This post is mostly a photographic presentation of monuments from Ayutthaya, Thailand.
The Ayutthaya Kingdom was a Siamese kingdom that existed from 1350 to 1767. In the 16th century, it was described by foreign traders as one of the biggest and wealthiest cities in the East. By 1550, the kingdom’s vassals included some city-states in the Malay Peninsula, Sukhothai, Lan Na and parts of Burma and Cambodia. This part of the kingdom’s history is sometimes referred to as the “Ayutthayan Empire”. In foreign accounts, Ayutthaya was called “Siam”, but many sources say the people of Ayutthaya called themselves Tai, and their kingdom Krung Tai meaning ‘Tai country’.
According to the most widely accepted version of its origin, the Thai state based at Ayutthaya in the valley of the Chao Phraya River rose from the earlier, nearby Lavo Kingdom (at that time, still under the control of the Khmer Empire) and Suvarnabhumi. One source says that in the mid-14th century, due to the threat of an epidemic, King Uthong moved his court south to the rich floodplain of the Chao Phraya River onto an island surrounded by rivers. The name of the city indicates the influence of Hinduism in the region.
The Kingdom of Ayutthaya was not a unified state, but rather a patchwork of self-governing principalities and tributary provinces owing allegiance to the king of Ayutthaya under The Circle of Power. These principalities might be ruled by members of the royal family of Ayutthaya, or by local rulers who had their own independent armies, having a duty to assist the capital when war or invasion occurred.
Ayutthaya’s main religion was Theravada Buddhism. However, many of the elements of the political and social system were incorporated from Hindu scriptures and were conducted by Brahmin priests. Many areas of the kingdom also practiced Mahayana Buddhism, Islam and, influenced by French Missionaries who arrived through China in the 17th century, some small areas converted to Roman Catholicism. The influence of Mahayana and Tantric practices also entered Theravada Buddhism, producing a tradition called Tantric Theravada.
The natural world was also home to a number of spirits which are part of the Satsana Phi. Phi are spirits of buildings or territories, natural places, or phenomena; they are also ancestral spirits that protect people, or can also include malevolent spirits. The phi which are guardian deities of places, or towns are celebrated at festivals with communal gatherings and offerings of food. The spirits run throughout Thai folklore.
(Important Note: ALL photographs of this article added to the sourced texts by NovoScriptorium after kind courtesy of our friend Ben Lee – ALL photographs originally taken by Ben Lee)