KHLONG MAHA PHRAM
Text, photographs & maps by Tricky Vandenberg - February 2012
Updated October 2019
Maha Phram River on a 17th Century map
Origin of the Maha Phram Canal north of Bang Ban at Hua Saphan
(Maha Phram River on a 17th Century map)
(Origin of the Maha Phram Canal north of Bang Ban
at Hua Saphan)
Water regulator near the Mouth of the Maha Phram Canal
The silted Maha Phram Canal
(Water regulator near the Mouth of the Maha Phram
Canal)
The last remaining stretches of the old Maha Phram Canal (1) are situated northwest of Ayutthaya in Bang Ban Sub-district. The waterway is at
present not much more than a moat, running north of Bang Ban's district office towards Ban Pom. The Maha Phram Canal runs in between
Wat
Khanon and Wat Lat Bua Khao and joins the Chao Phraya River there.

The canal was dug to give Ayutthaya access to the Chao Phraya River, which in the Ayutthaya Era ran through the present Bang Ban Canal, a few
kilometers west of the city. This western entry/exit of Ayutthaya was of very great importance as the waterway was used to travel to the northern
cities.

The Maha Phram Canal started north of Ban Kop Jao, ran through Ban Maha Phram and had its mouth near Wat Khanon in Ban Pom. The canal
joined here with a waterway coming down from Ban Mai (Makham Yong) and which ran into the
Lopburi River at Hua Laem (Cape Head),
northwest of Ayutthaya City in front of
Sat Kop Fortress.

The Catholic
Seminary of the Holy Angels established by the French in the 17th century was situated on the southern bank of the canal at Ban Maha
Phram. The location is locally called "Tuk Farang" or "Tuk Maha Phram" and situated east of Wat Khlang. It is obvious that this waterway -
important for the French as a connecting waterway with the
Saint Joseph enclave in the former Cochin Chinese Settlement, south of Ayutthaya - was
not missing on their maps.

We find the canal indicated as "Mapram R." on the map named "A Mapp of the Course of the River Menam from Siam to the Sea - Reduced from a
Large one made by Monsr de le Mar Ingenie to the French King" published in "A New Historical Relation of the Kingdom of Siam" by Monsieur de
La Loubère (London, 1693). As mentioned in the title of the map, it was made by the French gifted self-made engineer de la Mare, who was part of
the first French Embassy to Siam under de Chaumont and de Choisy in 1685 and who stayed at the request of King Narai (reign 1656-1688). De
La Mare was initially engaged to teach piloting to the marine guards of the embassy, and apparently was not a trained engineer in France.
The canal is also shown on the map of Jean de Maguelonne de Courtaulin (1638?-1...) titled "Siam ou Iudia, Capitalle du Royaume de Siam
Dessigné sur le lieu Par Mr Courtaulin missre Apostolique de la Chine" and published in 1686 by Franciscus Jollain, the elder (1641-1704). de
Maguelonne resided at Ayutthaya from October 1672 until June 1674 as a missionary of the Missions Etrangères de Paris and left thereafter for
Cochinchina. He likely transited through Siam on his return to Paris in 1685.
At the mouth of the Maha Phram Canal stood the western royal tax station, called Pak Khu tax station (Pak Khu - the mouth of the ditch). It was
situated south of Wat Lat Bua Khao along the canal and controlled the navigation coming and going to the Chao Phraya River as well as to the
Bang
Kaeo River.

In 1907, Phraya Boran Rachathanin wrote in his work "About the Map of Krung Sri Ayutthaya" that "about 50-60 years ago, there was a new
waterway established, which split off from the Chao Phraya River, next to Wat Jula in Ban Kum Sub-district; the intense harsh current, nibbled a
wide and deep canal, which joined the river at Ban Mai (Makham Yong) in a straight way." (The river at Ban Mai Makham Yong is the Bang Kaeo
River). [1]

Van Beek has a more precise date and wrote that the Chao Phraya River was blocked off near Ang Thong in 1853, and pushed into the Bang
Kaeo Canal. Near Ban Mai in Maha Rat District, the waterway was deviated into the Lopburi River and resurfaced in the old Chao Phraya River
near Wat Mai, 5 Km south of Wat Chula Mani, but the attempt to give the Chao Phraya a new river bed failed and the project was abandoned. In
1857 a new attempt was undertaken but this time a channel was dug in front of Wat Jula Mani southwards to Ban Mai in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya
District. The river now followed a straight course south and joined the waterway at Ban Mai. [2]

The Maha Phram canal as thus lost its function as a link to the Chao Phraya River and because of lacking current, the canal largely silted and
became much narrower, but can still be seen today. [3]
Khlong Maha Phram in history

The Maha Phram canal was of course not only of importance to the French at the end of the 17th century. The canal was already a long time in
existence. King Chakkraphat used this canal to flee on a royal barge during the rebellion of Prince Sri Sin in 1561 and the rebellion of Patani in
1564. [4] [5]

They urged their elephants forward to collide with each other. Prince Si Sin attacked with a scythe and Caophraya Maha Sena fell off his
elephant. Prince Si Sin, going in by way of the Sao Thong Chai Gate, was able to enter the royal palace. King Cakkraphat, being taken
by surprise, boarded a royal barge and fled up to
Maha Phram [DF: Island].

