WAT KHAMIN





Wat Khamin is a temple ruin located on the city island of Ayutthaya in Hua Ro Sub-district. It is situated inside the boundaries of the former provincial prison adjacent to the Chan Kasem Palace and near the Hua Ro and the Na Wang Chan Kasem markets. The monastery is named after the Curcuma plant. (1)


Wat Khamin must have been the local temple of Ban Khamin before 1580 CE. (2) Ban Khamin was a hamlet on the northeastern tip of Ayutthaya's city island at a time that Ayutthaya's eastern city wall ran alongside Khlong Nai Kai (Khlong Makham Riang) and the connection canal (in front of the later Maha Chai Fortress) between the old Lopburi River and the eastern city moat (Khu Khua Na) was not yet dug. Ban Khamin could have been where Curcuma plants were prepared to be sold as spices or medicine.


Architecture


The site consists mainly of a chedi and a vihara surrounded by an outer wall in an east-west alignment. The chedi, in typical Ayutthaya style and white-washed as a common rule, stands in the west. The small pavilion stands east of the stupa.


The chedi stands on a square platform, and the drum consists of three graduated levels. The three levels meant to typify the Traiphum or the Three Planes of Existence: the Sensuous World, the Fine-Material World, and the Immaterial World. The lower level has a niche with a Buddha image facing north.


The dome is bell-shaped (Sri-Lankan style). The harmika is octagonal shaped, while a ‘kan chat’ made of niches supporting the spire. The tapering conical spire is complete consisting of the ‘falami lotus’, several discs representing the honorific umbrella, the ‘pli yot’ and the top knob.


The pavilion east of the chedi has only its basic foundations visible. Remnants of the outer wall can be seen, while there are also some foundations of satellite chedis.


History


The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya mention that a group of Mon settled near Wat Khamin. In 1584 CE, the King of Hongsa, Nanda Bayin (reign 1581-1587 CE) and the ruler of Ava, his suzerain, had differences. Bayin, fearing Prince Naresuan, the ruler of Phitsanulok, wanted to make away with him. Using the feud with Ava, he requested the help of Naresuan in defeating Ava. Naresuan left Phitsanulok for Khraeng over Chiang Thong. Arriving at the Mon City of Khraeng, he encamped his troops near the monastery of the Maha Thera Khan Chòng. King Bayin instructed Phraya Kiat and Phraya Ram to make a flanking attack on Naresuan's troops from the rear as they went up to Ava and had to make sure that King Naresuan was seized and executed. They informed Maha Thera Khan Chong of their instructions. Maha Thera Khan Chong advised on his turn Prince Naresuan of Bayin's plans. Naresuan withdrew over Kan Buri, taking the important monk and the two army leaders with their army and families to Ayutthaya. King Maha Thammaracha of Ayutthaya installed Maha Thera Khan Chong as the new Patriarch of Wat Maha That and his relatives at the village behind Wat Nok. Phraya Kiat and Phraya Phra Ram were to reside in the vicinity of Khamin Village near the Khun Saen Monastery with all the Mon families who had followed them.


"When the Royal Father and King Naresuan had finished making their plans together, the King was pleased to have the great holy Thera Khan Chòng located at Phra Maha That Monastery and bestowed on him a sappathon umbrella, a kanching umbrella, a palanquin, bearers, rice, an annual bounty, and the various eight requisites of a Buddhist monk. On Phraya Kiat and Phraya Phra Ram the King bestowed gold trays of rank, gold lotus water-goblets, swords inlaid with gold, silver coins, clothing, and utensils and comestibles in great amounts. The Mon families which had been transported on down were also granted to Phraya Kiat and Phraya Phra Ram to supervise and administer. Then Phraya Kiat and Phraya Phra Ram were directed to reside in the vicinity of Khamin Village and Khun Saen Monastery. The relatives of the great holy Thera Khan Chòng were directed to live in the vicinity of a village behind Nok Monastery." [1]


Whether the temple was part of the Front Palace area later or not remains a point of discussion. The old documents state that Wat Khun Saen was inside the Front Palace grounds. The case being, Wat Khamin should have been inside the palace also. [2]


Nantana Hengpujaroen writes that according to some old documents, the walls around Chan Kasem Palace had a length of 50 Sen or approximately 2000 m. The palace occupied an area roughly going from the Unmilled Rice Fort (Pom Khao Phluak) and Wat Tha Sai towards the Maha Chai Fort, going down to the Ho Ratana Chai Gate and running back along the Ho Ratana Chai canal towards the Unmilled Rice Gate. The issue of a significant palace ground, as mentioned here although, was heavily discussed by some scholars and rejected. On Kaempfer’s sketch drawn in 1690 CE, we see distinctly that this is indeed not the case. [3]


Maps


Wat Kamin is not found on Englebert Kaempfer’s sketch but is indicated on a map drafted in the mid-19th century. The map shows the monastery north of the Front Palace along the Senasanaram canal and marks it with a chedi. (3)


Wat Khamin features curiously enough not on Phraya Boran Rachathanin's map drafted in 1926 CE. He only indicates the post-Ayutthaya era provincial prison area, which was established partly on the old monastery site. The prison has since closed down, but many of its walls and guard towers can still be seen.


The Fine Arts Department maps since 1957 show the site.


The restored ruin of Wat Khamin is in geographical coordinates: 14° 21' 54.02" N, 100° 34' 23.49" E.


Footnotes:


(1) Curcuma is a genus in the ginger plant family Zingiberaceae having its habitat in the warm, humid environments of south and southeast Asia. The most commercially important kind is Curcuma Longa, originating from India, widely cultivated in Asia for its underground stems. The stems are boiled for several hours and then dried in hot ovens, after which they are ground into a deep orange-yellow powder commonly used as a spice in curries and other South Asian cuisines. It is also used for dyeing and impart colour to mustard condiments. The root of turmeric (Curcuma Longa) has long been used in traditional Asian medicine to treat gastrointestinal upset, arthritic pain, and "low energy."

(2) Ayutthaya was conquered for the first time on 30 August 1569 CE. King Maha Thammaracha (reign 1569-1590 CE) was allowed to build new walls around the city under the pretext of a threat from Cambodia. The new walls were extended to the riverbanks in 1580 CE. The moat by the front ramparts on the east - the Khu Khua Na - was dug 20 meters wide and 6 meters deep and extended towards the Mae Nang Plum Monastery and the mouth of Khlong Khao San.

(3) The Senasanaram canal was dug in the post-Ayutthayan era during the reign of King Rama IV to provide better access to Wat Senasanaram.





References:


[1] Cushman, Richard D. & Wyatt, David K. (2006). The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya. Bangkok: The Siam Society. pp. 90 / Source: Phan Canthanumat, British Museum, Reverend Phonnarat, Phra Cakkraphatdiphong & Royal Autograph - Naresuan and Hongsawadi Fight, and Naresuan Returns to Ayutthaya.

[2] 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.

[3] Hengpujaroen, Nantana (2003). The study of Chantharakasem Palace for developing the Management Plan. Bangkok: Silpakorn University.