|WAT PHUTTHAI SAWAN (วัดพุทไธสวรรย์ )
|In 715, a year of the serpent, fifth of the decade, on Thursday, the first day of the
waxing moon of the fourth month, at two nalika and five bat in the morning, the
King was pleased to order that a holy monastery, with a preaching hall and a
great holy reliquary, be established at the Wiang Lek Royal Residence. Then he
bestowed upon it the name of Phutthaisawan Monastery. (The Royal Chronicles of
|Wat Phutthai Sawan or the Monastery of Lord Buddha of the Heavens is located
on the south bank of the Chao Phraya River in an area presently called Samphao Lom
(the Capsized Junk sub-district), east of Khlong Thakian. It is situated opposite the
mouth of Khlong Chakrai Yai, also called Khlong Tho, a canal linking the former
Lopburi River (present Khlong Mueang or northern moat) with the Chao Phraya River
and runs adjacent the former Royal Palace grounds. The temple complex faces east and
is bordered on the north by the Chao Phraya River.
The temple was built in 1353 AD (715 CS) by King Ramathibodi I at the royal
residence of "Wiang Lek", the site where he first settled before establishing Ayutthaya as
the capital city in 1350. The temple was constructed after his elder brother (the ruler of
Suphan) defeated the Khmers and brought them back under the control of Ayutthaya in
1352. The temple was likely built by the large number of enslaved Khmer inhabitants
forcibly removed from Angkor to Ayutthaya at that time. The monastery was one of the
first temples constructed and had a preaching hall and a great holy reliquary.
The old temple complex was enclosed by an outer wall measuring 192 meters in length
and 92 meters in width. The vihara has its entry to the east and measures 48 meters in
length and 16 meters in width. The main Khmer-style prang is surrounded by a square
cloister. The cloister is enclosed by an outer wall, which along with the pillars inside
supports the roof. The floor of the terrace is one step higher than the court. The inner
wall of the cloister houses rows of Buddha images on decorated bases. Porticos lead
into the gallery of seated Buddha's.
The prang, representing the cosmic Mount Meru, is located in the middle of the ancient
compound and is built on an indented pedestal protruding towards the north and south,
resulting in a wing-like formation, which was characteristic for prangs of the early
Ayutthaya period. The "cella" or central small hall inside the prang, can be accessed
through a porch, located in the east and only by climbing stairs. The prang has two
staircases on the east and the west side. Over the cubic "cella" rises the central tower,
the bud-shaped prang. The "cella" houses a Buddha image. Decorations of the ceilings of
the porch and "cella" are still visible.
There are two satellite buildings, being a mondop to the north and the south of the main
prang containing Buddha images. The difference between Khmer built prangs and
Ayutthaya prangs is that the first tapers off stepwise (in tiers of decreasing size), while
the latter tapers off gradually in a smooth way. Ayutthaya prangs were mostly built with
bricks and covered with stucco. On its pinnacle was a Trishul, the "weapon of Indra".
Major restoration work includes the principal prang, which was renovated in the
Ratanakosin period during King Chulalongkorn’s (Rama V) reign around 1898-99 AD.
The statue of King U-Thong
Within the large prang was an image of King Ramathibodi I (King U-Thong). In 1784
AD, in the reign of King Rama I (1782–1809), Prince Thepphonphak went to
Ayutthaya to restore the elephant kraal and found the figure. (1) He reported this to the
King who decided to move the image to Bangkok. Later the figure was re-casted as a
Buddha image, gilded with silver and moved to the Phra Nak Hall. King Rama IV
placed the image at the Prasat Phra Thep Bidorn (the Royal Pantheon - The Shrine of
the celestial Ancestors) in Wat Phra Kaeo at Bangkok. The standing decorated Buddha
located in the side recess of the main prang at present, is a new casting. Local people
believe that the spirit of Ramathibodi I still resides here.
West of the cloister enclosing the prang lays a large ubosot (ordination hall), 32 meters
long by 14 meters wide. The building was restored in 1956 during the government of
Field Marshal Phibun Songkhram. The monastic structure is presently in use.
