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Explore Wat Mahathat

Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Thailand


Added by John Maurizi

Wat Mahathat is a great place to explore the past. The complex was lasted 500 years before being destroyed by an invading force. Many of the Buddha statues have their heads removed from the invading force and by looters. A large area to explore and one of my favorites. 

Wat Mahathat means "Monastery of the Great Relic." This is because a relic of The Buddha was housed in the Chedi here. This temple was the largest and center of the religion in Ayutthaya being built around the mid to late 1300's. In 1767, the Burmese invaded Ayutthaya and burned Mahathat. They also decapitated all the Buddha statues you see at this location. The grounds here are beautiful. Chedi are dotted around and you can see how age is wearing on the brick structures as some are learning one way or another.

An iconic place associated with the Ayutthaya is the Buddha Head that is entwined in the trunk/roots of a Banyan tree at Wat Mahathat. I have seen pictures of this many times over the years. When I first saw this in person it was a surreal feeling. I was fortunate no one else was visiting the day I was here.

Much speculation exists on how the Buddha Head came to be embedded in this tree. Some believe the head simply fell off a Buddha statue and landed at the base of this tree. Others believe that it was among the number of items being stolen by thieves that did not have space to take it with them or were hiding it for a return visit.

What ever the cause, it is a very impressive sight. The tree provides plenty of shade and protection against the elements. The head is near the entrance of Wat Mahathat. Simply turn right and walk toward the shaded area near the wall along the road you enter the park from.

Note, much of this site is exposed completely to the sun. Bring a hat, water and sun block. Rest when you find some shade, most of which is at the location of the Buddha head in the roots of the tree.

There is a 50 Baht entrance fee for foreigners! 

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