WAT RATCHA PRADITSATHAN





Wat Ratcha Praditsathan (1) is an active temple located on Ayutthaya’s city island in Tha Wasukri Sub-district. It is situated on the corner of Chikun Road and U Thong Road in the vicinity of the Maharat Bridge leading over Khlong Mueang to Wat Wong Khong.


The monastery was located next to Khlong Pratu Khao Pluak (2), separating it from Wat Tha Sai (on the opposite side of the canal). This canal has been filled in, for the most part, leaving a small pond on the premises. Traces of the Pratu Khao Pluak fortress and the watergate Pratu Khao Pluak still can be seen in situ. Wat Tha Sai has been annexed by Wat Ratcha Praditsathan and is now considered a single temple.


Architecture


Wat Ratcha Praditsathan has been given a modern ordination hall in the Rattanakosin style. The monastery is decorated with mirrored tiles that have some elaborate decorations. The gable of the sermon hall dramatically portrays a Garuda carrying a four-armed figure while clutching two Naga in its talons. The monastery had its Wisung Kham Sima (3) granted on 2 September 1954. The ordination hall is graced by double sema stones, perched on white pedestals with pink lotus flowers, indicating its royal grant. Several gold-painted Buddha images sit on the altar inside, of which one is called Phra Borom Trailokanat. There are two small old chedis on the northern side of the sermon hall. One has multiple layers with a bell-shaped crown. The second chedi is constructed in the “mango seed” style, the only one of its kind in the city.





History


The Monastery of the Royal Installation, as Richard Cushman translated the name of this Siamese temple [1], is also mentioned several times in the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya.

The temple is closely associated with King Chakkraphat (reign 1548-1569 CE), who served as a monk at this temple before accepting the throne. This story dates back to Queen Regent Si Sudachan and Khun Worawongsa usurping the throne in 1548 CE. Si Sudachan was a concubine of King Chairatcha (reign 1534-1547 CE) who became Queen Regent after his death. Her 11-year-old son, Yot Fa, was made king, but his power was short-lived (reign 1547-48 CE). The Queen Regent had her child executed at Wat Khok Phraya and appointed her lover, Khun Worawongsa (reign 1548 CE), as the new monarch. Meanwhile, Prince Yot Fa’s uncle, Prince Thianratcha (the future King Chakkraphat), sought political refuge by ordaining as a monk at Wat Ratcha Praditsathan. Khun Worawongsa’s ill-fated reign would last only six weeks. A group of assassins ambushed him and Queen Regent Si Sudachan while the couple had a recreational outing on Khlong Pla Mo. The two usurpers and their baby daughter were taken away to be executed and their corpses publicly displayed at Wat Raeng. The assassins then persuaded Prince Thianratcha to leave the monkhood at Wat Ratcha Praditsathan to become king. [2]

After accepting the throne, King Chakkraphat sent the younger brother of the 11-year-old King Yot Fa - Prince Si Sin - to Wat Ratcha Praditsathan to be raised as a novice monk (Cushman 41). However, as Prince Si Sin became older, he staged a rebellion to claim the throne. Prince Si Sin and his supporters attacked the Royal Palace by entering the Sao Thong Chai gate. This surprise attack forced King Chakkraphat to flee the palace. Eventually, Prince Si Sin was killed in a battle by gunfire. As a warning against future rebellions, the prince’s colleagues and some of their wives were executed in public and their bodies impaled and displayed next to the corpse of Prince Si Sin. [3]

At the end of the reign of King Phumintharatcha (1709-1733 CE), preparations were made for the royal succession and the mostly - inevitable - fight for the throne. The old King had one of his sons designated as his heir without the consent of his younger brother, the deputy king. The king ordered some defensive works done inside the capital along Khlong Pratu Khao Pluak until Pratu Jin (Chinese Gate). One of the defensive stockades was established on the west bank of Khlong Pratu Khao Pluak in front of Wat Ratcha Praditsathan and besides the Elephant Bridge. This stockade fell under the command of a certain Khun Si Khong Yot. The deputy king, living in the Front Palace, ordered the same defences set up along the eastern bank of the canal. The son of the deputy king took the occasion to shoot and kill Khun Si Khong Yot in his enclosure from the window of a house on the edge of the Pratu Khao Pluak Canal. It was the start of a bloody internal war of succession. [4]