On the next day, they moved in to anchor at the Chai Gate. The Phraya and Sultan of Tani, having been presented with the opportunity,
turned to revolt and entered the royal palace. King Cakkraphat was taken by surprise and fled to
Maha Phram Island on the Si Sakkalat
Royal Barge. His generals and ministers together entered the royal palace and utterly routed the men of Tani who boarded their boats
and promptly fled. All the chief ministers then went out to invite King Cakkraphat, Lord of the White Elephant, to enter his great royal
residence.

In 1658, we find the King of Hongsawadi encamping at Maha Phram after having been chased out of the Lumphli Field by the fire of the Narai
Sanghan Cannon from an embrasure in the corner of
Wat Sop Sawan. [6]

The King of Hongsawadi reached the Capital City of Ayutthaya with his army on Wednesday the first day of the waxing moon of the first
month, and entrenched his troops in the Vicinage of Lumphli. Then Phraya Ram ordered the Narai Sanghan Cannon, over three wa and
one sòk long and with twelve niu cannonballs, dragged over and set up in an embrasure at the Sop Sawan corner, and ordered the
gunners to fire into the middle of the King of Hongsawadi’s army. The cannonballs hit and killed many elephants, horses and soldiers,
and fell close to the pavilion of the King of Hongsawadi. The King of Hongsawadi had the cannonballs brought up to receive
propitiatory offerings and then withdrew his army to encamp at Maha Phram.

We find the Maha Phram Canal also mentioned a few times in the epic poem "Khun Chang, Khun Phaen", one of the most notable works in Thai
literature, indicating that it was one of the main waterways heading towards the City of Ayutthaya. [7]

Khanan Ai said, 'Don't worry.' He boarded the boat and hurried away from the landing. He took companions who had been partners for
a long time. All were armed. They made no noise. They went to the sharp corner [Hua Laem], turned to the right, and hastened past Wat
Tha. When dusk fell and the water was high, they hid on
Maha Phram island. [KCKP: 41: Phlai Chumphon discovers the love charm]

Khun Chang rode on the neck, his shiny pate swaying to and fro. He wielded the goad to make the elephant trot along, his rear end
jiggling this way and that. They took the direct route to the city, out to Thong Plain, down to the crossing at Kop Jao, through
Ban
Maha Phram
, turning right to Golden Mount, then through the rice fields to reach to Ayutthaya at midday. [KCKP: 33 The marriage of
Phra Wai]
Phraya Boran Rachathanin mentions the Maha Phram Canal in his work "Tamnan Krung Kao" but called it the Hua Saphan Canal (Hua Taphan in
old texts). Hua Saphan was situated north of Kop Jao along the waterway which is at present called Bang Ban Canal. The Hua Saphan canal was
used as a short cut for going to
Pa Mok or Ban Chao Chet. [8] In the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya, the canal is mentioned as the Pa Mok route. [9]

Phraya Boran wrote that the Hua Saphan Canal in previous times might have been deep and very wide and therefore had an island, called Maha
Phram Island. There could have been an established Brahman community, whose village was on that island.

The exact date of the construction of the canal is unknown. North along the canal is situated from west to east: Wat Jaeng, Wat Sao Thong and Wat
Lat Bua Khao, while on the south bank are located: Wat Klang, Wat Muang Wan, and Wat Khanon.
(A stretch of the Maha Phram Canal)
Footnotes:

(1) Maha Phram = The Great Brahmin.

References:

[1] Boran Ratchathanin, Phraya (1907) - Wa duai phaenthi Krung Sri Ayutthaya [About the map of Krung Sri Ayutthaya].
[2] The Chao Phya, River in Transition - Steve Van Beek - Oxford University Press (1995) - page 11-2.
[3] Boran Ratchathanin, Phraya (1907) - Wa duai phaenthi Krung Sri Ayutthaya [About the map of Krung Sri Ayutthaya].
[4] The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman (2006) - page 41 / Source: Phan Canthanumat, British Museum, Reverend
Phonnarat, Phra Cakkraphatdiphong & Royal Autograph - Rebellion of Prince Si Sin.
[5] Ibid. - page 49 - The Rebellion of Pattani.
[6] Ibid. - page 60-1 - The Hongsawadi Armies Besiege Ayutthaya.
[7] The Tale of Khun Chang Khun Phaen - Siam’s Great Folk Epic of Love and War - Translated and edited by Chris Baker and Pasuk
Phongpaichit (2010).
[8] Boran Rachathanin, Phraya (1907) - Tamnan Krung Kao - page 95-6.
[9] The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman (2006) - page 102 / Source: Luang Prasoet.