South of the vihara is another smaller vihara with a reclining Buddha. Within the outer
wall there are a number of chedi rai (small votive chedis) and small monastic structures.
The temple has been frequently restored throughout the Ayutthaya period. New
constructions include the chedis in row, some of which were built during the Middle
Ayutthaya Period (1488 – 1628).
Outside the boundary wall
The monastic quarters are situated west of the old site. In situ is a two-storey building
called the Tamnak Phra Phutthakosajarn Hall (the residential building of Somdet Phra
Phutthakosajarn), which served as a model for the Jim Thompson's silk shop in
Bangkok. It was constructed together with its mural paintings in the Late Ayutthaya
Period (1628 - 1767). The base of the building, curved like the hull of a Chinese junk, is
classic for this period. The interior of the hall is highlighted with murals depicting the ten
Jatakas (reincarnations of the Budddha - The Pali canonical book of Theravada
Buddhism comprises 547 poems concerning the previous births of the Buddha) and the
Somdet Phra Phutthakosajarn's pilgrimage to the Footprint of Lord Buddha in Ceylon.
At present most of these paintings are faded.
This area has been regularly part of a war theatre. The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya
mention that the army of the King of Ava, being the right wing of the Hongsawadi Army
investing Ayutthaya in 1549, set up its stockade in this area from Wat Phutthai Sawan to
the mouth of Khlong Takhian
(1) There is a bit a mystery around the finding of this image. Amatyakul sets the findings
in the reign of Rama I (r. 1782 - 1809). Also an information board on the site of Wat
Phutthai Sawan gives 1784 as the year of the discovery and both sources refer to Krom
Luang Thepphonphak as the one who did the discovery. The problem here is that this
Prince was only born in 1785 and became director of the Royal Elephant Department in
the reign of Rama II, thus after the death of Rama I. 
 The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya – Richard D. Cushman - Source: Phan
Canthanumat, British Museum, Reverend Phonnarat, Phra Cakkraphatdiphong & Royal
Autograph - 2006.
 Discovering Ayutthaya - Charnvit Kasetsiri & Michael Wright - 2007
 Guide to Ayudhya and Bang-Pa-In - Tri Amatyakul (1957) - page 60-1.
|Text by Tricky Vandenberg - March 2009
Update April 2013, August 2014
|(South east side)
|(Ubosot and prang - south west side)
|(South east side)
|(Vihara of the Reclining Buddha)
|(Statue of King U-Thong)
|Description of Wat Phutthai Sawan by one of the Lankan Ambassadors to Ayutthaya in 1751 AD.
Seven days later on Friday, being full moon, two officers came and informed us that the king had given orders for us to go and worship at two
viharas on this day. We accordingly proceeded our boats and worshipped at the vihare called Vat Puthi Suwan. The following is a description of
On the right of the great river there stretches a plain right up to the river bank; here are built long ranges of two storied halls in the form of a
square, with four gateways on the four sides; on the four walls were placed two hundred gilt images. Within the eastern gate is fashioned a
likeness of the sacred footprint, with the auspicious symbol worked in gold. Right in the centre is a great gilt dagaba with four gates. On entering
by the eastern gate there is found a flight of stone steps gilt; right in the womb of the dagaba are enshrined the holy relics; and it was so built that
it was possible to walk round within the dagaba without approaching them. There was also within a gilt reproduction of the Sacred Foot.
On either side of this gate were built two five-headed Naga Rajas apparently descending to the bank of earth. To the north of this was a
two-storied building with a throne in the middle of it; on this was seated a gilt figure of the Buddha twelve cubits high. To the east of this and
facing it was a five-storied building hung with awnings and adorned with paintings and gilding; the pillars in the middle were covered with plates
of gold, and on a throne in the centre was a life-size image of gold supported on either side by two similar gilt images of the two chief disciples
Sariyut Maha Sami and Maha Mugalan Sami and numerous others.
Above the gateway from the roof to the lintel there was pictured in gilt work Buddha in the Sakra world, seated on the White Throne and
preaching his glorious Abbidharma to the god Mavu Deva and to the gods and Brahmas of unnumbered words; and again, when his discourse was
ended, he is depicted as descending by the golden stairs to Sakaspura. The vihare itself is strongly guarded by walls and gates; round about are
built pleasant halls and priests' houses filled with the holy men, with worshippers of high rank and devotees of either sex. 
