Text by Tricky Vandenberg - April 2010
Photographs from consulted works
Chao Sam Phraya Museum is located on Ayutthaya's city island at Rojana Road King  
Intharacha (r.1409-1424), who once on the throne as King Borommaracha II (r.
1424-1448) ordered the construction of Wat Racha Bun or the Monastery of Royal
Merit (presently called
Wat Racha Burana) on the cremation site of his two elder
brothers. In ancient times Khlong Chakrai Noi ran west of its premises. Three monastic
structures were formerly located on this site being
Wat Pa Nai, Wat Jingjok and San
Chao Thong. The museum was specially built to display the objects excavated at Wat
Racha Burana and
Wat Maha That in 1957 and 1958.

The national museum was inaugurated on 26 Dec 1961 by HM King Rama IX. The
construction of the Chao Sam Phraya museum was funded by the proceeds from the
auction of votive tablets discovered in the crypt of Wat Racha Burana to the public. A
sum of 3.416.928 Baht was raised. [1] The museum was the first to present a modern
form of exhibition and is the most important of the Phra Nakhon Sri Ayutthaya province.
The museum features three exhibition buildings.

The main building exhibits archaeological excavated artefacts unearthed during the
1957 - 1958 period, including Buddha images of the Dvaravati, Lop Buri and Ayutthaya

On the
ground floor we find one of the important pieces - a large stone seated Buddha
of the Dvaravati period (6-11th century) once enshrined at Wat Phra Men in Nakhon
Pathom province. The Fine Arts Department was able to reconstruct the image, which
broken pieces had to be gathered in different locations. There are only six statues of this
kind in the world of which five are residing in Thailand.
Wat Na Phra Men in Ayutthaya
houses one of these other five and is worthwhile a visit.

A bronze head from a Buddha image of the U-Thong period excavated at
Thammikarat in Ayutthaya shows the fine ancient craftsmanship in casting religious
objects. Examples of wood carvings of the Ayutthaya school can be seen, such as door
panels of
Wat Phra Sri Sanphet and Wat Hantra, and a carved gable of Wat Mae Nang
Plum. This section displays also a number of Buddha images, including some of those
found inside the Buddha image
Phra Mongkhon Bophit (other images can be found in the
Chan Kasem Museum and the Bangkok National Museum).

On the
second floor there is an exhibition of a variety of artefacts such as ceramics,
painted cloths, cabinets and Buddha images. Most important are the  two rooms
allocated for golden objects.

One room exhibits the objects recovered from looters who dug into the crypt under the
principal prang of Wat Racha Burana in 1957 and from the Fine Arts Department
excavations in situ in 1958. Wat Racha Burana was hurriedly excavated in 1958, when it
became clear that looters had entered the crypt and took away an unknown number of
valuable objects. The findings in the crypt under the principal prang of the temple were of
an enormous archaeological importance. A great number of royal objects made of gold
were found in both chambers.

The objects found, gave hard evidence of the existence of ancient ceremonial use of for
example the royal regalia of a Tai monarch. The royal regalia were only mentioned in a
stone inscription describing the coronation of King Loethai of Sukhothai in the year 1347
and were also carved in a panel of the Sukhothai era now kept in the National Museum
of Sukhothai.

Since ancient times, it was a royal tradition linked to Brahman religious rites that the King
received five principal royal regalia as symbols of kingship during his coronation
ceremony. The crown was called the Phra Maha Phichai Mongkut or the Great Crown
of Victory, while the five principal regalia or Bencha Racha Ka Kuthaphan were: the
Sword of Victory (Phra Saeng Khan Chai Sri); the Royal Staff or Scepter (Tharn Phra
Korn);  a pair of Royal Fan (Walawichani) and Fly Whisk (Phra Saw Chammari); and a
pair of Royal Slippers (Chalong Phra Baat Cherng Ngorn). The principal royal regalia
symbolized the king as a warrior, protecting his people (the sword); providing justice and
equity (the staff); the acceptance of the people (slippers) and the king's obligation to
ward off any evil threatening his people (fan and whisk).

Wat Racha Burana was the cremation site of Chao Sam Phraya's closest family; his
father King Intharacha (r. 1409-1424) and his two elder brothers. The findings could
conclude that the cremated remains of the King were buried with his most important
belongings: the crown, the five principal regalia, the royal utensils, a large number of other
properties, religious items and offerings.

The royal crown and the scepter are said to be one of the looted items, never to be
recovered. Some of the principal royal regalia could fortunately be retrieved.

The highlight is a golden sword known as "Phra Saeng Khan Chai Sri". The Royal
Victory Sword could have belonged to King Intharacha (r. 1409-1424). The sword is
115 cm long and contained in a golden scabbard decorated with floral and flame-like
vegetal motifs studded with a variety of gems. The handle is made of quartz crystal,
gilded and laid in with gems. The blade was made of iron and double-edged. The knob
of the handle is beautiful decorated with precious stones. With exception of the sword,
the other found royal regalia were miniature imitations likely especially made for the

A number of Royal Utensils for the personal use of the monarch were also found,
comprising water pots, betel-nut sets, trays and boxes. Various ornaments such as
necklaces, bracelets, bangles and rings were also found in the crypt. Royal clothing
unfortunately, with exception of the ones weaved in gold thread, disintegrated when they
came in contact with the air, when the "archeologists" tried to remove them.

A second room houses an exhibition of golden offerings discovered in situ in the crypt of
the principal Prang tower of Wat Maha That where a golden reliquary containing the
Lord Buddha's relic was enshrined. Wat Maha That was the first temple to be excavated
by the FAD in 1957, thanks to the funding by the Phibun Songkram Government and the
set up of a "Committee of Restoration of Ayutthaya" in 1956. In August 1957,
archaeologists discovered a number of golden objects on the site. Workers, found in the
main chamber of the principal prang, half buried in the sand under the pedestal of the
pagoda, a solid gold lion, sitting in a fish-shaped container decorated with a gilded motif
and filled with other gold accessories.

Later on a shaft was found in which a hollow stone pillar 3.20 m high with a lid buried in
a cemented-brick pedestal. The container was filled with a small stupa wrapped in a lead
sheet containing relics, gold ornaments, a large quantity of bronze images, pewter votive
tablets and other valuables. See: "
The Buddha Relics".

The balcony exhibits votive tablets and plaques made of terracotta and pewter of the
Sukhothai, Lopburi and Ayutthaya periods, discovered in the crypts of the Prang towers
of Wat Rachaburana, Wat Maha That and Wat Phra Ram.

The second building exhibits artefacts and objects of different periods from, the
6th-19th century covering the Dvaravati, Sri Vijaya, Lop Buri, Chiang Saen, Sukhothai,
U-Thong, Ayutthaya and Ratanakosin periods for comparative study purposes.
Important items include different Buddha images and images of the Bodhisatva
Avalokitesvara, Ganesha and other.

The third building is a traditional Thai house built in the middle of a pond and displaying
household equipment and utensils from the ancient daily life of the Siamese.


[1] Discovering Ayutthaya - Charnvit Kasetsiri & Michael Wright (2007) - page

Consulted works:

- Khruang Thong Samay Ayutthaya - Krom Silpakon (2005).
- Namchom Phiphithaphan Sathan Haeng Chat Jao Sam Phraya - Krom Silpakon
(Bronze Buddha head excavated at Wat Thammikarat)
(Seated Buddha Dvaravati statue)
(Sword of Victory - Wat Racha Burana)
(View from the upper floor)
(Gilded container - Wat Maha That)
(Royal Utensils - golden tray - Wat Racha Burana)
(Royal Regalia - Wat Racha Burana)