PRASAT NAKHON LUANG
Prasat Nakhon Luang is situated on the east bank of the Pa Sak River in Nakhon Luang District of Ayutthaya province. The former royal residence is
situated near the confluence of the Pa Sak River (locally called Khlong Sakae) and Khlong Bang Phra Khru. The latter joins the
Lopburi River in Maha Rat
and is as thus a connection canal between the two main rivers. Prasat Nakhon Luang is one of the five royal residences or palaces outside the city of
Ayutthaya cited in the old documents.

The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya mention that
King Prasat Thong (r. 1629-1656) sent a Siamese delegation to Angkor in Cambodia in 1631 AD with
the task to bring back plans of the City of Angkor and its palaces. He then ordered a royal palace built, based on these plans, as a resting place north of
Wat Theppha Jan (1), more or less half way between Ayutthaya and Tha Ruea (2). Tha Ruea was the final debarkation point for the royal barges, as from
here travel continued on land towards the
Buddha’s Footprint in Saraburi.

[BCE: In] [DF: Having reached] 993 of the era, a year of the goat, [DF: third] of the decade, the King in His holy compassion sent artisans
[CDEF: forth] to copy and bring back plans of the Holy Imperial Metropolis and of the palaces of the Capital of the [BCD: Kamphucha] [EF:
Kamphut] Country, and had the artisans create a holy royal palace, as a place to rest from the heat in the vicinity beside the
Monastery of the
Divine Moon
, to be used when His Majesty [BCE: would ascend] [DF: ascended] to venerate the Holy Buddha’s Footprint. Then, using the name
of the original which had been copied, it was named the
Holy Imperial Metropolis. [1] (3)

Prince Damrong Rajanubhab presumed that the area near Wat Theppha Jan was already in use in the reign of
King Songtham (Intharacha) (r. 1610/1611-
1628) as a resting area on the way to Saraburi after the discovery of the Buddha’s Footprint.

The old documents mention that Prasat Nakhon Luang had a single prang (a cob corn styled stupa), and several spired mondop (mandapa; a square
structure with a spired or pyramidal roof) in rows in the palace grounds. [2]

In the same year a reduced scale copy of the sanctuary was constructed as a residence for King Prasat Thong next to Prasat Nakhon Luang. It was called
Tamnak Phra Nakhon Luang. Only faint traces of this residence are found today, while the Khmer-styled sanctuary itself is today maintained by the
monks of Wat Nakhon Luang.

The royal residence and the sanctuary must have been plundered by the Burmese during the Burma – Siamese War of 1766-7. The central prang
presumably collapsed during the plunder or in later years. In the reign of King Chulalongkorn (r. 1873 - 1910) a new construction was established on top of
the foundations of the old sanctuary. The western-styled building contains four footprints of the Buddha carved in stone, each about two and half meters wide
and five and half meters long. Prasat Nakhon Luang was registered as a national monument in 1935, in which year the restoration of the sanctuary began.
The restoration works were finished in 1994 [3].
W.A.R. Wood wrote that Prasat Nakhon Luang was erected by King Prasat Thong, being a design copied from the royal Khmer palace at Angkor Thom,
to celebrate the event of the renewal of Cambodia's allegiance to Siam. The relations with the vassal-state of Cambodia were troubled after the death of
King Srisuphanma of Cambodia in 1618. Although no record can be found in the royal chronicles of an invasion of Cambodia in the reign of King Prasat
Thong, it is assumed that a show of force was sufficient to renew Cambodia’s allegiance. [4]

In the United East India Company's Daily Register of Batavia (VOC) we find written in the year 1630 that the King of Siam dispatched a big fleet under the
command of the King of Ligor to Cambodia to curb reports on intended attack on Siam. [5]

In 1631, we find a new King on the throne of Cambodia, when Chau-phnhéa-nu, aged 23 years, was crowned as Prea-bat-sombach-prea-ang-tong-
réachéa-thiréach-réaméa-Thupphdey-barommopit. This might be an indication that Cambodia returned into its position of vassal-state of Siam at that time.
(4) [6]

Prasat Nakhon Luang was used by the Siamese kings for day and overnight stays along the river. Theodorus Jacobus van den Heuvel, Chief of the Dutch
VOC settlement from 1735 till 1740 wrote in the Daily Register on Thursday 7 March 1737 during his journey to the Phra Phuttha Bat, the following:

In the afternoon having proceeded to a village named Banarrejek [Ban Aranyik] we stayed there and the King, who that afternoon had rested and
eaten in the pagoda Prana Coenlouang [Phra Nakhon Luang], passed us even more closely than in the morning, but the order of the vessels
which rowed ahead and followed was now quite irregular and confused.
[7]