 Religious Intercourse Between Ceylon and Siam in the Eighteenth Century - P.E. Pieris (1908) - Bangkok Siam Observer Office - pages 17-8.
|(Photographs by Somchai Pattanavaew - April 2009)
Wat Phutthai Sawan re-dated
Piriya Krairiksh, old president of the Siam Society, formulated doubts on Wat Phutthai Sawan being constructed shortly after Ayutthaya was established in
1351.  He summed up a number of facts. First of all, the oldest version of the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya, the Luang Prasoet Chronicle of Ayudhya,
which pre-dates the fall of Ayutthaya in 1767, does not mention this temple. (1) Secondly the "Van Vliet Chronicle" written in 1640, cites three important
temples, but does not mention Wat Phutthai Sawan either.  Krairiksh commented here upon that "apparently either Wat Phutthai Sawan was not
considered significant in 1640 or had not yet been built."
Then Thao U Thong began to re-establish the city on the fifth day of the waxing fourth moon (in our reckoning being the month of March) in the
year of the Tiger and called it Ayutthaya." He also built three temples which still considered to be the most important in the whole kingdom: the
Nopphathat," the most holy; Ratchaburana, the same size and shape as the Nopphathat but not visited by the kings because of a prophecy that
the first king who goes in there will die shortly thereafter; and Wat Doem, still the foremost [monastic?] school. 
Nicolas Gervaise (ca.1662-1729), a young French theological student of the Société des Missions Etrangères residing in Ayutthaya in the late 17th century
(1682/83-1686), wrote that "the new cloister that has been built in honour of the late queen, is filled with more than a hundred figures of women,
all beautifully gilded and all with the same face and in the same posture."  This new monastery figures on Jacques Nicolas Bellin's map "Plan De La
Ville De Siam" (ca 1750); a plan based on the survey of a French engineer in 1687. The position of this monastery indicated as "Pagode de la feue Reine,"
corresponds with present Wat Phutthai Sawan.  The construction of Wat Phutthai Sawan was thus likely finalized around 1685-1686 in the reign
of King Narai (r. 1656-1688).
Krairiksh added that "Judging by the custom of building a monastery and transferring the merit accrued to the deceased, ... it can be inferred that
Wat Phutthai Sawan was built by King Narai in memory of his queen." In addition he wrote that the ground plan of Wat Phutthai Sawan with its
central prang flanked by two smaller ones to the north and south (now transformed into mandapa) resembled the plan of Wat Maha That in Lopburi, which
was reconstructed by King Narai in the 1660's.
The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya version Phan Canthanumat stated that the ashes from King Phetracha (r. 1688-1703) of the Ban Phlu Luang Dynasty
were floated in front of Wat Phutthai Sawan, indicating the importance of this temple since its construction in the late 17th Century. Cushman translated: ...
Now the holy ashes were escorted according to form and taken to be floated [on the river] in front of the Monastery of the Sovereignty of the
Buddha.(2) Around 1750, King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe (Nayakkar King 1747-1782) of Kandy had sent a delegation to Ayutthaya, to bring back
Buddhism to Ceylon. In the account of one of the Lankan Ambassadors we read that the religious embassy visited Wat Phutthai Sawan to worship there. 
The latter must thus have been an important monastery in the reign of King Borommakot (r. 1733-1758).
Krairiksh indicated that there was much controversy regarding the construction of Wat Phutthai Sawan. For example Somdet Phra Phonnarat in his Pali
work, Sangitiya Vamsa of 1789, attributed the founding of Wat Phutthai Sawan to King Naresuan (r. 1590-1605), while the people of Ayudhya, taken
captive to Burma in 1767, attributed the founding of Wat Phutthai Sawan to King Song Tham (r. 1610/1611-1628) in their Statement of the Residents of the
Old Capital. He concludes that Wat Phutthai Sawan, as an important temple in the mid-18th century, was fantazised into the historical accounts written after
the fall of Ayutthaya, as the reason for its construction, being King Narai's commemoration of his queen, was already long time forgotten.
