking out of the cover of the jungle, came in toward
Mae Nang Plüm
Monastery and entered a corral at Sòng Monastery. The chief ministers informed
the King who said, “Tomorrow we will go to catch them.”
[6]

References:

[1] The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman - page 24  / Source: Phan
Canthanumat, British Museum, Reverend Phonnarat, Phra Cakkraphatdiphong & Royal
Autograph.
[2] Van Vliet's Siam - Chris Baker, Dhiravat Na Pombejra, Alfons Van Der Kraan &
David K. Wyatt (2005) - page 230/231.
[3] The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman (2006) - page 15 /
Source: Luang Prasoet, Phan Canthanumat, British Museum, Reverend Phonnarat &
Royal Autograph.
[4] Athibai Phaenthi Phra Nakhon Sri Ayutthaya kap khamwinitjai khong Phraya Boran
Racha Thanin - Explanation of the map of the Capital of Ayutthaya with a ruling of
Phraya Boran Rachathanin - Revised 2nd edition and Geography of the Ayutthaya
Kingdom - Ton Chabab print office - Nonthaburi (2007) - page 92.
[5] The Rise of Ayudhya - Charnvit Kasetsiri (1976).
[6] The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman (2006) - page 24 /
Source: Phan Canthanumat, British Museum, Reverend Phonnarat, Phra
Cakkraphatdiphong & Royal Autograph - Nobles Plot to End Usurpation.
Text, maps & photographs by Tricky Vandenberg - September 2009.
Updated May 2011, December 2014
Entry through the outer wall
The ordination hall or ubosot
Boundary stone or bai sema
Luang Pho Khao in ubosot
Buddha image inside vihara
Main chedi with stucco lions
(The ordination hall or ubosot)
(Entry through the outer wall)
(Boundary stone or bai sema)
(Main chedi with stucco lions)
(Luang Pho Khao in ubosot)
(Buddha image inside vihara)
Detail of a 19th century map
(Detail of a 19th century map - Courtesy of the Sam
Chao Phraya Museum)
Detail of Phraya Boran Rachathanin's map - Anno 1926
(Detail of Phraya Boran Rachathanin's map - Anno
1926)
Detail of a 2007 Fine Arts Department GIS map
(Detail of a 2007 Fine Arts Department GIS map -
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Department - 3th Region)