WAT HO RAKHANG





Wat Ho Rakhang, or the Monastery of the Bell Tower, is a restored temple located on Ayutthaya’s city island in the Pratu Chai Sub-district. This restored ruin is situated between Rojana Road and Pa Thon Road on the west side of the Makham Riang Canal. (1)
The site consists of a bell tower and a vihara or sermon hall. The two-story bell tower is facing the canal. The ground floor has an entry porch to the premises of the temple. The second floor is the actual bell tower, which is missing its bell. The lower part is square with indented corners and has two arched porches aligned on an east-west axis. The bell tower is twelve rabbeted-angled with four porches in the cardinal directions.
West of the bell tower are the remains of a sermon hall, consisting of the bare brick foundations and some stubs of pillars that before supported the hall's roof. Several broken headless Buddha images lay scattered on or near the altar. In addition, there are traces of some walls and floor tiles in situ.
Maps
I believe the temple shows on Kaempfer’s sketch. Engelbert Kaempfer was a medical doctor working for the Dutch VOC (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie) who surveyed the city of Ayutthaya in June 1690 CE. In this sketch, we find a temple on the west bank of Khlong Nai Kai, below the present Pa Thon Bridge, and the canal running on the south side of Pa Thon Road. The monastery was 150 paces (about 115 metres) south of the last canal. South of the temple was another bridge over the Nai Kai Canal.
A mid-19th century map by an unknown surveyor does not mention the monastery as Wat Ho Rakhang, but I believe it shows as Wat Trae or the Monastery of the Trumpet. Based on the map, Wat Trae was situated along the west bank of Khlong Nai Kai and south of Wat Tha Takua (defunct). Wat Kamphaeng stood on the opposite side of the canal, a bit to the northeast. Wat Jin (defunct) was in the southwest. Wat Trae is marked without chedi.
Am I sure? No. Assessing all the monastic structures in the zone demarcated by Chikun Road, Pa Thon Road, Pridi Banomyong Road, and U-Thong Road is somewhat tricky, as the position and name of the structures vary on different maps. On the mid-19th century map, there are 15 structures counted, while on the 20th century Phraya Boran Rachathanin's [PBR] map, there are 13 mentioned. There is inconsistency in the names and the positions. Even maps drafted by the Fine Arts Department, what I presume, based on excavations in the zone, shed no light on this matter. Positions of monastic structures can be asserted, but their ancient names will remain questioned forever.
Phraya Boran Rachathanin's map does not show a monastery in its present location, which is surprising, given its size and prominent location beside Khlong Makham Riang. On the Fine Arts Department [FAD] map of 1957, the site appears as Bell Tower. We find the name Wat Ho Rakhang for the first time on a 1974 FAD map and onwards on all later FAD maps.
History
The location of Wat Trae on the mid-19th century map coincides, in my opinion, with the temple presently known as Wat Ho Rakhang.
Wat Trae is mentioned in the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya around 1663 CE. There was a rivalry between the royal page Chai Khan and Phra Phetracha. Chai Khan boosted against King Narai (reign 1656-1688 CE) that he was superior in a particular game, hinting especially at Phra Phetracha. King Narai, aware of the rivalry, designated a day for a contest in the elephant-horse chase (2). The game started near Wat Trae, and the run went parallel along the Makham Riang Canal until Wat Nang. Phra Phetracha won the first round on horseback. Chai Khan, realising he was losing face, skipped the second round and went home. [1]
"The next morning His Majesty held court and all of the marshals attended together. Master Chai Khan, a royal page and the son of a holy nurse, prostrated himself and said to His Holy Grace, “In the display of chase elephant and bait horse, outside the sole exception of the Supreme Holy Lord Omnipotent, there is no-one I am afraid of.” The Supreme Holy Lord Omnipotent was aware that Master Chai Khan was intentionally and maliciously comparing himself to Phra Phet Racha and that Phra Phet Racha was equally knowledgeable, and so He answered Master Chai Khan by saying, “You would each take a turn riding the chase elephant and the bait horse, wouldn’t you?” Master Chai Khan said, “I’ll ride the chase elephant first.” Phra Phet Racha was agreeable. When the designated day arrived, Master Chai Khan rode the premier elephant Phaya Sower of the Three Realms, standing six sòk and six niu high, and Phra Phet Racha rode the horse Mountain of Time, standing three sòk and two niu high. The arena was laid out in the vicinity in front of the Monastery of the Trumpets with the horse and elephant one sen apart. Phra Phet Racha reined his horse into a baiting display. Master Chai Khan drove his elephant and chased him on up close to the Bridge of Bricks at the Monastery of the Hides, and the elephant reached for him. Phra Phet Racha, seeing it almost upon his person, drove his horse into Little Spire Alley and the elephant was left behind. When it was the turn of Phra Phet Racha to ride the elephant, Master Chai Khan fled off to his home. Phra Phet Racha came in for an audience, prostrated himself, spoke to the Holy Lord Omnipotent and related the substance of that entire matter so the King would be informed of all the details. The Supreme Holy Lord Omnipotent said, “Weren’t you aware that that little Chai Khan is a soldier [only] in talk?”
Wat Ho Rakhang is in geographical coordinates: 14° 21' 8.54" N, 100° 34' 30.44" E.
Footnotes:
(1) Khlong Makham Riang, or the Canal of the aligned Tamarind Trees, was before called Khlong Nai Kai. It is a still existent canal situated east on Ayutthaya's city island. The canal was a shortcut in the oxbow of the old Lopburi River. It has today its origin at Khlong Ho Ratana Chai below Wat Senasanaram and the Front Palace, and its mouth at the present Chao Phraya River, west of Phet Fortress. At the mouth was one of the eleven water gates of Ayutthaya called Pratu Nai Kai. The southern exit, which has today a water regulator, has been altered, as the original mouth of the canal was about 170 metres more south, close to Pom Phet. Khlong Makham Riang is one of the three large canals running north to south, of which two still are in existence.(2) The game was a re-enacting of an ancient method of catching wild elephants. A horse acts as bait to anger the elephants, then leads them into a log trap. Upon level ground, an elephant can overtake a horse upon ascent, the horse has the advantage.




References:

[1] Cushman, Richard D. & Wyatt, David K. (2006). The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya. The Siam Society. Bangkok. pp. 168-9 / Source: Phra Cakkraphatdiphong - Rivalry of Phra Phet Racha and Chai Khan.