Sunday, August 28, 2011

A visit to Ayutthaya – the old Thai capital

We went on a day trip to the old city of Ayutthaya. Ayutthaya was founded by the Thai King Ramathibodi I in 1350 and was the capital of the country until its destruction by the Burmese army in 1767.

Some background: in 1765, a 40,000-strong Burmese army invaded the territories of Ayutthaya from the north and west. After a 14 months' siege, the city of Ayutthaya capitulated and was razed in April 1767. Its art treasures, the libraries containing its literature, and the archives housing its historic records were almost totally destroyed, and the Burmese brought the Ayutthaya Kingdom to ruin. We were told by our guide that the complex contained a solid gold standing Buddha statue in one of the temples that the Burmese then melted down so as to take the gold back to Burma.

The complex contained a significant number of Buddha statues, which were destroyed (hacked to pieces by the Burmese). The Thai government has made an effort to restore the statues but it really is too big a task. Some statues, however, have been restored & can give you a sense of what this place must’ve looked like at the peak of its power.

It was after the Burmese left & Thai rule was restored that the capital was then moved to Bangkok.

One of the more famous things to see here is the detached head from a statue embedded into the roots of a banyan tree. Over the years, the roots have grown around the head & at some point in the future, will cover it up completely.

There is still alot of emotion about the sacking of the complex which may go some way to explaining the tension between the two countries.

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