WAT BOROM PHUTTHARAM





Wat Borom Phuttharam, or the Monastery of the Grand Buddha, is a restored ruin from the late Ayutthaya period (1629-1767 CE) situated on Ayutthaya’s city island in Pratu Chai Sub-district. (1)


The restored ruin stood on the west bank of Khlong Chakrai Noi and the south bank of Khlong Pa Mo, south of Wat Phra Ngam, west of Wat Singharam on the opposite bank, east of the Royal Goods Storehouse and north of Wat Suan Luang Khangkhao. In front of Wat Borom Phuttharam stood a brick bridge across Khlong Chakrai Moi called Whiteclay Village Bridge (2) and linking Pot Village Road with Whiteclay Quarter Road and Wat Phra Ngam Road. [1]


Architecture


The monastery Borom Phuttharam is aligned on a north-south axis. The site consists of an ordination hall (ubosot), a sermon hall (vihara) and two chedis. The layout of this temple is rare as it is set up in the northern direction.


The relatively small ordination hall is 40 metres long and 12 metres wide. It has portico halls, or open porticos, on both its front and back. Only one of the front portico columns remains. The portico roof fell down, probably at the same time as that of the main building. The ubosot has three doorways, with no door panels left the front or central door is a kind of arched doorway called ‘pratu sumyot’, that is, with layers of porch-like formations above it. The side doors are gabled ones, called sum ‘ban thalaeng’. Though badly damaged, the gabled door on the right side of the ordination hall still displays the gracefulness of its gable style. The rows of windows are built in a gabled form on the sides of the hall. The mortar covering the wall has all disappeared, leaving the building in a deserted state. The ubosot houses a brick-and-mortar Buddha image in meditation posture. [2]


History


King Phetracha (reign 1688-1703 CE) of the Ban Phlu Luang Dynasty had it constructed in 1689 CE in an area of his hometown, called Patong District. It took two years to complete its construction. Following the Fine Arts Department, it was dedicated to a community of dwelling monks, especially several high-ranking priests.


"The Supreme Holy Lord Omnipotent, for His part, thereupon made a holy royal resolution, saying, “The Village of Leaf Wrapper Forest is the location of a station of glorious, royal, grand good fortune. It is appropriate this Self should construct on it a holy temple.” Thereupon the King commanded that a crystal wall, a holy recitation hall, a preaching hall, a seminary, and residences and dormitories be constructed. The King commanded Mun Cantharat, a master glazier, to glaze yellow-colored tiles to cover the roofs of the holy recitation hall, the preaching hall and the seminary.


Thereupon the King bestowed a holy name on the temple calling it the Monastery of the Temple of the Paramount Buddha. The lord abbot who had been invited to come in and reside there was appointed to be a Holy Royal Abbot named Reverend Yan Somphot. The King made a holy royal donation, in reverence to the Holy Triple Gems, of holy royal endowed lands in great amounts, the taxes in kind from which were to accrue to that holy temple. When [the construction] was finished, a festival to dedicate it was held for three days and three nights." [3]





The glazed tiles

The temple was also known as Wat Krabueang Khlueap, the "glaze-tiled temple" referring to the yellow glazed-tile roof of the central monastic structures. Fragments of these tiles can still be found in and around Khlong Chakrai Noi in its vicinity.

King Narai (reign 1656-1688 CE) ordered the construction of the Dusit Sawan Thanya Maha Prasat Throne Hall of the Phra Narai Ratchaniwet Palace in Lopburi and gave it a yellow-greenish glazed tile roofing. The same roofing was given to the Royal Vihara of Wat Phra Si Rattana Maha That nearby.

When King Narai passed away in 1688 CE, the Lopburi Palace lost its importance immediately because King Petracha (reign 1688-1703 CE) moved the government back to Ayutthaya. King Phetracha was impressed by the glazed tiled roof of the Phra Narai Ratchaniwet Palace, and he ordered a glazed tiled roof for the ordination hall of Wat Borom Phuttharam, in construction at that time.

In the last century, the Fine Arts Department excavated Wat Borom Phuttharam to check the foundation. When walking around the temple, they found yellow glazed tiles, yellow-greenish glazed Garuda images, lion face images and Thepphanom figures, which probably adorned the chedi facade and were wrapped around the door front of the ordination hall.

Prince Damrong pointed out that the old documents mentioned only two places with these specific glazed tiles, and he believed these tiles came from China. These tiles were imported and expensive, the reason those tiles were seen nowhere else in Ayutthaya thus, the glazed tiles were not made in the Ayutthaya Kingdom in contrary to what is written in the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya. Prince Damrong did not believe the chronicles for two reasons.

