WAT TONG PU





Wat Tong Pu is an active monastery located off the city island in the northeastern area of Ayutthaya, in the Ban Ko Sub-district. The sanctuary is situated at the confluence of the new Lopburi River and the new Pa Sak River, opposite Wat Chong Lom Island. Wat Sakae was on its west.


All constructions on the site are from recent times, except for the bell tower, which dates from King Narai's reign (1656-1688 CE) and looks identical to the one of Wat Pradu Songtham. An ancient Buddha statue (said to be from the 15th century) named Luang Pho To stood before in the ordination hall. This ordination hall became with time, a ruin, and the image stood in the open. To avoid damaging the statue, it was decided not to reconstruct the new ubosot over it. A small vihara was constructed over the ancient statue to protect it.





The new ubosot was partly built on the ruins of the old one but slightly extended to the west side. The hall is built in the late Ayutthaya style. It has two elevated porches in the east and the west, with two entries to the hall. The roof is three-tiered and supported by two columns over the porches. The hall has five windows on the northern and southern sides. The main Buddha image in the ubosot faces east.


Curiously the Buddha image Luang Pho To looks to the west. This is uncommon but can be explained. The central Buddha statue of an ordination hall - the most important building of a monastery - should, in principle, face water. If this is not possible, it should at least face to the east (the direction of the rising sun is auspicious, representing life). This could mean that at the time of the construction of the image, the (new) Pa Sak River on the east side was not yet in existence (2), or it was decided to give the statue an opposite direction due to the close vicinity of Wat Sakae. The image was thus constructed facing the new Lopburi River, which must have been an existing waterway in Ayutthaya times, running parallel with the old Lopburi River.


The exact date of construction is unknown, but according to some publications [1], the temple must have been built before the reign of King Narai. The same source state that the vicinity of Wat Tong Pu was a settlement area for Mon.


Chinese harassment of Burma started from 1648 CE onward. Ten years later, with the Chinese still hanging around, agricultural activities slowed down, and a rice shortage occurred. Lower Burma became disturbed. In 1661 CE, the Prince of Prome raised an insurrection and was crowned King Maha Pawara Dhamma Raja. In 1662 CE, the Governor of Martaban (1) ordered a force of 3000 men out of his municipalities to help the King of Burma defend Ava and expel the Chinese. A large number of Mon escaped the force and returned to Martaban. The Governor arrested the Mon who fled back, put them in cages and threatened to burn them to death. Five thousand Mon advanced on Martaban, burned down the town and took the Governor in custody. The Talaing insurgents could hold the town for a while but realised they would not escape the wrath of the King of Ava. The Talaings assembled their families and, with more than 10.000 people, started their flight to Siam in the direction of the Three Pagoda Pass. A front guard advanced to Kanchanaburi to give an account of the occurrences to King Narai. The King sent some thousand Mon troops to meet them and to guide the refugees to Kanchanaburi. [2] The Mon nobles were received for an audience at the court. Arrangements were made to harbour the families in the vicinity of Samkhok, partly near Khlong Khu Cham [4] (in the vicinity of the Monastery of the Mud of the Shell Harbor [3]) and partly in the neighbourhood of the Monastery of the Card Slap [4]. A Burmese force was sent down and reoccupied Martaban.


The settlement issue: 1. Samkhok in present Pathumthani province is well known as a former settlement location of the Mon. 2. The references [3] en [4] relate to Wat Tha Hoi (Monastery of the Landing of the Shellfish) on the east bank of Khlong Khu Cham. 3. The Monastery of the Card Slap's location could not be traced. Reference [1] states that King Narai settled a number of the above Mon refugees in the vicinity of Wat Tong Pu. The latter is doubtful as the translated eight versions of the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya (Cushman - 2006) do not refer to Wat Tong Pu.


An old document mentions that in the Ayutthayan era, there were boathouses for royal barges and various procession boats at Wat Tong Pu and near Wat Prasat. [5]


The site is not indicated on Phraya Boran Rachathanin's map drafted in 1926 CE.


Wat Tong Pu is in geographical coordinates: 14° 22' 22.97" N, 100° 34' 39.26" E.


Footnotes:


(1) Martaban, now called Mottama, is located in the Thaton District of the Mon State in Myanmar. Mottama was the first capital of the Hongsawadi Kingdom in the 13th and 14th centuries. The small port of Martaban, located at the mouth of the Thanlwin across the river from Mawlamyine, was famous for its glazed pottery.


(2) The Pa Sak River's old riverbed was in Khlong Hantra.


References:


[1] Art & Culture Magazine Silapa. March 2010. p. 52.

[2] Cushman, Richard D. & Wyatt, David K. (2006). The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya. Bangkok: The Siam Society. p. 256.

[3] Ibid. p. 257.

[4] Ibid. p. 258.

[5] Pongsripian, Vinai, Dr. (2007). Phanna phumisathan Phra Nakhon Sri Ayutthaya: Ekasan jak Ho Luang. Geographical description of Ayutthaya: Documents from the palace. Bangkok: Usakane. P. 61 & 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. p. 205.