Craft, Beauty and Joy ~ the Northern Temples of Sukhothai (Part III)

Large white Sukhothai Buddha head.

The Phra Achana Buddha of Wat Si Chum

Sukhothai, the UNESCO listed collection of Thai ruins that was, in the 13th and 14th centuries, the capital of the Sukhothai kingdom, is a remarkable place. Inside the ancient walls are the remains of the old royal palace and twenty-six temples. What is even more remarkable, however, is the beauty to be found outside the walls.

Beyond the northern walls of the ancient city of Sukhothai, but still part of the official “Historic Town of Sukhothai and Associated Historic Towns”, are further treasures. When we saw the beautifully crafted marionettes and other carved products at the shops lining the quiet packed-dirt car-park outside Wat Si Chum, we knew we were in for a treat.

White-faced, delicately painted Thai marionette in sequinned costume

Delicate and elaborate marionettes welcome us to the parking lot of the Sukhothai North temples.

Fish woven from colourful bamboo

Lucky fish mobiles, woven from colourful bamboo, are also for sale.

Square pavilion housing a Buddha image at the end of grass-lined path.

The Mondop (small square temple building) of 13th Century Wat Si Chum lies at the end of a path across and expanse of grass.

Head of a large white Buddha statue visible through an entrance into a brick structure

As you get closer, the magnificent “Phra Achana” Buddha statue of Wat Si Chum comes into view behind the three-meter thick walls.

Looking up at a large white seated Buddha image against a brick enclosure.

Phra Achana, the 15 meter Buddha seated in the Subduing Mara (Maravijayan: Calling the Earth to Witness) pose, is possibly one of the most beautiful Buddhas I’ve seen.

Side view of giant white Buddha statue, hand in Calling the Earth to Witness covered in gold leaf.

The lap of the Phra Achana Buddha is 11.5 meters wide. The fingers of the right hand are covered with gold leaf, applied by visitors paying their respects.

Looking up past a large white Buddha head at the sky.

The roof of the mondop (mandapa: pavilion for religious ritual) has long-since fallen in, allowing a wonderful view of the sky above.

Seated Buddha statue in a laterite brick enclosure.

Close to the Phra Achana mondop is a smaller one built of laterite bricks, housing a smaller seated Buddha.

Close-up of an upturned Bhuddha statue hand; bits of gold-leaf in the fingers.

Bits of gold leaf are pressed to the Buddha’s upturned fingers.

Ruins of an assembly laterite hall

Also north of the ancient city walls is the Khmer style Wat Phra Phai Luang, which pre-dates Sukhothai and was probably built during the reign of the Khmer king, Jayavarman VII (between 1181 and 1219).

Worn statue Buddha head agains a blue sky.

Worn and weathered: Buddha head at Wat Phra Phai Luang.

Plastic Thai figurines at an ancient laterite temple.

The building was originally a Khmer Mahayana Buddhist temple, built on a site with evidence of earlier Hindu worship. It was later converted to a Theravada Buddhist temple, and today shows the signs of modern Thai worship.

Laterite ruins with the remains of a giant standing Buddha built in.

The remains of a giant standing Buddha at Wat Phra Phai Luang.

Headless ruins of a seated Buddha.

Even the ruins of these ancient Buddhas have a timeless elegance.

White temple building

Near the old Wat Phra Phai Luang is the modern Wat Phra Phai Luang, where a new hall is being build.

Thai woman seated on the floor sanding a wooden baseboard.

Inside the unfinished building, a Thai woman lovingly sands the new wooden baseboards. It reminded me of “The Karate Kid”: “Wax on, wax off.” The building of temples is a timeless way of creating calm and making merit.

Young boy in an orange shirt running towards white cows in a field.

Meanwhile, in the field outside, a young lad was determined so show me how he could chase the cattle.

Although the cattle are unmoved, I found his joy infectious as he ran around with his slingshot.

Text: Happy TravelsAnd so, life in all its aspects continues around these ancient temples built by long-dead kings – and we can continue to find joy and beauty in them.


Pictures: 22May2012

  • guava - July 26, 2012 - 4:34 pm

    Another great series Ursula.ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - July 26, 2012 - 11:13 pm

      Thanks, Guava! I’m always pleased when you drop by. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Signe Westerberg - July 27, 2012 - 7:00 am

    So many Buddah’s, you take wonderful pictures and such beautiful descriptions. Makes you wish you were there.ReplyCancel

  • Kevin Dowie - July 27, 2012 - 7:40 am

    Another nice photo series Ursula. I’ve been trying to think of a good excuse to return to Thailand (as if excuses are necessary) Sukhothai might be just the ticket! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Anna :o] - July 27, 2012 - 11:24 am

    Thank you for taking me on your wonderful wander – beautiful images take me there.


    Anna :o]ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - July 27, 2012 - 6:00 pm

      Thanks for the visits, Anna, Signe and Kevin!
      Thailand needs no excuse – it is always a delight.
      It seems a world away, now, as I sit in the Canadian Northwest, where summer is struggling to happen! 😉ReplyCancel

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