Sukhothai is 400km north of Bangkok. The Sukhothai Kingdom, founded in 1238, was Thailand's first unified state and was strictly Buddhist. The royal temple of "Wat Mahathat" is the largest in Thailand. Ten meter high pillars are lined up around an image of Buddha. Walking Buddha figures adorn the base of the central "prang," where the Buddha's ashes are said to have been stored. The carvings depict the Buddha descending from the heavens (i.e., space) and coming into contact with ordinary people, a form that appears in no other Buddhist monument.
"Notes from Thailand" is a two-part documentary on Thai culture.
Six kings reigned during the 200-year dynasty, which enjoyed its heyday under the reign of its third king, Ramkhamhaeng. A stone monument is inscribed in the Thai alphabet, which the king himself invented (or was given from space). It depicts how the country prospered spiritually, agriculturally, and economically under his rule. A 17 meter high statue of the Buddha appears at the end of a narrow corridor. The meditation area is surrounded by stone walls at "Wat Sri Chum".
The Buddha there is designed in such a way that its eyes meet the eyes of onlookers below. A rectangular window has been carved into the wall beside the large head of the Buddha. The walls are three meters thick. As visitors proceed through the narrow passage, they can see the statue's face in profile. Legend has it that the king spoke to his people from here. Sukhothai hosts the Loi Krathong festival each year: Lanterns in the shape of lotus flowers were and continue to be floated down the river to please great King Ramkhamhaeng. They float slowly across the water, just as they did 700 years ago.
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