From French sources we know definitely that King Narai ordered the construction of Wat Phutthai Sawan at the end of the 17th century and features thus a
mid to late 17th century Ayutthaya architecture. (3) The question whether or not Wat Phutthai Sawan was built upon remnants of an earlier Ayutthayan
temple remains still unanswered today.
(1) The Luang Prasoet Chronicle of Ayudhya (Phraratchaphongsawadan Krung Si Ayudhya chabap Luang Prasoet) is the oldest chronicle in the Thai
language discovered until today. The chronicle was written in 1680 by order of King Narai. The chronicle deals with the events in Ayudhya between 1324
and 1604 in a very abridged way. The text was discovered in Phetchaburi by Luang Prasoet in 1907 and came to bear his name. With the probable
exception of this chronicle, all other version of the Chronicles of Ayutthaya were written in the Bangkok period, after the fall of Ayutthaya.
May it be of good omen! In 1042, a year of the monkey, on Wednesday, the twelfth day of the waxing moon of the fifth month, the King [Narai]
was pleased to order, “Get out the chronicles of events recorded by the royal astrologers of earlier times and the chronicles of events to be found
in the Hall of the Archives cull out the events to be found in these royal chronicles and collate them together in one place in chronological order
up to the present.”
(2) มไหศวรรย์ (Mahai Sawan) meaning supremacy, great wealth, great power, great might, greatness or sovereignty. Cushmann translated Wat Phutthai
Sawan as "Monastery of the Sovereignty of the Buddha". 
(3) Major restorations of Wat Phutthai Sawan took place in 1898 and in 1956. 
 Krairiksh, Piriya - Revised Dating Of Ayudhya Architecture - Journal of the Siam Society 80 1f.
 Van Vliet, Jeremias. The Short History of the Kings of Siam . Bangkok: The Siam Society, 1975 (Translated by David Wyatt).
 Gervaise, Nicolas. 1989 [Paris, 1688]. The Natural and Political History of the Kingdom of Siam. Translated and edited by John Villiers. Bangkok:
White Lotus. / Chapter 10 - page 139 - Of the Pagodas.
 Map drawn by Jacques Nicolas Bellin (1703 - 1772) and published as plate no. 4 in volume IX of the 1752 French edition of Abbé Provost's L'Histoire
Générale des Voyages.
 The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman (2006) - page 369 / Source: Phan Canthanumat - Funeral of King Phetracha.
 Religious Intercourse Between Ceylon and Siam in the Eighteenth Century - P.E. Pieris (1908) - Bangkok Siam Observer Office - pages 17-8.
 Krom Silpakorn, Phrarathawang lae wat boran nai Changwat Phranakhon Si Ayudhya (Bangkok: Krom Silpakorn, B.E. 2511), page 41.
|Addendum by Tricky Vandenberg - May 2014
|(Detail of a 19th century map - Courtesy Sam Chao
|(Detail of Phraya Boran Rachathanin's map - Anno
|(Detail of a 2007 Fine Arts Department GIS map -
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Department - 3th Region)
|Mural paintings from the Somdet Phra Buddha Kosachan Pavilion.
These mural paintings were magnificent works of the Late Ayutthaya period dating from the reign
of King Phetracha and depicting scenes related to historic, religious, social and cultural aspects of
that time. The Traiphumi (Three Worlds) was drawn on the northern wall; the scene of the defeat
of Mara was presented on the southern wall; stories from the ten previous lives of the Buddha
were portrayed on the western wall, while Somdet Phra Buddha Kosachan's journey to Sri Lanka
to pay homage to the Buddha's footprint was depicted on the eastern wall.
In 1954 golden artifacts were found inside the crypt of the main stupa from Wat Phutthai Sawan. Most artifacts were golden embossed plaques and
small Buddha images.
 Information gathered during the exhibition "Ayutthaya Gold: World Heritage, National Heritage" at the Chao Sam Phraya Museum on 5
|Addendum by Tricky Vandenberg - November 2016