Wat Mahathat

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Wat Mahathat, or known otherwise as the “Temple of the Great Relic” was one of the most significant temples in the Ayutthaya Kingdom. Set on the historical island, it houses Buddha relics and was once the residence of the Supreme Patriarch of Buddhism. Thus, it was the center of Buddhism during the glory days of the former Ayutthaya Kingdom. Wat Mahathat was also a Royal monastery located close to the palace where past Ayutthaya kings performed important royal ceremonies here. 

Wat Mahathat was constructed in 1374 by King Boromma Rachathirat I. A large Khmer-style pagoda was built to enshrine Buddha relics. When the Burmese invaded and largely destroyed Ayutthaya in 1767, Wat Mahathat was unfortunately sacked and set on fire. Thankfully, a large number of assembly halls and pagodas have been added during the reign of later Kings. The central pagoda collapsed again in the early 20th century and has not yet been restored.

The highlight of Wat Mahathat is the giant Khmer-style pagoda housing the Lord Buddha’s relic. The said structure which collapsed after the Thai-Burmese war was also believed to contain the former Ayutthaya kingdom’s treasures such as gold, precious stones, and other valuables. Some believe they were taken by the Burmese. Others think the looting occurred after the Burmese had left. A crypt holding Buddha’s relics and mural paintings were also found inside the stupa.

Wat Mahathat is also often known around the world for the head of a sandstone Buddha image that is entangled in the roots of a holy Bodhi tree. There are several stories behind this Buddha image’s head and how it came to be. 

One story was that it was left by thieves who simply had too much to carry, so they placed the Buddha head at the base of the Bodhi tree with the intention of retrieving it. In time, the head was completely covered over by the roots, encasing the head of the Buddha image in the process. 

TakeMeTour's Review

While Wat Mahathat is one of Ayutthaya’s most popular sites, a number of tourists flock to the head of the Buddha and the surrounding pagodas. However, the temple complex is quite large, so you can usually wander around in peace. One of the landmarks that make Ayutthaya a world-class destination, a visit to Wat Mahathat should be on your next travel list! 

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