Wat Chang Yai, or the Monastery of the Large Elephant, is an active temple located off Ayutthaya’s city island in the north-western area at Ban Chang Yai of the Wat Tum Sub-district. The monastery is located east of road No 309.
In situ are an old ordination hall (Th: ubosot) in the early Ayutthaya style (1351-1491 CE) and other more recent monastic structures. The ubosot has one elevated front porch with two entries and a simple roof. Four columns support the roof above the porch. At the rear, there is a single-entry door - likely none in earlier times. Initially, the hall had five square windows on the sides, but due to the bad shape of the building, two of them on each side have been filled up, while at the same time, the whole structure was fortified by installing concrete support beams around the hall.

The old hall has mural paintings from the late Ayutthaya period and painted during the reign of King Borommakot (1733-1758 CE). The murals are tempera paintings on a clay foundation. Behind the main Buddha image, we find a scene of the Buddha defeating Mara on the front wall, we see the Three Worlds (Traiphum). On the sidewalls, we find the Ten previous lives of the Buddha, while the upper part is decorated with Devas. Restoration occurred in the Rattanakosin period around 1813 CE in the reign of King Mongkut (1804-1868 CE). [1]

The mural paintings are damaged and slowly fading away. The Fine Arts Department undertook a new restoration in 2013 CE. There are also some traces of old faded paintings on the outside wall at the entry of the ubosot.

The main Buddha image in the ordination hall is in the U-Thong style, depicted in sitting posture and the Bhumisparsa mudra, also called "Maravijaya" or "Victory over Mara" hand gesture.

On the premises is a monument erected of a war elephant and a statue of the Ayutthayan King Naresuan. The area around Chang Yai had a historical connection with King Naresuan (1590-1605 CE).

Wat Chang Yai is in geographical coordinates: 14° 24' 4.18" N, 100° 32' 9.91" E.


In 1584 CE, internal troubles arose in Burma. Prince Naresuan, at that time Governor of Phitsanulok, was ordered to assist the Burmese in an expedition against Ava. Nanda Bayin (reign 1535-1600 CE), King of Burma, thought the occasion favourable to get rid of Prince Naresuan and instructed two Peguan (Mon) noblemen - Phraya Khiat and Phraya Ram - to ambush him and his army. The plot was revealed to Naresuan by the head monk Thera Khan Chong of the City of Khraeng, and the Black Prince proceeded to Hongsawadi with a large army. Most of the population along the border joined him. Learning, however, that Nanda Bayin conquered Ava and was returning with his army, he decided to return to Siam, taking with him a large number of prisoners, mostly Siamese, captured by the Burmese in previous wars. After the Battle of the Sittaung River, Prince Naresuan moved back to Ayutthaya. [2]

Mon families - the relatives of the two Peguan noblemen and the head monk, as well as about 10.000 forcibly removed Raman (Mon) inhabitants of the provincial cities along the way - migrated to Thailand (1) [3] and settled in the outskirts of Ayutthaya. The vicinities of Wat Chumphon, Wat Chang Yai and Wat Chang Noi were the areas where the Mon were authorised to settle. The location was previously called "Ban Mon" by the locals but later changed into "Ban Maen". (2)

The group of Mons who migrated to Siam during King Maha Thammaracha's reign (1569-1590 CE) was very skilled in working with elephants, especially training elephants for warfare. Many Mons were mahouts (Th: Mae Thap Na) and fought actively and successfully along with the Siamese against the Burmese in the wars of 1584-1586, 1587, 1590 and 1592 CE.

The Mon leader Phra Racha Manu was successful in combat and participated in the Battle of Chainat in 1584 CE. He defeated Phraya Bassein's Burmese army before the Chiang Mai army could catch up and retreated finally. In 1585 CE, he fought in the Battle of Pa Mok against the Chiang Mai army, which was routed. In 1592 CE, his vanguard is routed in the Battle for Longvek (Lawaek) at the Ranam (village/forest) pass. He was sentenced to death by King Naresuan for his defeat, but King Ekathotsarot requested the sentence be suspended. Manu advanced again with an army and, this time routed Battambang (Th: Phra Tabong) and Pursat. The siege of Longvek was later halted due to a lack of food supplies.

Phra Racha Manu was, based on the Tamnan history, the leader of the elephant caretakers. He was an excellent trainer in getting soldiers accustomed to elephants trained for war. The Mon leader trained especially an elephant named Phlay (3) Phukhao Thong (Golden Mount) for Prince Naresuan. The animal became Naresuan's Royal war elephant, and he gave it the name Chao Phraya Chayanuprab (Lord Triumphator). This elephant was a bull and "six sok, one khuep and two niu tall" tall (4), about 3.3 meters. It was on this animal that King Naresuan, at the end of 1592 CE, defeated the Crown Prince of Burma, Mingyi Swa (Min Chit Swa), at Nong Sarai (Don Chedi). In the hustle after the killing of the Burmese prince, the mahout Nai Mahanuphap of King Naresuan was fired at and killed (5). After this battle, Naresuan's elephant was called Chao Phraya Prab Hongsawadi or "Lord who subdued Hongsawadi".

