Wat Ratcha Burana - also called the Monastery of the Royal Repairs or the Monastery of the Royal Restoration - is located on the city island in the central area of Ayutthaya in the Tha Wasukri Sub-district.

The temple is situated on the corner of the present Chikun Road and Naresuan Road, just opposite Wat Maha That and near the former Pa Than bridge. The monastery stood on the west bank of Khlong Pratu Khao Pluak.

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). It was filled up somewhere in the early 20th century.

The structure was registered as a national historic site by the Fine Arts Department on 8 March 1935 and is part of the Ayutthaya Historical Park.


The Luang Prasoet version of the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya set its construction in 786 Chula Sakarat (CS) or 1424 of the Christian Era, during the reign of King Borommaracha II (r. 1424-1448), also known as Chao Sam Phraya.

"In 786, a year of the dragon, King Intharacha I became ill and passed away. At that time Prince Ai Phraya and Prince Yi Phraya, young sons of the King, fought each other on elephants at Than Forest Bridge and both of them died there. So a young son of the King, Prince Sam Phraya, ascended the royal throne of the Capital City of Ayutthaya and took the royal title of King Bòromratcha II. And he then had two holy monuments built to cover that spot in the Municipality of Than Forest where Prince Ai Phraya and Prince Yi Phraya fought each other to the death on elephants. In that year Ratchabun Monastery was founded." [1]

King Intharacha (reign 1409-1424 CE) had three sons being Chao Ai Phraya, ruler of Suphan Buri Chao Yi Phraya, ruler of San Buri and Chao Sam Phraya, ruler of Chainat, located on the northern limit of the Ayutthaya Kingdom at that time. Following the death of their father, the first and the second born led their armies to Ayutthaya to claim the throne. Both princes engaged each other in personal combat mounted on an elephant on or near the “charcoal forest” bridge (Saphan Pa Than). Both were severely wounded, their throats slashed open simultaneously, and they died in combat. The youngest brother, Chao Sam Phraya, was then invited to Ayutthaya and proclaimed King under the title of Borommaracha II. The King commanded two chedis built on the site where his brothers engaged in battle. He cremated both his brothers, and on their cremation site, Wat Ratcha Burana (1) was built.

There is not much known about the history of this temple between its establishment in 1424 CE and its destruction in 1767 CE.

"In December 1766, on a late Friday night, a heavy fire broke at Tha Sai (Sand Landing). It spread south along Khlong Pratu Khao Pluak via the Elephant Bridge (Saphan Chang) towards Wat Ratcha Burana and Wat Maha That to finally stop at Wat Chatthan. The Royal Chronicles mention that over ten thousand monastic structures and houses were destroyed in Ayutthaya. It was the same night that the Phraya of Kamphaeng Phet (the later King Taksin) with his followers fled from their encampment at Wat Phichai in Ayutthaya. The Chronicles recall that the fleeing group arriving at the Village of the Mixed Pundits on Saturday at two o'clock in the morning saw huge flames lighting up the city of Ayutthaya. [2] Just before the city was lost to the Burmese, the Ayutthayan chronicles recorded that a crow flew in and spontaneously impaled itself on the finial of the central prang. This event was considered a bad omen for the city." [3]

As illegal diggings in the ruins of the ancient city of Ayutthaya became prevalent in the first half of the 20th century, the government of Prime Minister Phibun Songkram established the "Committee of Restoration of Ayutthaya" in July 1956 CE. A budget was allocated to restore and reconstruct the most important temples. The Fine Arts Department (FAD) started the restoration of Wat Maha That in 1957 CE. In August of that year, archaeologists discovered several golden objects on the site. The news of the discovery spread rapidly, with as a consequence, the start of an uncontrollable spree of treasure hunting all over the ruined area of Ayutthaya. FAD became aware that illegal diggings occurred at Wat Ratcha Burana and planned to start excavations immediately. Due to a delay in the planning, a gang of looters returned to the central prang and succeeded in reaching the upper chamber of the crypt on 23 September 1957. [4]

