WAT SAM WIHAN (วัดสามวิหาร)
Wat Sam Wihan or the Monastery of the Three Preaching Halls, (also known as
Wat Sam Pihan), is an active temple. It is located north of the city island on the Phaniat
peninsula. It is accessible by
Khlong Bang Khuat (also known as Pho Sam Ton River or
the old
Lopburi River). The Maha Chai Fortress stood in front of it.

This monastery has a variety of architecture that survives from the Ayutthaya period. A
rather large bell-shaped chedi is viewable from various points across the city. The
monastery's boat-shaped vihara houses a large reclining Buddha images and a variety of
artifacts. This image is advertised as being over 600 years old. A small Late Ayutthaya
period chedi lies to the west of this vihara. It has many redentations and a full upper
terrace. The ubosot has also survived. It has a full set of sema stones, two for each pillar.
Outer walls are also present. There has been some recent excavations at this site, which
reveal ancient foundation layers underneath one of the structures.

The location of this monastery gave it great historical importance. During the White
Elephant War (1563-1564) Burmese King Hongsawadi led his forces across Pho Sam
Ton (now Khlong Bang Khuat) and advanced to the Phaniat Plain. He stationed forces
at Wat Sam Wihan and prepared to attack the city (Cushman 35).

Another story concerns a Mon from Pegu, who self-immolated himself at this temple due
to a family dispute. He sat cross-legged and smeared thick oil over his entire body. After
the fire was ignited and his body thoroughly charred, his mother had it coated with
plaster and a gilded statue was made from it. This image was put on an alter at Wat
Samana Kottharam (Loubere 127).

Just before the fall of Ayutthaya, in 1767, Burmese forces set up a stockade in front of
Wat Sam Wihan and used this strategic location to launch an assault on the Maha Chai
Fortress. They set up a bridge (with walls to conceal troops from view) to cross the
river. They then dug tunnels and filled them with wood, which they could light on fire.
This weakened fortress walls and enabled Burmese the breach the walls to the city
(Cushman 520). The city collapsed afterward and the new capital was moved to
Thonburi/Bangkok.
Reclining Buddha at Wat Sam Wihan
Open sided vihara at Wat Sam Wihan
Old vihara in situ
Ordination hall of Wat Sam Wihan
Text by Ken May - January 2009
Photographs by Tricky Vandenberg
Addendum

Two remarks on the writings above.

On the Mon of Pegu de La Loubère writes the following:

'Tis about six or seven years since a Peguin burnt himself, in one of the temples,
which the Peguins at Siam have called Sam Pihan. He seated himself crossleg'd
and besmear'd his whole body, with very thick oil, or rather with a sort of gum,
and set fire thereunto. 'T was reported that he was very much discontented
with his family, which nevertheless lamented exceedingly about him. After the fire
had smother'd and roasted him well, his body was covered with a kind of plaister;
and thereof they made a statue which was gilded and put upon the altar, behind
that of the Sommona Codom. They call these sorts of saints Pra Tian Tee; Tian
signifies true, Tee signifies certainly.

The Sommona Codom should be interpreted here as the main Buddha image in a
monastic structure and not as being the temple
Wat Samana Kottharam. In this story the
statue was simply put behind the main Buddha image in the ubosot of Wat Sam Wihan.

Sramana of which Sommona is a derivative, meant originally, in the language of the
Brahmins, a man who performed hard penance, from sram, to work hard, etc. When it
became the name of the Buddhist ascetics, the language had changed, and sramana was
pronounced samana. The explanation commonly given in European works on Buddhism
as Sramana meaning "one who tames the senses, or has quieted the evil in him." is wrong
and stems from another Sanscrit root, 'sam,' to quiet, which in Pali becomes likewise *
sam,' and from this root, 'sam,' to quiet, and not from 'sram,' to tire. [1]

Codom is a derivative name of Gautama [Gotama], a name of "one of the ancient Vedic
bard-families" (Oldenberg). It is the surname, according to Buddhist legend, of the Sakya
tribe from which the Buddha Sakya Muni sprang. The Sommona-codom of many old
narratives represents the Pali form of S'ramaṇa Gautama, "The Ascetic Gautama." [2]

Pra Tian Tee as de La Loubère writes stands likely for  "Phra Thiang Thae"
whereby Phra [พระ] is a monk (priest) and Thiang Thae  [เที่ยงแท้] means "surely or
certainly".  


On the Burmese attack on Ayutthaya in 1767:

Although Wat Sam Wihan was occupied by the Burmese forces and fortified, they
did not set up a bridge to cross the river and dug tunnels in order to mine the city wall in
this place. The tunneling occurred to the west of
Wat Mae Nang Plum, located in Ban
Hua Ro on the north bank of
Khlong Mueang (the old Lopburi River), where some
remains of the defenses - the
Burmese mounds - still can be seen.

