WAT PHLAPPHLA CHAI





Wat Phlapphla Chai is a restored temple ruin situated within the Ayutthaya Historical Park in the Tha Wasukri Sub-district on the corner of Chikun Road and Pa Maphrao Road.


The ruined monastery is north of Wat Racha Burana (ruin), south of Wat Suwannawat (ruin), more or less east of Wat Suwan Chedi (ruin) and west of the today defunct Wat Klong. The sanctuary stood on the west bank of the defunct Khlong Pratu Khao Pluak in the vicinity of the Elephant Bridge (Saphan Chang).


Khlong Pratu Khao Pluak, or the ‘Canal of the Gate of Unmilled Rice’, was part of a waterway running through the middle of Ayutthaya from north to south. The canal, a shortcut in the oxbow of the Lopburi River, ran until the Chikun Bridge and continued to the Chinese water gate (Pratu Jin). The "Elephant Bridge" was the most northern bridge on Khlong Pratu Khao Pluak and connected the two sides of Elephant Street (today called Pa Maphrao Road). The foundations of this laterite bridge were dismantled in the reign of Rama III, and the laterite stones were brought to Bangkok to be used for the foundations of Wat Sakae (present Wat Saket) in Bangkok. There are no more traces of the foundations of the Elephant Bridge. Near the bridge, there were two markets. A market on the east side in front of Wat Klong and another on the west side. [1]


The remnants of the sanctuary consist of two pagodas and the base of a vihara. The monastery was, as usual, aligned on an east/west axis. Three walls of the vihara or assembly hall remain. In front of the vihara, we find the foundations of a porch. The vihara has an elevated base, and some steps reach the door entry.


Behind the vihara, west of the building is a bell-shaped chedi with a round base. The base and dome are damaged, while the spire misses the kalasa or top knob. The square harmika tops the anda, but there are no traces of a railing supporting the spire. The Fine Arts Department reconstructed the upper part visibly. Looters penetrated the dome in search of relics, hence the irregular hole in the garbha.


A second chedi with a square base and a tapering prang-like shape with redented corners stands south of the vihara. In the front is another foundation. We still find the remains of the inner brick walls and seemingly a part of the outer walls.


History


Wat Phlapphlachai is one of the oldest temples in Ayutthaya. We do not know the exact year of its establishment. The earliest mention of Wat Phlabphla Chai in the Chronicles of Ayutthaya dates back to 1424 CE. History relates that King Intharaja I (reign 1409-1424 CE) had three sons, named according to the old numerical system (Ai = first, Yi = second and Sam = third). On the death of their father, in 1424 CE, the two elder sons, Ai Phraya living in Suphanburi, and Yi Phraya living in Sanburi (1), descended on Ayutthaya to claim the throne. Ai Phraya encamped with its entourage near Wat Phlapphla Chai on the west bank of Khlong Pratu Khao Pluk, while Yi Phraya positioned himself on the east bank of the canal near Wat Chaiyaphum. Both princes engaged in personal combat mounted on an elephant at the Charcoal Quarter Bridge (Saphan Pa Than), a bridge over Khlong Pratu Khao Pluk. Both were severely wounded and died from the combat.


In 780, a year of the dog, tenth of the decade, King Intharacha I passed away, having been on the royal throne for fifteen years. Prince Ai Phraya and Prince Yi Phraya moved in to contend with each other for the royal throne. Prince Ai Phraya came and set himself up in the Municipality of Maphrao Forest at the Chai Pavilion Monastery. Prince Yi Phraya came and set himself up at the Chaiyaphum Monastery so as to enter the city by way of the Cao Phrom Market. The chief elephants met and engaged each other at the foot of Than Forest Bridge. Both princes wielded war scythes and both had their throats torn open at the same time. [2]


The royal chronicles of Ayutthaya mention Wat Phlapphla Chai again in the reign of King Si Sutham Racha (1656 CE). At the death of King Prasat Thong (reign 1629-1656 CE), his son Prince Chai became the heir to the royal throne. The late king's brother, Prince Si Sutham Racha, considered himself the rightful owner of the throne and quickly executed King Chai. King Si Sutham Racha took as thus the administration of Ayutthaya over. He had an eye on Prince Narai's sister, Princess Ratcha Kanlayani, who had to escape to the Front Palace after the king’s men surrounded her house to bring her to the Grand Palace. Prince Narai was so enraged about his uncle's act that he gathered foreign support to depose King Si Sutham Racha. On the Day of Ashura 1656 CE, he attacked the Grand Palace and executed the king. A paragraph of the chronicles mentions the route taken by Prince Narai from the Front Palace to the Grand Palace, passing Wat Phlapphla Chai.


When a day of good fortune, an hour of auspiciousness and a moment of excellence obtained, His Majesty accordingly [BDEF: mustered His troops] [BDE: to advance] [C: advanced] in military formation, completely outfitted with the paraphernalia of the royal receptacles and with the gongs, drums and conch-shell trumpets playing. Thereupon His Majesty proceeded on His holy royal journey in procession through the various gates along the route in front of the Monastery of the Pavilion of Victory. Thereupon Phraya Sena Phimuk and Phraya Chaiya [BC: Sura] [DEF: Sun], commanding forty Japanese, came to prostrate themselves [BEF: to render] [C: in] [BCEF: homage] and state their request to volunteer for royal service. [B: And] [CDF: Then] [BCDF: Luang Phichit] [BCF: Decha] [D: Det] [BCDF: came forth to prostrate himself] [BCF: in homage] [B: as he would] [CF: to] [D: to state his] [BCDF: request to volunteer for royal service.] Then His Majesty proceeded on His royal journey by way of Chikun. [3]


Engelbert Kaempfer's sketch and draft map show Wat Phlapphla Chai and depict it with two chedis along Chikun Road north of Wat Ratcha Burana. Kaempfer was a medical doctor working for the Dutch VOC (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie). He visited and surveyed Ayutthaya in June 1690 CE.


[4] Wat Phlabphla Chai is in geographical coordinates 14° 21' 37.80" N, 100° 34' 5.20" E.





References:


[1] Baker, Chris (2011). Before Ayutthaya Fell: Economic Life in an Industrious Society - Markets and Production in the City of Ayutthaya before 1767: Translation and Analysis of Part of the Description of Ayutthaya - Journal of the Siam Society, Vol. 99. p. 65. [2] Cushman, Richard D. & Wyatt, David K. (2006). The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya. The Siam Society. p. 15. [3] Ibid, p. 229. [4] Kaempfer, Engelbert. Werke 4. Kritische Ausgabe in Einzelbänden. Herausgegeben von Detlef Haberland, Wolfgang Michel, Elisabeth Gössmann - Engelbert Kaempfer in Siam. Iudicum Verlag GmbH München 2003. Edited by Barend Jan Terwiel.



GROUND PLAN OF WAT PHLAPPHLA CHAI



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






No 1: Base of the vihara. The size is 9.30 metres wide and 10 metres long. The walls of the vihara are 0.60 meters thick, facing the east side of Maharaj Road.


No 2: In front of the temple in the middle is a porch extending 2 - 2.30 metres wide, and it has two steps of 1.40 meters wide.


No 3: Pagoda, 2.30 meters from the temple to the south with a diameter of 4 metres.


No 4: A round base chedi, located 2 metres away to the west of the vihara. This pagoda measures 10.80 meters in diameter.