Visiting Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya – Thailand

Wat Mahathat (pronounced Wat Ma-har-rarrt), also known as the Monastery of the Great Relic, is a temple ruin located in central Ayutthaya, Thailand.

The temple is believed to have been built around the 14th century and was once residence to the Supreme Patriarch leader of the Thai Buddhist monks. Today it sits in the Ayutthaya Historical Park along with several of temples, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991.

Wat Mahathat, within the Ayutthaya Historical Park; the park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991
Wat Mahathat, within the Ayutthaya Historical Park; the park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991

History of Wat Mahathat

Wat Mahathat first fell into ruin in the early 16th century when the main prang was said to have collapsed.

Restoration took place a few years after by the then King Prasatthong ordered workers to restore the temple. In 1767, it was believed the Burmese army stormed Ayutthaya and destroyed and set fire to the temple, leaving it a ruin once more. Many Buddha statues were destroyed and the temple was left alone until the late 1950s when modern restoration began on the site.

Wat Mahathat is one of several key monuments and monastery complexes named in the official UNESCO Ayutthaya listing: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/576
Wat Mahathat is one of several key monuments and monastery complexes named in the official UNESCO Ayutthaya listing: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/576

The most popular tourist attraction of Wat Mahathat is a tree whose roots have grown around the head of the Buddha statue. No one knows exactly how it got there, but one theory suggests that during the period of ruin, the tree just happened to grow around the head of the Buddha. Another theory claims that during its final collapse in 1911, the site was plagued with looters, and one thief hid the head of the Buddha in the tree, only to never return.

The head of Buddha in Wat Mahathat” by Horiuchi – Photo taken by Horiuchi. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

In the early 16th century, Wat Mahathat was a place where royal ceremonies and events were held. It was said that during that time, the Ayutthayan Kings would give offerings to the good and pray for the whole country.

How to get there

From Bangkok, the best way to reach Ayutthaya is via taxi, boat, or rail. Once inside the city, there will be many tuk-tuks, taxis, and tour operators who will be happy to take you there.

The temple is open daily from 8am until 5pm with an entrance fee of 50 baht. Please remember to dress appropriately, no shorts, vests, or anything showing too much skin.

When is the best time to go?

Wat Mahathat is open every day and apart of a larger temple tourist site. No festivals or special events are held their any more, so any time is ideal to visit.

We suggest Monday -Thursday mornings if you want to take some amazing photos without the tourists crowds.

Many Buddha statues at Ayutthaya, even when damaged, are venerated by dressing in golden robes.
Many Buddha statues at Ayutthaya, even when damaged, are venerated by dressing in golden robes.

Article text by: Harvie

Many thanks to photographer: Jason Gong
https://www.facebook.com/Gong.Jason

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