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History of Wat Yai Chaimongkol


Wat Yai Chaimongkol

Wat Yai Chaimongkol is a magnificent ancient royal monastery, more than a mere place of worship. It has been the pride of Siamese people since the 13th Century. Its very existence conveys a sense of the power of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, which once expanded in all directions. From Siam to cover part of Burma to the northwest, then stretched to the east to the whole of Laos and Cambodia, and extended southward to the whole of Malaysia and the little island of Singapore. Never during those 417 years did any other nations challenge Siam’s dominion of the whole Golden Peninsula.

When Siam had seen the civilization of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, there was already a myriad of languages, religions and local customs and rivers of people flowing to the vibrant city of Ayutthaya. It turned Wat Yai Chaimongkol into a national education hub from the mere schooling of royal offspring. A lot of evidence showed that a culture of literacy and education flourished with a long-lasting strength of religious sciences of Wat Yai Chaimongkol. It is this strength that hundreds of current monks and nuns inherited. As the temple's motto says, "Those who with a clear mind, they live the life of perfection and shall arise in glory. Those whose mind are unsteady, they lament on the path of sorrow and shall never reach fullness of wisdom."  (In Thai, it was written as Jai Sai Pen Boon Jai Khoon Pen Bab).

The beautiful secrets of Wat Yaichaimongkol acquired a personality of its own. The temple is alive with the smiles of Phra Buddha Chaimongkol, the most sacred Buddha image, and others.  Their images not only speak of a time of freedom as well as of the affluence of the Ayutthaya Kingdom but also give a warm welcome to visitors from other lands.

Whoever comes within the sight of Ayuddhaya city can clearly see the timelessness of The Great Pagoda Chayamongkol from the far horizon. In the bright sun light, the Great Pagoda Chayamongkol gives an illusion of peace and the glorious victory of King Naresuan the Great over the Burmese four centuries earlier. He is the idol of the Thai army and the hero of all Thailand. King Naresuan the Great’s victory established a supremacy throughout the whole Golden Peninsula land which lasted for centuries. The monastery has always been a safer place for his spiritual retreat. His supreme confidence in the Thai courage, Thai elephant-back combat, and Thai patriot was the legacy of Wat Yai Chaimongkol.

When the Burmese enemy sacked Ayutthaya in 1767, it spelled doom for the Ayutthaya Kingdom. Burma fired innumerable palaces and temples. Black smoke that rolled in red clouds over the city for months was still kept in the whispering winds on the top of the Great Pagoda. Genocide with mass robbery and rapine swept across the central plain of Thailand, especially in Ayutthaya city, filling water ways and rivers with rows of bodies and blood. Wat Yai Chaimongkol was seized and turned into a fortress, then it became a long-lost temple for a hundred years. Phra Ubosot (Ordination Hall) is full of mystery. The holy spirit of the large reclining Buddha with a length of 15 metres witnessed everything that happened in those days.

Upon entering the changing world of the nineteenth century, Phrakru Pawanarangsi brought the ancient temple to life and created a memorable transformation. Apart from its scenery that remains enchanting blended with the ancient beauty and serenity, housing King Naresuan The Great’s monument and holding renowned meditation classes also drew the nation’s attention. Wat Yai Chaimongkol is now one of the most fascinating temple tourist destinations of the country, contributing a lot to the tourism development of Ayutthaya city. Visiting Wat Yai Chaimongkol is just like taking the journey into the past and is well worth a visit!
 

Note: This article is dedicated to Phra Maha Nutthanit Sumano ( http://mahaoath.com ) for his generous support on Sustainable Community of Silpakorn University (SCSU)( http://sites.google.com/site/scsuthailand ) activity.
Figures Detail

1. The Great Pagoda Chayamongkol in the morning mist.
2. Prayer ceremonies and the oral transmission of learning is
     intellectual core of Wat Yai Chaimongkol
3. The mystery smiles of Buddha images.
4. The Ordination Hall is the ancient center of worship and arts.

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