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Thailand - 500-1000 - Lavo / Lopburi

Lopburi, or Lavo, as it was once known, is one of the oldest historical sites in Thailand that has gone through many changes and developments. Located approximately 150 kms north of Bangkok, and not far beyond Ayutthaya, Lopburi has been inhabited since the 5th century AD, when it was called Lavo. In his short historical sketch of Lopburi, H. R. H., Prince Damrong has shown that the place was founded about AD 468. The early civilisations influenced by the dominant Indian Culture include Lawa, Dvaravati and Khmer. The Lawa civilisation centered on Lawo (modern Lop Buri) and spread south to north in the Chao Phraya River basin. To the west, the Mon people subsequently established the Dvaravati civilisation, one of whose main centres was Nakhon Pathom. Buddhism was their major religion. To the east, the Khmer empire formerly occupied most of the northeastern region.

About the middle of the 5th century AD an individual to whom the chronicles give the sounding title of King of Taksila Maha Nakhon, but who was apparently no more than a rebellious Governor of the SukhothaiSawankalok province of Taksila, founded two settlements on the banks of the main river of Siam, one of which must have been at the edge of the sea and the other about thirty miles inland. The former was called Dwaravati, or later Dwarapuri after the mythical seagirt city of Krishna and the latter received the name of Lawapuri, Lawo or, as it is now called, Lopburi. The two settlements grew side by side, both claiming to be the capitals of kingdoms comprising the surrounding country districts, but after some centuries of rivalry Dwarapuri was absorbed by Lopburi the latter becoming in time subject to spasmodic control by Sukhothai and also to occasional beatings from the armies of Kambodia, the paramount power in the south. The early model of Lopburi was built around the 6th-7th century of the Davaravati period in an area defined by an arm of the river, the city moats and the ramparts built for the protection of the people who live in the site from wild animals such as elephants, tigers and rhinoceros. This is the ancient part of old Lopburi city today. It was an important city in central Thailand in Davaravati period (6th-11th AD).

Once upon a time, Suthewa, a hermit of Burapha Nakhon, inadvertently found a baby girl borne by a lotus flower. He took care of the baby until she grew up to be a maiden. The hermit was worried that the people would think that she was his wife. He then placed her on a bamboo raft floating along the Raming River. Fortunately the King of Lavo discovered her. He took care of her and brought her up as foster – daughter. Upon maturity, she was wedded to the King’s son, Prince Kamphotcha. In the meantime, Burapha Nakhon was stricken by calamity because the King had failed to fulfill the ten virtues of any incumbent king. In fact, the guardian deity was angry, inspiring flood and inundation that resulted in the death of large numbers of people and animals. In response to this, Suthewa, the hermit, invited another hermit, Sukthanta, to found a new city named Hariphunchai (now known as Lamphun Province) and requested the King of Lavo to appoint Princess Cham Thewi to the new throne of Hariphunchai.

The identification of Lo-hu with Lavo, the present Lop'hburi (lying at some twenty-five miles to the north of Ayuthia, and on the same branch of the Me-nam River), seems in every way justifiable. Evidently a syncopation of Lavakbta — like Lohiwar, the ancient capital of the Panjab, said to have been founded by Lava or Lo, the son of Rama. It is evident that the Siamese city was named after this Indian foundation of the son of the celebrated mythical hero Rama, and that, like it, it was designated in different ways. Lavo, Lo, are but slight variations of the above forms. Lop'hburi, the vulgar local equivalent of Lavapuri, owes its origin to the fact that in Siamese and Khmer alike Rama's son Lava is usually termed Lop'h. This evidence provides a clue to the origin of the Chinese transcripts, Lo, Lo-vu, Lo-huk, Lo-hok, etc.

The foundation of Lavo is ascribed in the northern annals to King Kalavarna Tissa, the same potentate who built Dviirapuri, and is placed in the Buddhist era year 1002 current, equivalent to Ad 457. By AD 528 Riimakirti Cakravartin was reigning in Lavo; he acceded to the request that Princess Camadevi, the wife of his son the uparaja, should go and reign in Lamp'hun. She departed and did so accordingly. In the year AD 871 Vcchita Cakravartin was driven out of Lavo by Trabaka, King of Lamp'hun, and Jivaka, King of Sri Dharmaraja (Ligor), who conjointly attack him, the former by land and the latter from the seaside. The King of Ligor reigned in Lavo, while the fugitive Vcchita marched upon Lamp'hun, and, having succeeded in cutting out of it its legitimate ruler Trabaka, reigns there. Trabaka, finding himself deprived of his kingdom, retraced his steps and comes down upon Lavo, where, having succeeded in dispossessing Jivaka, he settles down to reign. Thus Lamp'hun and Lavo mutually exchanged rulers. This chassi croisi of crowned heads took place, according to other accounts, in AD 924.

Between AD 1017-1047, but nearer to the former, Dittaraja, King of Lamp'hun, makes an expedition against Lavo, and challenged its ruler to erect a chaitya, but is worsted, and compelled to retreat. P'hya Rajaput, the son of the Lavo King, marches upon Lamp'hun, which he invests. Having sent in a challenge to the King of this city to dig a pond, and lost the competition, he withdraws. In the course of the next few years he sends two expeditions against Lamp'hun, but both are unsuccessful, the ultimate issue being that Lavo has to sue for peace, and pledge amity to Lamp'hun. The entente cordiale thus established leads to the development of trading relations between the two States, which continue very active.