The vicinities around Wat Tha Khlong, Wat Chang Yai, Wat Chang Noi and Wat Chumphon were all related to elephants and warfare. It is in this area that army and battle formations were prepared troops concentrated before moving out. It was also here that different pre-battle rites were performed, such as "Cutting the wood which corresponds with the name of the enemy" (6) and where the Siamese King underwent the Brahmin rite of "Anointing the Head".

(1) The first massive Mon migration following Halliday occurred in the 1660s following a Mon revolt in Martaban. The Mons captured the viceroy of Martaban, an uncle of the King of Ava and handed him over to King Narai. An estimated 10.000 people took refuge at Ayutthaya. Mon officials received the refugees in Kanchanaburi province and allotted land in Ayutthaya. [4] [5]. Although in the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya can be found that already in 1584 CE, a Mon migration - more or less forced - took place. [2] Due to a similar social and religious background as the Siamese, the Mon settlement was peaceful in Siam.(2) Derived from the Tamnan History of Wat Chang Yai.(3) "Phlai" is a Mon word, meaning youthful male or a strong man. In the Thai language, it refers to a male elephant. [6](4) For measurement calculation, see Siampedia.(5) War elephants had a mahout in the front and a centre guard in the back. The elephant was equipped with a war howdah, wherein the noble took place and fought. The elephant was surrounded by a quadruped guard of high ranking nobles, which following their title, had a position near one of the legs of the elephant. This classic combat position can be seen at the War Elephant Monument near the Elephant Kraal.(6) Royal ceremony known as "Phra Ratcha Phithi Tat Mai Khom Nam". Phraratcha is equivalent to the Burmese Daw Phithi means ceremony, Tat means to cut, Mai means wood, Khom means to press down or subdue, and Nam means name. According to ancient principles and methods of warfare, before an army leaves the capital of a kingdom to meet the enemy's forces, a ceremony has to be performed to ensure success. This ceremony is known as "Phithi Tat Mai Khom Nam," i.e. "Cutting the wood which corresponds with the enemy's name." In the first place, a temporary shed has to be erected with six posts having a sort of verandah around it. The shed is surrounded by a bamboo lattice, having open spaces in the form of a lozenge. Along the lattice are fixed paper umbrellas with three, five, or seven tiers. Young banana stems and sugarcane stalks are planted at some distance apart from each other. Then a person, who is adept in magic squares, Pali letters, and numerical figures, as well as in incantations, collects the earth from under three bridges, three ferry landing places, and three graveyards. The soil thus collected is moistened and made into the likeness of the enemy. The enemy's name is written on a piece of paper the adept then writes over the name with magic squares which will have a destructive effect on the enemy. This paper is then inserted in the chest of the earthen figure, which must be dressed in the traditional dress of the enemy. Young banana stems, and the stem of a tree, the name of which corresponds with the enemy's name, are brought and kept in the shed on three successive days, and every night on those days, incantations are pronounced or intoned over them. After this, the earthen figure is inserted into the banana stem, which is then tied round in three places with consecrated cotton thread. A pit is dug, and the banana stem and the stem of the tree which corresponds with the name of the enemy are planted together in this pit. Having prepared thus, at about 3 p.m., court Brahmans enter the shed, put down a jar of water used for consecration or incantation, and wind cotton threads used for the same purpose around the combined banana and tree stems. The Brahmans then invoke celestial beings such as Shiva, Krishna, Ganesha and so on to come from their celestial abodes to be adored and lend their help in the ceremony. Then when the auspicious moment is near, the king deputes some officials, usually the commanders of the expeditionary force, to perform the ceremony in his stead. The king hands over to his deputies His Majesty's finger-ring set with nine gems and royal swords. His Majesty's deputies proceed to the shed and, at the auspicious moment, draw the royal swords from their scabbards, take three slow, deliberate steps forward, and cut the stems of the banana tree and the tree corresponding with the name of the enemy three times. In so doing, they should take care that the swords cut the earthen figure and the enemy's name. They then stamp three times on the fallen part of the banana stem and the tree corresponding with the enemy's name. As soon as they have done as described, they should turn round and return to the palace without looking back at all. They then return the ring and swords to the king's attendants, enter into the king's presence, and inform him saying, "May it please Your Majesty, in going to subdue the enemy, we have been entirely successful as desired by Your Majesty." Thus ends the ceremony. [Phraya Sombati Parihar, Bangkok.] [7]


[1] Information board in situ. September 2014.

[2] Wood, William, A.R. (1924). A History of Siam. Chalermnit Press. pp. 131-2.

[3] Cushman, Richard D. & Wyatt, David K. (2006). The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya. Bangkok: The Siam Society. pp. 89-90.

[4] Halliday (1913) - Immigration of Mons into Siam.

[5] Lang, Hazel J. (2002). Fear and Sanctuary: Burmese refugees in Thailand.

[6] Khun Chang Khun Phaen: Chapter 1 - The births of Khun Chang and Khun Phaen.

[7] Rajanubhab, Damrong (Prince) (1917). Our Wars with the Burmese. White Lotus, Bangkok (2000). Notes pp. 363-4. (Integrally, except for the Burmese translations of some words).