The Grand Palace in Bangkok
While Thailand’s present capital, with The Bangkok Grand Palace and the cities its high-rise buildings and technological advancements, may seem centuries away from Ayutthaya, echoes of the ancient city abound throughout.
And these are nowhere more apparent than in the ornate and beautiful Grand Palace, the site of Thailand’s most revered Buddha statue.
This exquisitely crafted rectangular complex of buildings was built by Rama the first upon his ascension to the throne after Siam was finally restored to order.
Marking the beginning of Bangkok as the capital, the palace was Intended to serve not just as a royal residence, but also as the political and spiritual heart of a newly restored Thailand.
Under the King’s directive, the Bangkok Grand Palace builders were tasked to dismantle bricks from the razed forts and walls of Ayutthaya. These were then transported upstream and incorporated into the building of The Grand Palace. It’s interesting to note that the dismantlers were instructed not to remove any bricks from the temples of Ayutthaya, as these were considered sacrosanct.
The eclectic architectural styles of the buildings making up the Grand Palace reflect the various organic expansions made by each successive reigning king. Whatever the period though, the extraordinary and seemingly innate creativity and craftsmanship of the Thai people is evident throughout.
On these hallowed premises, inside the gilded walls of the royal chapel, lies the Emerald Buddha. Carved from a flawless block of jade, this most sanctified of all of Thailand’s sculptures, is an object of national veneration. Crowds gather here annually, on specially allocated days, to pay homage to the teachings of the Buddha.
Yet another fascinating dimension of the Palace is a series of intricate murals that unfold along its walls. It is said that King Rama the first was so inspired by the just and valiant hero of the Hindu epic The Ramayan that he divinized himself as a savior and avatar of the Thai people by adopting the name Rama.
All Chakri monarchs since then bear the name of Rama, and are in fact regarded as the living embodiments of God here on earth. These stunning images were painted during the reign of his successor, King Rama III, and reference the legendary story of Prince Rama, his loving wife Sita, and their adventures following her abduction and rescue from a demon-king Ravana.
Bangkok Grand Palace
Much wall space has been dedicated to the noble monkey-general Hanuman who remains greatly admired for his bravery and loyalty.
Although the images are of the Ramayana, these have been adapted to a Thai context in terms of clothing, weaponry and the scenery. While the Bangkok Grand Palace no longer serves as the royal residence, it is the preferred location for ceremonial functions such as coronations, and it remains one of the city’s most treasured landmarks.