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King Naresuan The Great

King Naresuan The Great and The Victory Pagoda of Wat Yai Chaimongkol
Phra Maha Nutthanit Sumano
 King Naresuan The Great (1555 – 1605) was  Warrior Kings of Thailand, the hero to countless generations and the arbiter of the entire Golden Peninsula during the classical age. King Naresuan The Great declared the independence of Siam and embodied the national spirits, history, military might, society. His achievements were a rare combination in the religious and military sphere. He proved that military brilliance can give way to a peaceful mind. King Naresuan The Great is the greatest king and Thai people give him their utmost allegiance, their deep devotion and their esteem.

King Naresuan The Great promoted Buddhism along with the building of peace, spread the teachings of the Buddha across the country as well as establishing the country’s monasteries for the education. Among many was Wat Yai Chaimongkol. From the 16th century, Wat Yai Chaimongkol became the holy place of kings, scholars, Buddhist monks, and the spiritual centre of Thai society. King Naresuan The Great is more than a king, he is also a constant source of courage and inspiration to the Thai army and Thai people.
The Reality of Being a Royal Family Member

His parents, King Somdej Phra Maha Thammarachathirat (Sanphet I), at the time was King of Pitsanulok - the sovereign princely state of the Ayutthaya Kingdom - and Pra Visutkasattri, a descendant of King Chakrapat and Queen Suriyothai[1]  of the Ayutthaya Kingdom. Footnotes to history are always intriguing. Queen Suriyothai made a great contribution to Siamese history. Queen Suriyothai’s death is a crucial moment in Thai popular history, marking the point at which Pegu’s  army called for an immediate withdrawal of troops due to it being such a terrible shame to fight woman.

It can be clearly seen that Prince Naresuan’s early experience was mostly making a sacrifice for the country. Prince Naresuan was the eldest son, second in line to the Ayutthaya throne. He was brought up in the Chan Palace in Pitsanulok, 400 kms north of Ayutthaya, together with his elder sister, Princess Supankulayanee and his younger brother, Prince Eka Thossarot. All of the princes and the princess had grown up an inspirational, intellectual, and purposeful environment. During their childhood, they were brought up side-by-side, rarely apart. In appearance and character, the two princes were quite different. Prince Naresuan (Black Prince) was dark, tall, bursting with strength, special powers and even special wisdom, while Prince Eka Thossarot (White Prince) was white, polite and affectionate with everyone.

Unfortunately, Siam in the approximately three decades before Prince Naresuan’s accession to the throne had come on hard times. There has been so much turmoil and tragedy, so many wars all over the country.

In the war of 1564, Pitsanulok was seized by  the  King Bayinnaung of Pegu (in Thai, it was written as Burengnong). When Pitsanulok was annexed to victorious Burma as a sovereign princely state, the Golden Peninsula entered the Age of King Bayinnaung. King Bayinnaung it brought catastrophic consequences to Siam: massacre, battles, bloodshed, and eventually the fall of Ayutthaya for the very first time.

During a brief visit to Pitsanulok, King Bayinnaung met Prince Naresuan and realized his intellectual talents. King Bayinnuang demanded that Prince Naresuan be given to him and live with him in Pegu. In other word, this was to ensure King Somdet Phra Maha Thammarachathirat’s loyalty. To Prince Naresuan, being taken a political hostage must have been the saddest moment of his life.

Figure 1 : A figure of King Naresuan The Great pouring the lustral water from a golden container and declaring Ayutthaya's independence.








The True Spirits of the Warrior


King Bayinnaung had the greatest influence on Prince Naresuan’s life and really deserves praise. King Bayinnuang not only clarified the teachings of Sun Tzu’s strategies (The Art of War) in the light of his seemingly limitless learning and wisdom, but also in love and care of young prince as though the crown prince had been his own son. The spirit of a great warrior was gradually implanted in the heart of Prince Naresuan from the age of nine to adulthood. Over many years of heart-felt advice, King Bayinnaung natured those seeds of courage Queen Suriyothai had sowed in Prince Naresuan blossom.

Prince Naresuan was different from other children in all aspects. Within those 7 years in a foreign land, Prince Naresuan could speak bilingually and spoke Burmese like his native tongue. Prince Naresuan The Great also had a deep interest in Buddhism and was motivated to restore the independence of Siam.


Figure 2 : The elephant war in 1592 that stamped the supremacy of Siam in the history.





Life and Legend
At a very young age, he followed the practice of meditation with complete dedication guided by a wise father-figure monk, Maha Khanchong. It was meditation that helped him conquer his innermost energies, transform it into creativity and paved the way to finding inner peace. King Naresuan The Great was a highly accomplished practitioner of meditation. The spiritual sustenance to King Naresuan The Great that Wat Yai Chaimongkol provided, through the performance of meditation teachings and rituals, was full of beautiful memories.

