A giant in size and importance

A giant in size and importance

Get to know Prasat Nakhon Luang, with its historical architecture unlike any other in Ayutthaya, and you might find it interesting enough to be the first place to visit once inter-provincial travel restrictions are lifted


Built in 1631, not long after King Prasat Thong took to the throne and established a new dynasty, Prasat Nakhon Luang is located near the Pa Sak River, which was the main travel route between Ayutthaya and the highly revered Buddha’s Footprint in Saraburi. It was meant to be a stopover for the king during his visits to the sacred site. According to historical records, King Prasat Thong had Prasat Nakhon Luang built using the grand monuments in the capital of the Khmer kingdom, which at that time was under Ayutthaya’s control, as models. From the plan and remains of the main elements, the general design seemed like a mix of Angkor Wat and Baphuon Temple, which is located in Angkor Thom. Perhaps, or perhaps not, that could have been where the resemblance ended. With much of the original structures on the upper levels crumbled and therefore can no longer be seen, not to mention the decorative details, let’s leave the issue to academics. However, one obvious difference is the main building materials. While those Khmer monuments were constructed with laterite and sandstone, Prasat Nakhon Luang was made with bricks. Many believe that the structure was never completed. Its current version is the result of renovations made during the Rattanakosin Period, in the reigns of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) and King Bhumibol (Rama IX).

Prasat Nakhon Luang is one of the largest examples of historical architecture in Ayutthaya. Its role in the politics of the old Siamese kingdom that the province was named after was as immense as its size.

Some of you might ask, Prasat what? Don’t worry. A lot of people who have been to Ayutthaya many times have never heard of it, either. This period of unofficial lockdown is a good time to learn about this little-known giant monument.

Built in the early years of King Prasat Thong who ruled Ayutthaya from 1629 to 1656. He was the kingdom’s 24th monarch and the first of the Prasat Thong Dynasty.

Of course, toppling the previous dynasty and establishing a new one was no easy task, nor was it humane. But keeping the obtained power was even more difficult and killing adversaries is not always the best solution. King Prasat Thong also needed other measures to convince people that he deserved to be a royal ruler.

With no accepted link to the royal family, the new monarch associated himself with a future Buddha and ancient Khmer kings. This is reflected through the artistic styles of architecture and religious images created during his reign. Prasat Nakhon Luang, with strong Khmer influence, was a grand announcement of his special status and rightfulness.

Such claims are definitely hard to buy by today’s standards. But back then it worked. King Prasat Thong was in power until he died of illness after 27 years on the throne. The dynasty he established saw three more monarchs. The reign of Somdet Chaofa Chai, his son, lasted nine months, and that of Somdet Phra Si Suthammaracha, his brother and Chaofa Chai’s uncle, two months and 20 days. King Narai, another of his sons, won in the fight for power and ruled Ayutthaya for 32 years before the Prasat Thong Dynasty was replaced after his death by Ban Phlu Luang Dynasty.

The more you know about a historical site and the people related to it, the better experience you will enjoy when you visit it. There are several interesting things that you might learn if you do more research on King Prasat Thong such as the legend about the relationship between him, his mother and King Ekathotsarot of the Sukhothai Dynasty; the construction of Wat Chumphon Nikayaram in Bang Pa-in; his co-operation and rivalry with Yamada Nagamasa and the Japanese mercenaries and so forth. The more you learn, the more you may want to find out.

Well, for now, stay safe and prep yourself for your next trip to Ayutthaya once travel restrictions are eased.

TRAVEL INFO

The most convenient way to get to Prasat Nakhon Luang is by private vehicle. From Bangkok, take Highway 32 northwards until you reach Pa Sak River in Nakhon Luang district. Do not drive up the bridge but go beneath it instead to make a U-turn, then shift eastward onto Road 3063. About 6.5km up the road, you’ll find an intersection, turn left. Not far from that point, there is another bridge that also crosses the Pa Sak River. Again, do not take the bridge but turn right underneath it. The parking lot for Wat Nakhon Luang is a few minutes’ drive down the road. Prasat Nakhon Luang, which is part of the temple, is just a short walk on the other side of the road.