Photo: Standing Buddha at Wat Mahathat.

Wat Mahathat

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Once the Sukhothai kingdom’s principle royal monastery, Wat Mahathat is now one of the most impressive ancient religious sites found anywhere in Thailand. Its ruins sprawl over a large chunk of land at the heart of the historical park’s central zone. Be sure to explore slowly enough to notice the delicate details enduring in the shadows of towering chedis, prangs and Buddha images.

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Officially known as Wat Phra Sri Rattana Mahathat (Monastery of the Great Sacred Royal Gem Chedi), this is one of many Thai temples with similar names -- another impressive site with the exact same name is found up in Si Satchanalai. It’s a name that always signifies utmost importance surrounding a large chedi where sacred relics are enshrined. By these standards, Sukhothai’s Wat Mahathat sets a high bar.

Keep an eye on the details. Photo taken in or around Wat Mahathat, Sukhothai, Thailand by David Luekens.

Keep an eye on the details. Photo: David Luekens

Surrounded by laterite walls and moats, the complex ebbs around a graceful chedi topped with a Sukhothai-style finial designed in the shape of a lotus bud. It’s believed that bones and ash from the historical Buddha’s body were brought from Sri Lanka and placed in the chedi’s reliquary.

Adorning the bottom section of the main chedi’s multi-tiered base, faces and other details are still evident on several of the 168 pilgrims depicted walking counter-clockwise around the chedi. The Thai practice of encircling a sacred chedi three times on foot continues today -- arrive early and you might see ochre-robed monks and pilgrims in white strolling slowly around the Maha That.

Classic Sukhothai. Photo taken in or around Wat Mahathat, Sukhothai, Thailand by David Luekens.

Classic Sukhothai. Photo: David Luekens

On either side of the main chedi, a pair of brick towers protect stunning 12-metre-high standing Buddha images known as Phra Atharot. Wander nearby to check out smaller Buddha images complemented by faded depictions of elephants and beings that you might encounter in Buddhism’s many plains of heaven ... Travelfish members only (Around 400 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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How to get there
Wat Mahathat is impossible to miss on the left after entering the central zone through the main eastern gate. From here it's best to head northwest to Wat Si Sawai.

Wat Mahathat
Sukhothai Historical Park

Location map for Wat Mahathat

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