Wat Mahathat, Sukhothai Historical Park

 

See Video of Wat Mahathat at bottom of page.

Sitting Buddha Image in Ordination Hall, Wat Mahathat, Sukhothai.

Sitting Buddha Image in Ordination Hall, Wat Mahathat, Sukhothai.

 

Wat Mahathat is the most important and impressive temple compound in Sukhothai Historical Park. 'Wat Mahathat' translates as 'temple of the great relic' and many Thai cities have a Wat Mahathat, where relics of the Buddha were kept.

When evaluating the Sukhothai Inscriptions (on stone) Wat Mahathat was built somewhere in between 1292 and 1347.

Wat Mahathat is the first temple complex you see when entering the historical park from the east. There are many temple structures, a lot of them have been restored during the 20th century. So some of the decorations may not exactly be as old as you might have imagined. You would need a thorough guidebook or someone with archaeologic knowledge to figure out exactly what is as it used to be, and what has been restored.

Main structures at Wat Mahathat include : the central group with a lotus-bud shaped chedi, four corner smaller stupas and four Khmer-style prangs in the cardinal positions ; assembly hall (to the east) with seated Buddha Image ; two mandapas (square buildings) located north and south of the central group, each with a tall standing Buddha Image ; ordination hall to the north, with seated Buddha Image.

Standing Buddha Image (Phra Attarot) in one of the two Mandapas.

Standing Buddha Image (Phra Attarot) in one of the two Mandapas.

 

It is easy to limit your observations to these obvious buildings, and therefore to miss some parts of the large temple compound.

Some basic explanation for the main stupa. As in other temple complexes, it represents the mythical Mount Meru, center of the universe, which is the heavenly abode build by the God Indra to enshrine relics of the Buddha. The surrounding stupas represent mountain ranges around Mount Meru, and the moat symbolizes the cosmic ocean of infinity.

Note the figures in relief around the base of the main stupa complex. There are 168 in total, and depict disciples walking in a clockwise direction. All have been restored by the Fine Arts Department.

Overview of Wat Mahathat, with the central group in the middle. Sukhothai.

Overview of Wat Mahathat, with the central group in the middle.

Have also a closer look at the four Khmer-style prangs, where there are some interesting pediments and other decorations.

Two large mandapas with standing Buddha Images flank the central stupa group to the north and south. The Buddha Images inside are known as Phra Attarot, referring to the height of the Images.

Both the Assembly Hall to the East (close to the entrance) and the Ordination Hall in the northeast feature a seated Buddha Image with the posture of Subduing Mara.

It is worthwhile to wander also both west and south of the central temple group. There is a very nice lotus-bud stupa west of main stupa. In the south are the remains of a so-called five-spired stupa, with some attractive remaining decorations around the base.

We advise any visitor to come in the early morning, if you want to take some good pictures.

Lintel on a prang of the central stupa group, Wat Mahathat, Sukhothai

Lintel on a prang of the central stupa group, Wat Mahathat, Sukhothai.