By another account, about B.E. 2563 (AD 1020) there arose the war between the city of Lavo and Haripunchai, in which the troops of Lavo were arrested. Thus King Adityaraj had Mahaphon pagoda built by the labor of two cities outside Lamphun in the west. At present, it is believed the pagoda is the neighborhood of Ban San Mahaphon and the pagoda in Wat Ku Kut is, in fact, the Mahaphon pagoda. However, the stone inscription of Mon language is discovered at the base of pagoda, saying that King Sawathi Siddhi had the pagoda restored in about B.E. 1761 (AD 1218).

Angkor absorbed Lavo (Lopburi) around 1010–1050, a conquest which was followed by Lavo's bid for independance around 1155-1181. The Khmers from Cambodia erased nearly all traces of Lavo culture. The chronicles of the Thai principalities of the upper Menam tell of struggles between the Kambojas of Lavo (Lopburi) and the Ramannas (Mons) of Haripunjaya (Lamphun). Haripunjaya was the upper Menam principality, founded in the seventh century by the Mons from Lavo. All the testimonies tend to show that the Cambodians never went further north than Lopburi in the Chao Praya valley. In the eleventh the Khmers had established themselves at Lavo, and in the twelfth they had extended their domination to the borders of the kingdom of Haripunjaya, coming into conflict with King ÄdityarÄja1. The Khmers made Lavo an extended outpost to their Angkor Empire when they built the Prang Khaek (Hindu Shrine). San Phra Kan (Kala Shrine) and Prang Sam Yot (Three-Spired Shrine) as well as the impressive prang at Wat Phra Si Ratana Mahathat.

Then came the Sukhothai Kingdom in the 13th century and they in turn drove out the Khmers. The ancient state of Lavo (Lopburi), with its capital at Sano (Sornau or Shahr-i-nao), at one time feudatory to Swankalok-Sukhotai, remained the last stronghold of the Khmer, although even here they were much modified by Lao-Tai blood; but presently Sano also was attacked, and its fall completed the ascendancy of the Siamese (Thai) throughout the country.

In the middle of the 13th century the Thais who had already migrated from the North settled down in this country. The city of Ayuthia which rose in AD 1350 upon the ruins of Sano was the capital of the first true Siamese king of all Siam. The Siamese state based at Ayutthaya in the valley of the Chao Phraya River grew from the earlier kingdom of Lopburi, which it absorbed, and its rise continued the steady shift southwards of the center of gravity of the Tai-speaking peoples. Nevertheless, the Khmer cultural influence remained and is visible to this day. Lopburi's best known landmark is Phra Prang Sam Yot, the former Hindu Shrine located close to the railway station.The laterite and sandstone structure was constructed inthe Lopburi style and decorated with stucco. The three towers signify the Hindu Trinity of Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer. During the reign of King Narai the Great the shrine was converted to a Buddhist temple.

In the mid-17th century King Narai fortified Lavo to serve as a second capital when the kingdom of Ayutthaya was threatened by a Dutch naval blockade at the mouth of the Chao Phraya River. His foreign minister, who became known as Falcon, was a Greek sailor who rose to that mighty position through his ability to play off the French against the Dutch and British. King Narai also thought the Ayuthaya was too easily accessible to the Dutch aggression from the sea. This influenced his decision to move his residence to Lopburi. His fortified palace in Lopburi was built with the help of French architect and Father Thomas who also designed and superintended the construction of new forts at Bangkok, Ayuthaya, Nonthaburi and other place against Dutch aggression. The palace is believed to be constructed between 1665 and 1677. As his personal interests of hunting wild animals, Lopburi provides the ideal environment for his pleasure and away from formalities in Ayuthaya.

King Narai built his palace in Lavo in 1665 and he died there in 1688. His foreign minister also had his residence in Lavo, and both sites, although in ruin, can be seen today. After King Narai's death in 1688, the palace was used only by King Phetracha, Narai's successor, for his coronation ceremony and it was then abandoned, for nearly 200 years, until King Mongkut ordered restoration in the mid- 19th century.

After it was abandoned by his predecessor for over 200 years, King Rama IV (1851-1868) restored the palace by making renovation and additions. It was used again by King Rama IV as second palace with his intention to re-establish Lopburi as second capital just as what King Narai did. In the successive years the palace was visited by King Rama V (1868-1910) occasionally and was later used as provincial government office.

The Museum was established towards the end of the reign of Rama V (1868-1910). The site occupies an area of about 42 Rai (unit to measure land in Thailand) and consists of ruins and buildings of two different historical layers with evidence of high integrity in the significant ruins and buildings as well as the landscape as a whole. The buildings house archaeological objects of pre-historical, Dvaravati and Lopburi period excavated in central Thailand.

The site is kept reasonably clean and safe within the boundary wall. Right outside the northern wall in pedestrian area and its immediate vicinity, the amenity of the environment is largely neglected. One of the facts that makes the situation difficult to deal with is due to the location of public market which is right across the street outside the north wall. The scene is one of chaotic public parking area, illegal occupancy of public space by private property and of pollution by sewage and garbage spilled from the market opposite. Stalls selling drinks and souvenirs are making a good point providing service tovisitors. The critical point is how many soft drink vendors the site really need? Is there a necessity to sell barbecue at site?

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Page last modified: 08-04-2012 18:43:19 ZULU