The general of the armies thereupon had the army masters and brigade masters of
the stockades at the Monastery of the Three Preaching Hall, the Monastery of the
Holy Red Funeral Monument and the Monastery of the Spired Building conscript
troops of soldiers and
advance forward to build a bamboo slat bridge across the
Mother of Waters at the Head of the Sluice beside the Fort of Grand
Victory
. They brought boards of Palmyra wood and set them up to form Dutch
stockades to screen both sides of the bridge and offer protection from the guns of
the inhabitants of the Holy Metropolis. Then they advanced their troops across
the bamboo slat bridge to the banks beside the walls of the municipality and had
them establish a stockade beside the Pavilion of Earth outside the walls. Then
they had them dig a tunnel curving lengthwise under the foundations of the walls
and had them haul in firewood and place it under the foundations.
[3]

One hundred meter to the right of the foot bridge leading from Wat Mae Nang Plum over
Khlong Mueang to the Hua Ro market was more or less the position where the Burmese
mined the city wall, next to the Maha Chai Fortress. The fortress was situated where
today the main entry of the covered Hua Ro market is. (1)

In August 2008 the Bangkok Post edited an article stating that the construction of a
Tesco-Lotus Express retail outlet could be prohibited on a site where the remains of an
ancient wall were being excavated (2). This location, on the northern side of Uthong Rd
and near the bend of the covered Hua Ro market was the spot (or very close) to the spot
where the Burmese breached the wall on 7 April 1767 in the late evening. The
construction of the outlet was finally cancelled and a part of the city wall was rebuilt
by the Fine Arts Department in situ. The location though is badly maintained and mostly
covered in shrubs.


Addendum

Wat Sam Wihan is mentioned in the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya as the location were
Cambodian troops were positioned in an attack on Ayutthaya in 1570.

"Meanwhile, the King of Lawæk advanced with his army to the Capital and Royal
Metropolis of Ayutthaya and encamped his army in the vicinity of Kathum Village.
At that moment the King ordered Müang Nakhòn Phrom and the three thousand
troops [CDEF: of the men] of Hongsawadi to man the positions on the front wall,
and all the high-ranking officials of the provincial cities to examine and post
soldiers to the positions on the walls and at intervals around the Royal Metropolis.
The King of Lawæk advanced with his army and halted his elephant in
Sam
Phihan Monastery
. And the enemy troops were posted at intervals to Rong
Khòng Monastery and Kuti Thòng Monastery. Then they brought about thirty
elephants and halted them in Na Phra Meru Rachikaram Monastery with about
four thousand men. The King of Lawæk had soldiers board five boats and cross
the river to attack Prince Sanuk’s corner of the wall. The King proceeded there
and, halting his palanquin, sent his soldiers up to fight. The enemy being
vanquished, the King then ordered a carong cannon fired on the enemy elephants
which were standing in
Sam Phihan Monastery. Phra Campathirat, who was the
[commander of the] vanguard of the King of Lawæk, was hit and killed on the
neck of his elephant. The King of Lawæk withdrew and returned to his army at
Kathum Village. Three times they advanced to attack in that way but were
unsuccessful. So the King of Lawæk, ending the campaign and returning, swept up
the families in the vicinity of the villages in the paddy fields and in Nakhòn Nayok
and took them to Lawæk. At that time the King of Lawæk repeatedly organized
troops to scout about, both by land and by boat, and the inhabitants of
Canthabun, the inhabitants of Rayòng, the inhabitants of Chachoengsao and
farmers were speedily lost to the Lawæk enemy in great numbers."
[5]

Wat Sam Wihan is located in geographical coordinates: 14° 22' 13.54" N, 100° 34'
20.88" E.

Footnotes:

(1) The book "Our Wars with the Burmese" written by Prince Damrong Rajanubhab
(1917) and re-edited by White Lotus, Bangkok in 2000, features a map on page xlii-xliii
which indicates the spot where the Burmese demolished the city walls of Ayutthaya.  
(2) See
Press Focus 2008.

References:

[1] The Wheel of The Law - Henry Alabaster (1871) - Trubner & Co, London. - page
203-4.
[2] Yule, Henry, Sir. Hobson-Jobson: A glossary of colloquial Anglo-Indian words and
phrases, and of kindred terms, etymological, historical, geographical and discursive. New
ed. edited by William Crooke, B.A. London: J. Murray, 1903.
[3] The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman (2006) - page 520 /
Source: Royal Autograph.
[4] The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman (2006) - page 77 /
Source: British Museum, Reverend Phonnarat, Phra Cakkraphatdiphong & Royal
Autograph - War with Lawæk, 1570.
Addendum & maps by Tricky Vandenberg - March 2012
Updated August 2019
(Open sided vihara at Wat Sam Wihan)
(Reclining Buddha at Wat Sam Wihan)
(Old vihara in situ)
(Ordination hall of Wat Sam Wihan)
Satellite chedi and vihara
Main Buddha image in the ordination hall
Main chedi of Wat Sam Wihan
(Main Buddha image in the ordination hall)
(Satellite chedi and vihara)
(Main chedi of Wat Sam Wihan)
Location where the Burmese entered the city in 1767, marking the second fall of Ayutthaya
(Location where the Burmese entered the city in 1767,
marking the second fall of Ayutthaya)
Detail of a 19th century map
Detail of Phraya Boran Rachathanin's map - Anno 1926
(Detail of a 19th century map - Courtesy of the Sam
Chao Phraya Museum - map is orientated S-N)
(Detail of Phraya Boran Rachathanin's map - Anno
1926)
(Detail of a 2007 Fine Arts Department GIS map -
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Department - 3th Region)