The looters plundered a significant number of relics interred with the remains of the two princes. Shortly after, a drunk amongst the looters informed the police, and they could recover some of the stolen treasures. An unknown amount of gold has never been retrieved as most of the findings were immediately sold to dealers and collectors. In 1958 excavation and restoration of Wat Ratcha Burana by the Fine Arts Department finally began. Several bronze Buddha images, precious stones, and many golden artefacts, including royal regalia, miniature utensils and numerous votive tablets, were found in the crypt. [5]

The recuperated treasures of Wat Ratcha Burana were displayed at the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum, specially built for the occasion and named after the third son of King Intharacha. The national museum was inaugurated on 26 Dec 1961 and displayed next to the excavated objects of Wat Ratcha Burana, also the excavated objects from Wat Maha That and other important temples. The government used to fund the museum's construction with the proceeds from the sale of some of the votive tablets found at Wat Ratcha Burana.


Wat Ratcha Burana, similar to Wat Phra Ram, Wat Phutthaisawan and Wat Maha That, followed the Khmer concept of temple construction. We find nearly identical but earlier built structures at Angkor. Phnom Bakheng, Preah Rup, East Mebon, Baphuon and Ta Keo were all Temple Mountains, consisting of a central tower surrounded by four corner towers, forming a quincunx the latter also often was surrounded by a courtyard and a gallery. All temples in the early period of the establishment of Ayutthaya were Khmer styled, consisting primary of laterite structures and bricks enhanced with stucco.

Wat Ratcha Burana was initially built as a basic quincunx surrounded by a covered gallery. At a later stage, the monastic structure was expanded with a vihara and ubosot aligned on an east-west axis. The vihara became partly incorporated into the gallery, while the ordination hall stood isolated on the western side. The monastery was surrounded by water, a symbolic representation of Mount Meru's oceans (represented by the prang). The complex faced Khlong Pratu Khao Pluak to its east and another Lopburi oxbow shortcut canal to the west (name unknown by author).

Only the walls and foundations remain of the royal vihara. The main entry was in the east, leading to an elevated porch. Different entries could also access the structure on the sides. The walls were windowless, having vertical slit openings, bringing ventilation and providing at the same time a diffused light into the inside. The vihara had a wooden multi-tiered roof structure, which collapsed (burned down). Pillars with a lotus motif supported the eaves. [6]

The ubosot or ordination hall stood in the west, isolated from the gallery. The hall was accessed via an elevated porch. There were two entries in the west and two in the rear, one on each lateral side.

The prang of Wat Ratcha Burana was still in reasonably good condition and could be restored. The prang, representing the cosmic Mount Meru, is located in the middle of the old compound and is built on an indented pedestal protruding towards the north and south, resulting in a wing-like formation, which was characteristic for prangs of the early Ayutthaya period. The “cella” or small central hall inside the prang containing the crypt can be accessed through a porch directed towards the east by climbing the steep stairs leading to the entry of the porch. The prang has three staircases on the east, north and south side. Over the cubic “cella” rises the central tower, the bud-shaped prang. The “cella” housed a Buddha image. On the lowest level of the top part of the prang are decorated Garuda and Naga sculptures.

The two-level crypt under the cella can be reached via a narrow staircase built in 1958 CE by the FAD. It is warm inside the vault, and the descent is not recommended for people with claustrophobia. The upper chamber is a three-meter square room with nearly faded murals depicting Chinese people. Some Chinese characters can still be recognised. The lower cell is so tiny that only a single person can enter at a time. The murals here are still somewhat visible, depicting Buddha with his disciples, trees and birds and some floral artwork. Some parts of the pictures were gilded. The badly restored ceiling also bears large tracts of paint.

Wat Ratcha Burana is in geographical coordinates: 14° 21' 31.70" N, 100° 34' 1.77" E.


(1) The oldest Ayutthayan Chronicle - the Luang Prasoet - mentions "Wat Ratcha Bun" or "Monastery of the Royal Merit".