KING NARESUAN MONUMENT
Text & photographs by Ken May - January 2010
The King Naresuan Monument is located north of the city island, slightly east of Wat
Phukhao Thong (which serves as a backdrop). It can easily be seen from Highway 309,
which also connects to the monument's main entrance gate. The King Naresuan
Monument can also be accessed from two smaller roads in the vicinity.

King Naresuan is perhaps one of Ayutthaya’s most highly revered idols due to his
numerous military accomplishments and his role in asserting Siamese independence from
the Burmese. As a young child, Prince Naresuan was taken to Burma after the capital
city fell in defeat to Burmese King Bayin Naung in 1564 and 1569. Ayutthaya became a
vassal state as a consequence, and the Burmese installed Prince Naresuan’s father -
King Maha Thammaracha (1569-1590) - on the throne. Prince Naresuan was
subsequently raised in the land of his enemies as a type of collateral against future
uprisings. While still in Burma, Prince Naresuan proved himself as a skilled fighter with a
keen sense of military strategy. With his complicated rise in power, a string of events
provoked Prince Naresuan to shift allegiances and declare Ayutthaya independent once
again.

Royal Chronicles describe this story in great detail. While still technically allied with the
King Honsawadi of Burma, Prince Naresuan marched his troops to the city of Khraeng,
where they encamped near the monastery of the Great Holy Tera Khan Chong. King
Hongsawadi, in the meantime, set up a plan to betray Prince Narasuaen - sending out an
army of 10,000 to ambush and kill him. Phraya Kiat and Phraya Ram were told by the
Burmese King Hongsawadi to make a flanking attack from the rear. Their orders were
to attack Prince Naresuan, seize his troops, and execute him

However, the Great Holy Tera Khan Chong was informed of this treachery and took
pity on Prince Naresuan. He arranged a meeting between Phraya Kiat, Phraya Ram,
and Prince Naresuan in which all was revealed. As a result, Prince Naresuan declared
revenge and announced that the two kingdoms shall be totally divorced from each other
from that day and forever onward. He promised to escort the two Mon leaders, the
Holy reverent, and a multitude of Mon families back to the safety of Ayutthaya. On
route, Prince Naresuan successfully defeated the Burmese in battle, and Ayutthaya
became independent once again (Cushman 88-90). After obtaining the throne, King
Naresuan continued with national warfare and the expansion of Siamese territories.  

The glorification of King Naresuan and his great victories swelled over the following
centuries. This adoration took on an especially nationalistic flavor with the rise of Thai
militarism and the creation of a constitutional monarchy. Military leaders such as Phibun
Songtham, Sarit Thanarat, and Thanom Kittikachorn understood the power that public
monuments could have in promoting patriotic nationalism and a unified Thai identity. As
a result, militaristic kings such as King Naresuan and King Taksin became important
mythical icons, and memorials to them were constructed across the country (Wong 75-
99).

The construction of the King Naresuan Monument in Ayutthaya, however, did not get
completed until 1999. Chaun Leekpai reigned as prime minister, and the economy was
still greatly suffering from Asian stock market crash in 1997. The country was politically
divided, so the development of such a monument served as a reminder of kingly heroes,
national sacrifice, and a common Thai identity. The monument was intentionally placed
on the site where many battles actually took place against the Burmese - the Pukhao
Thong Plain. The memorial' s location near Chedi Phukhao Thong is also symbolic. This
chedi was originally built to commemorate the Burmese victory over Siam in 1569, and
the statue of Naresuan serves as a reminder of the value of independence and national
pride.

The King Naresuan Monument was created by Chin Prasang, a sculptor from Silpakorn
University, which evolved from the School of Fine Arts partially founded by Silpa
Bhirasri (who is often referred to as the father of modern Thai art). Silpa Bhirasri was
Italian sculptor born under the name of Corrado Feroci who traveled to Thailand in
1923. The following year he entered Into the Fine Arts Department due to his skills with
war memorials and statues of national heroes. After teaching these skills to a new
generation of Thai artists, Silpa was rewarded with Thai citizenship in the 1940s.
Sculptors such as Chin Prasang reflect continuity in Silpa's style for casting national
monuments.  

The larger than life monument showcases the many accomplishments of Naresuan. The
massive marble and metallic structure is crowned with an armed image of King
Naresuan on horseback. This is in reflection of a well-known battle in which Naresuan
killed a Burmese general with a strike from his lance. In each corner of the monument
are replicas that this leader used to defeat his foes (a spear, sword, gun, and helmet). A
large number of third-dimensional metallic friezes are displayed around the monument.
Each of these stories signifies a popular story relating to the life of King Naresuan. For
example, in on frieze he slays an alligator in a dream, which was seen as an auspicious
omen of a future victory. In another frieze, he pours water on the ground, which refers to
his announcement that he would seek independence from the Burmese. These friezes
give King Naresuan an almost super-hero appeal at times.

Visitors at this site might be perplexed by the multitudes of rooster statues in situ. Some
of these rooster statues are larger than the average human being. These roosters are
suggestive of a poplar legend in which a young Prince Naresuan wagered a bet with a
young Burmese prince that Ayutthaya would be freed if Naresuan's rooster emerged
victorious in the cock fight. Prince Naresuan's rooster naturally won the bet, and the
Burmese prince was humiliated in the process. After the release of a popular movie
about King Naresuan, these rooster statues began to appear mysterious at temples
across Ayutthaya. They are most highly concentrated at temples associated with this
royal warrior (
Wat Worachet, Wat Worachetharam, Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, etc.).
However, the rooster statues around this particular memorial can number in the
hundreds, and Thai citizens bring them from all over the country as offerings.