Firstly, the fragments of glazed tiles found both in the old city and in Lopburi have been examined, and many people confirmed that the light-coloured soil is Chinese soil, not Thai soil. Secondly, if they could make glazed tiles, it would probably have spread to many places. It was believed that the old city could not have done it on its own. [4]




The mother-of-pearl doors


King Borommakot (reign 1733-1758 CE) gave the order to restore this temple completely. Three new doors inlaid with mother-of-pearl were added. The doors bear an inscription describing their commissioning for Wat Boromma Phuttharam in 1751 CE. The doors were presumably removed after the destruction of Ayutthaya in 1767 CE. One pair of the doors was installed in 1939 CE at the scripture library (Hor Phra Monthien Dharma) from Wat Pra Kaeo or the Royal Monastery of the Emerald Buddha another pair of doors was set up at Wat Benjamabophit Dusitharam, both in Bangkok. The third and last set of doors was cut down to remove the damaged parts, made into a cabinet and exhibited in the Bangkok National Museum.


The restored ruin is on the city island on the Rajaphat Institute premises, south of Rojana Road and adjacent to former Khlong Chakrai Noi in geographical coordinates: 14° 20' 51.34" N, 100° 33' 40.73" E.


Footnotes:


(1) The suffix "tharam" is used in Sanskrit for the indication of a comparative and superlative form (great - greater, strong - stronger) for example, in addition to the temples above, we have Wat Dusittharam, Wat Worachettharam, Wat Samanakottharam. I believe that the suffix could have been added to the name of the temples which received royal sponsoring. [5](2) Reconstructed by the Fine Arts Department and now called Sing Bridge.





References:


[1] Baker, Chris (2014). Final Part of the Description of Ayutthaya with Remarks on Defense, Policing, Infrastructure, and Sacred Sites. Journal of the Siam Society, Vol. 102.

[2] Tourism Authority of Thailand (2000). Ayutthaya: A world heritage. Bangkok: Darnsutha Co. Ltd.

[3] Cushman, Richard D. & Wyatt, David K. (2006). The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya. The Siam Society. Bangkok. pp. 320.

[4] Krom Sinlapakorn (1968). Phra Rachawang lae Wat Boran nai Jangwat Phra Nakhon Sri Ayutthaya (Fine Arts Department).

[5] Whitney, William Dwight (1979). A Sanskrit grammar: including both the classical language and the older dialects of Veda and Brahmana. Leipzig: Breitkopf and Härtel. pp. 159 #473.



GROUND PLAN OF WAT BOROM PHUTTHARAM





Reference: Krom Sinlapakorn (1968), Phra Rachawang lae Wat Boran nai Jangwat Phra Nakhon Sri Ayutthaya (Fine Arts Department).





No. 1: A rectangular vihara of 8 metres wide and 25 metres long, facing north. There is a large door in the front, 2.35 metres wide, 2.45 metres high. On the south side, there are two doors, 1.50 metres wide and 2 metres high. The wall of the vihara is 92 cm thick. There are seven windows on each side, and there is still one undamaged window left, 1 meter wide and 2 metres high.

No. 2: A wall around the ordination hall of 20 metres wide and 36.60 metres long. There are two doors on each side of the wall.

No. 3: The remains of the base of the boundary stones (sema) around the ordination hall, a total of 8 pieces.

No. 4: The porch in the front and the rear of the temple. There are brick and mortar pillars, one on each side of the porch.

No. 5: The ordination hall faces north. The Ubosot is 12 metres wide and 40 metres long with three front doors. The central door is 1.65 metres wide and 3.70 metres high the door is a stucco statue of the Julamani Buddha. (1) The side doors are 1.12 metres wide and 2.90 metres tall. The wall of the building on the left still bears some traces of paint. Behind the ordination hall, there are two side doors 1.20 metres wide and 2.85 metres high. There are seven windows on each long side with a width of 0.80 metres and a height of 2.20 metres. The walls of the hall are 1.35 metres thick.

No. 6: A brick and mortar base enshrining the principal Buddha image in the ordination hall facing north. It is a Buddha image made of brick and mortar, leaving only two sides of the Buddha image, 2.75 metres wide.

No. 7: A square chedi made of brick and mortar with a broken and damaged top end and sides of 7.40 metres wide. There is a lotus base decorated with mirror glass on the lotus petals.

No. 8: A square chedi made of brick, with a broken top end and sides of 9.00 metres wide. Both pagodas were probably renovated during the reign of King Borommakot.

Footnote:

(1) The Julamani Buddha refers to the Buddha who went to the Tavatimsa heaven (Th: Dawadung) to preach to his mother, who had died shortly after his birth. The Tavatimsa heaven, a place on the summit of the mythical Mount Meru, is the realm of the thirty-three Gods (tavatimsa deva) and part of the Sensuous World (Kama-Loka). Sakka, a devotee of the Buddha, presides over this realm. Many devas dwelling here live in mansions in the air. The Chulamani stupa is a legendary reliquary that enshrines the Buddha’s topknot in the Tavatimsa heaven.