The old documents give next to the royal journeys to the Buddha’s Footprint, other occasions for visits to Nakhon Luang such as the gun-firing rite in the dry
season or the mixing rice ceremony later in the year. The
Phithi Ying Puen (ceremony of firing the gun) was part of a rite of chanting the Atthanathiyasut
on festival days to drive away spirits. In the tenth month the king traveled here to offer
Khao Yakhu, a drink made by boiling rice and sugar, to the chapter of
monks and abbot of the monastery. He also conducted the royal ceremony of
Pathrabot, mixing celestial rice in the Nakhon Luang Palace. Young rice was
prepared and presented to the Brahmans, probably as part of the annual cycle of fertility rites. [8]

Prasat Nakhon Luang is with
Wat Chai Watthanaram and the two chedi of Wat Chumphon Nikayaram, one of the most important monuments of the
Third architectural sub-period (1629-1732 AD), which saw the revival of the Khmer style, with the prang as the principal monument of the monastery. [9]

On the site, north of Prasat Nakhon Luang stands a pavilion on a mound, containing an unfinished Dharma Chakra or “Wheel of the Law”, an early
representation of the Buddha’s teaching. Wheels of the Law or Doctrine were carved long before the first representation of the image of the Buddha. This
unfinished wheel, resembling the moon, is said to have floated to this area along the Pa Sak River, hence called
Pra Jan Loi or Floating Moon. The stone
was initially kept at Wat Theppa Jan and moved in 1899 AD to be enshrined on the premises of Prasat Nakhon Luang. It was first installed at Wat Theppa
Jan and moved in 1899 AD to the Nakhon Luang site, where it was enshrined in a special hall. [10]

Prasat Nakhon Luang is located in Geo Coord: 14° 27' 55.40" N, 100° 36' 41.23" E.

Footnotes:

(1) Wat Theppha Jan is the monastery called today Wat Theppha Jan Loi along Rd #329 from Bang Pahan to Nang Khae. Cushman translated it as the
"
Monastery of the Devine Moon".
(2) Tha Ruea: Literally boat landing, a village along the Pa Sak River in Ayutthaya province. King Song Tham constructed here a residence called
Tha Chao
Sanuk
, of which some remnants still can be seen on the premises of today’s Wat Tamnak Phra Kaeo Songtham. The accommodation was used by the
king on his journeys to the Buddha’s Footprint.
(3) 993 Chula Sakarat = 2174 Buddhist Era = 1631 AD.
(4)
To celebrate his suzerainty over Cambodia, King Prasat Thong built, Wat Nakhon Luang, a large-scale architectural model of Angkor Thom in
sandstone and laterite, on the Pa-Sak River between Ayuthya and Tha-Rua
. [11]

References:

[1] The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman (2006) - page 216 / Source: Phan Canthanumat, British Museum, Reverend Phonnarat, Phra
Cakkraphatdiphong & Royal Autograph.
[2] Phanna phumisathan phranakhon si ayutthaya: ekkasan jak ho luang [Geographical description of Ayutthaya: Documents from the palace]. Edited by
Winai Pongsripian. Bangkok: Usakane, n. d. (2007) - page 61.
[3] Text from the Fine Arts Department in situ.
[4] W.A.R. Wood - A History of Siam - Chalermnit Press, 1924.
[5] Dutch Papers Extracts from the "Dagh Register" 1624-1642. Printed by order of the Vajiranana National Library. Bangkok, 1915. Extracts from the
daily journal kept in Batavia Castle, containing an account of events occurring over the Netherlands-Indias and more especially concerning Siam.
[6] Le Royaume du Cambodge, Tome Deuxième - Jean Moura - Ernest Leroux, Paris (1883).
[7] In the King's Trail. An 18th Century Dutch Journey to the Buddha’s Footprint. Edited by Remco Raben and Dhiravat na Pombejra – 1997, The Royal
Netherlands Embassy – page 13.
[8] Chris Baker - Final Part of the Description of Ayutthaya - Journal of the Siam Society, Vol 102 (2014) - page 204.
[9] Piriya Krairiksh - Revised Dating Of Ayudhya Architecture - Journal of the Siam Society, Vol 80 (1991).
[10] Text from the Fine Arts Department in situ.
[11] Luang Boribal Buribhand and A.B. Griswold - Sculpture of peninsular Siam in the Ayuthya period - Journal of the Siam Society, Vol 38.2 (1951) -
page 8.
The Bayon at Angkor Thom. Source: Les monuments du groupe
d'Angkor. Maurice Glaize. 5th Ed. 2001 Paris
(Sketch of present Prasat Nakhon Luang)
Photographs by Tricky Vandenberg & Sean Alcock
Text & photograph by Tricky Vandenberg - July 2014