WAT MAI (1)





Wat Mai, or the New Monastery, is a restored ruin located off the city island in the northern area, in the Khlong Sra Bua Sub-district. The monastery was located near the confluence of Khlong Sra Bua with Khlong Mueang (the old Lopburi River), opposite respectively Wat Na Phra Men (active temple) and the Grand Palace (restored ruin).


Near Wat Mai and east of the Sra Bua Canal was the Sala Trawen Landing (ท่าศาลาตระเวน), which stood in connection with the Khan Landing (ท่าขันธ์) also called noblemen's landing (ท่าขุนนาง). The Trawen Pavilion was a patrol or guard post on the opposite side of the Grand Palace.


The temple complex faces south towards the Lopburi River, as most of the temples along this city canal. It is customary in South and Southeast Asia that the monastic structures are aligned on an east-west axis and that the principal building faces east, the direction of the rising sun and representation of life. In this case, another important consideration played a role which is that a temple should face water, explained by the fact that the Buddha attained enlightenment sitting under a Bo tree facing a river. The temple can face the south, as the south has a neutral value in the cosmological alignment. [1]


In situ are the remains of an ordination hall or ubosot, a bell tower and some minor chedis. The ordination hall is a rectangular building 8.70 metres wide with a length of 24.50 metres. This building stands on a foundation that slightly curves at the middle of the long side compared to a junk. There is a single gate at the front and two at the back. On the long sides, there are four windows. The top of the doors and windows all have stucco frames with beautiful decorations. The bell tower stands on a square redented base and is accessed by stairs on the south. The tower is in prang shape with lotus petal gaps. On top is a damaged quincunx symbolising Mount Meru. An outer wall surrounded the monastery. According to archaeological evidence, the monastery dates from the late Ayutthaya period (1629-1767 CE) and could have been used even in the early Rattanakosin (Bangkok period). [2]





Alfons Van der Kraan state in Ref [3] that it was probably this temple that Jeremias Van Vliet mentioned in his Diary of the Picnic Incident. However - but less likely - it could have been Wat Mai (Wat Bang Kaja), which is indicated on Valentijn’s map (1726 CE). Less likely, because Wat Na Phra Men was known as a Royal cremation ground for the highest rank, and the Phraya Nakhon Ratchasima (Oya Corassima - see text here below) and his mother were likely related to the King. It could have been that Wat Mai was used as a substitute for Wat Na Phra Men for the funeral rites of lower rank.


"On December 18 [1636 CE], the Shahbandar, Olong Tsiut, and I went to the Berckelang. Upon arrival, we (and everyone else who had some business there) were told that His Honor had gone to the temple Watmoey to assist in the cremation of the mother of the deceased Oya Corassima". [3]


Historical data about the monastery and its construction are unknown.


There were more temples with identical names in the Ayutthaya City District: Wat Mai Wichit on the northern limits of the Historical Park, Wat Mai Bang Kraja opposite Wat Phanan Choeng and some other defunct temple sites.


The restored ruin of Wat Mai is in geographical coordinates: 14° 21' 42.23" N, 100° 33' 37.49" E.



References:

[1] Fouser, Beth (1996). The Lord of the Golden Tower. White Lotus. pp. 36-7.
[2] Fine Arts Department (FAD) information board in situ.
[3] Baker, Chris Pombejra, Dhiravat na Van Der Kraan Alfons & Wyatt, David K. (2005). Van Vliet's Siam. Silkworm Books. p. 71.




Wooden doors and decorative panels in Bangkok style (Rattanakosin art) dating back to the 19th century and originating from Wat Mai Khlong Sra Bua. There are four doors (eight panels) kept at the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum. The panels are adorned with engravings of the Hibiscus Mutabilis, also known as the Confederate rose (Th: Phuttan), considered by the Chinese as an auspicious flower engraved Chinese vases, symbolising peaceful desire, as well as fretwork (interlaced decorative design carved in low relief on a solid background) depicting the endless or eternal knot, being one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols. The panels also contain engraved birds, squirrels and butterflies.