With youthful high motivation, he had an intense interest in the restored independence of Siam. His serious goal in life was to make Siam, predominant in the entire Golden Peninsula. He spent his childhood conducting his own political and military intrigues as shown in his skills and strategy in cockfighting. His interest in the security and prosperity of Siam inspired him and he carried this inspiration until the end of his life. For the entire 15 years he spent on the throne, King Naresuan The Great most of the time on the battlefield, otherwise he spent the time in rural areas and temples.  He even died on the way to the battlefield.
Prince Naresuan returned to Siam when he was 16 years of age on the condition that his sister, Princess Supankulayanee must be sent to Pegu as a hostage and a consort to King Bayinnaung. Although it meant the sacrifice of her own happiness and it was a painful experience for both of them, however, to Princess Supankulayanee, this was a price to be paid for a chance to save her country. Thai people owed Princess Supankulayanee a great debt. It was her scarifice that allowed Siam to gain independence in the next decade.

When the crown prince set foot in his homeland, he was appointed ruler of Pitsanulok at the age of 16. It marked the beginning of his warrior life: the rise of Siam, the end of tears and fears of his people. Shortly after King Bayinnuang’s death (1581)[2] , King Naresuan The Great declared  independence from Pegu (1584) and started the Decade of Revolution. Siam rising against the Burmese monarchy was like a dream comes true. King Naresuan The Great was involved with the endlessly complicated business of war and governance for the remainder of this life.

In 1590, King Naresuan The Great acceded to the throne at the age of 35. Although Siam had started to expand in all directions long before his reign, but the supremacy of Siam was stamped in the history of the sixteenth century during the Great War of 1592 in Supanburi.
 
He applied ambush strategies, and raids designed to catch the Burmese off guard and lure them into  waiting traps. No matter how high the casualties of his troops, King Naresuan The Great was relentless until he and his elephant entered the midst of Pegu’s troops without any bodyguards. To accept the fact that he fought alone, confronting the whole enemy army was not easy. With his enormous spiritual strengths and special wisdoms that he learned from King Bayinnaung, he then challenged Phra Maha Upparaja, the Crown Prince of Burma to hand-to-hand combat on elephant back. King Naresuan succeeded in killing the Burmese Crown Prince and annihilating Pegu’s army.

Upon the returning in triumph from the elephant war, thousands of soldiers should have been executed according to tradition law for not fulfilling their duty to protect the king. It was due to Somdej Phra Wannarat, the Head Monk who dared to suggest to the King that he undertake the journey to liberation and spare the lives of his soldiers.

In commemoration of this victory over Burma and in honor of his generosity, the Great Pagoda of Wat Yai Chaimongkol was promptly built. The Great Pagoda therefore displays religious faith as well as possesses the vision of the humanity of King Naresuan as indicated in its name (In Thai, Yai means great; Chaiya means victory; Mongkol means sacred).

King Naresuan The Great reigned for 15 years with dignity and the royal prerogative in domestic and foreign affairs. He displayed an all-embracing openness to the modern world. In October 1592, King Naresuan sent a mission to China, offering to send the Siamese navy to help in Korea, then a vessel of China, and repel the Japanese.

  Nowa predominant power, Siam began to change due to, on one hand, being a great military power with successful and strong  fleets and armies, on the other hand, applying the far-sighted foreign policy with the exchange of ambassadors and the development of the total well-being of the Siamese people.

King Naresuan The Great died of illness at the age of fifty in 1605, while leading an army to attack Pegu. He had skin pustules, a toxic disease and a deadly killer of the sixteenth century. At the moment of loss and sorrow, the whole Kingdom mourned.


King Naresuan The Great’s Statue: Declaring the Independence of Siam

In the front of the Great Pagoda of Wat Yai Chaimongkol is a beautiful place with fragrant flowers and green grass where the Statue, a symbolic figure, of King Naresuan The Great stands. The  12 feet high structure in a declaring independence posture is a commemoration of his fame and great contribution to the country. Visitors continue to visit his statue to pay homage to the revered King with feelings of devoted affection. They also commemorate the anniversary of his death on January 18 which is also observed as Royal Thai Armed Forces Day. A visit to King Naresuan The Great’s statue is truly a great experience and should be a part of the greater historical experience of the Ayutthaya Kingdom. With a sense of the courage and dedication of King Naresuan The Great in the unique atmosphere of Wat Yai Chaimongkol, you will sooner or later be inspired. 
Note:

[1]  Queen Suriyothai was the legendary queen of the 16th century. Normally women were not allowed to take part in battle, Queen Suriyothai went in disguise as a man, then rode into battle on her own elephant. She sacrificed her own life in the greatest war of 1548 with Burma to protect her King Chakrapat and the Ayutthaya Kingdom.
[2]  This also reflected another aspect of King Naresuan The Great’s intense loyalty and the depth of his gratitude to King Bayinnuang for he brought him up and gave him the grounding and the meaning of Warrior King.

References


Bhumiprabhas, S., 2006. Warrior King Remains A Very Modern Mystery. The Nation, 30 April 2006.
http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2006/04/30/headlines/headlines_30002880.php

Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. King Naresuan The Great. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naresuan

Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. King Naresuan (Film). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Naresuan_(film)

 
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