Wat Ratcha Praditsathan is also mentioned in one of Prince Damrong Rajanubhab's writings. When the Burmese stood before the gates of Ayutthaya in 1767, the ex-King Uthumphon left the Pradu Rongtham Monastery and came to reside at Wat Ratcha Praditsathan. It was here that he was arrested at the fall of Ayutthaya and brought under guard at the fortification of Pho Sam Ton. [5]

Maps

Wat Ratcha Praditsathan shows on Kaempfer’s sketch. Engelbert Kaempfer (1651-1716 CE) was a medical doctor working for the Dutch VOC (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie) who surveyed the city of Ayutthaya in June 1690 CE. The temple is situated on the west bank of Khlong Pratu Khao Pluak, close to the northern city wall. The depiction of the monastery is difficult to discern, but we can see a chedi on the left. Opposite the canal, we find the chedi of Wat Tha Sai. Elephant Road and Bridge are visualised clearly.

The monastery does not appear on Bellin’s map, ‘Plan De La Ville De Siam’, although the two bastions along the Khao Pluak canal can be seen. Jacques-Nicolas Bellin (1703-1772 CE) was one of the most important cartographers of the 18th century.

Wat Ratcha Praditsathan is indicated on a map drafted in the mid-19th century by an unknown surveyor. The drawing shows Wat Pra (ประ) along Khlong Pratu Khao Pluak. Opposite the canal stood wat Tha Sai and to its west was Wat Klang, also called Wat Suwannawat. Wat Pra shows with a chedi standing to the south. This chedi cannot be seen today.

The temple is on Phraya Boran Ratchathanin's map of 1926 CE in an identical position as the mid-19th century map. Phraya Boran (1871-1936 CE) was the Superintendent Commissioner of Monthon Ayutthaya from 1925 till 1929 CE.

Wat Ratcha Praditsathan is in geographical coordinates: 14° 21' 45.24" N, 100° 34' 6.08" E.

On a personal note

The present ordination hall of Wat Ratcha Praditsathan was established in 1917 CE, and in my opinion, the monastic structures of Wat Suwannawat were part of the monastery. The buildings of Wat Suwannawat are aligned on an east-west axis. An identical east-west alignment we find at Wat Thai Sa, opposite Khlong Pratu Khao Pluak. The present ordination hall has a rare north-south alignment and is opposed to the directions of Wat Suwannawat and Wat Tha Sai. On Kaempfer’s sketch, the Chikun Road stops at the intersection with the Map Phrao Road (former Elephant road), and from the crossing, only a path leads to the monastery. I believe it is evident that the construction of the Maharat Bridge over Khlong Mueang and the Maharat Road in the 20th century has cut through the temple complex. I believe, as this monastery figures several times in the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya as a royal retreat, that the premises of Wat Ratcha Praditsathan were not confined only to the small space on the west bank of Khlong Pratu Khao Pluak but also included the structures of Wat Suwannawat.

Footnotes:

(1) Ratcha = royal Praditsathan = to install.
(2) 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).
(3) The royal grant of land separated from the land of the country unto the priests, specifically to build a monastic chapel by the announcement of a royal decree. The signs indicating the area are called 'Nimit'. After having received the royal ‘Wisung Kham Sema’, an ordination hall can be established. Before requesting a royal grant (พระราชทานวิสุงคามสีมา), the temple must have not fewer than five monks permanently residing for not less than five years.





(View of Wat Ratcha Praditsathan - September 2008 CE)



References:


[1] Cushman, Richard D. & Wyatt, David K. (2006). The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya. Bangkok: The Siam Society. pp. 413 / Source: Phan Canthanumat, British Museum, Reverend Phonnarat & Royal Autograph.

[2] Cushman, Richard D. & Wyatt, David K. (2006). The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya. Bangkok: The Siam Society. pp. 23-5.

[3] Cushman, Richard D. & Wyatt, David K. (2006). The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya. Bangkok: The Siam Society. pp. 41-2.

[4] Cushman, Richard D. & Wyatt, David K. (2006). The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya. Bangkok: The Siam Society. pp. 413-4.

[5] Rajanubhab, Damrong (Prince) (1917). Our Wars with the Burmese. White Lotus, Bangkok (2000). pp. 161.