Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Isaan Odyssey, Part 7: Phra Narai Ratchanivet

Chang (elephant) topiary beside the wall in Phra Narai Ratchanivet, Lopburi

[This is Part 7 of a series. If you found this via a search or just happened upon it some other way you can find parts 1 through 6 by scrolling down the Labels in the right-hand column and clicking on "Isaan Oddysey".]

After our early morning stop at Phra Prang Sam Yot to make merit and monkey around we drove a short ways towards the center of town, to the ruins of King Narai's palace at Phra Narai Ratchanivet. Built (roughly) between 1665 and 1677, this palace was built when King Narai decided to make what is now Lopburi into the second capitol of the Ayutthaya kingdom.

It was abandoned after Narai's death in 1688 and lay fallow until it was restored by Rama IV and renamed Narai Ratchanivet. Although it's now a well-maintained park its structures have returned to bare stones and brick; an interesting blend of French and Khmer architecture. Note the points to the tops of the doorways as an example.

As you can see if you enlarge the panorama above there are multiple small shelf-like indentations built into the walls near the doorways, where I'm told the cremated remains of important religious figures (monks and the likes) were placed for their final rest - sort of an outdoor version of a columbarium you'd expect to find at a cemetery or old church in Europe or the Americas. You can see a detail of one of those to the left here, blackened by ages of candle flames.

There was a peaceful feeling about the grounds, especially beneath the trees in the area around the throne hall. The roots have found purchase over the years and now wind up and around some of the stones.

Here are a couple of panoramas from my wanderings around the grounds. In the first one below you can see more niches for cremated remains.

I appreciated the way the areas were respected and left unmolested by visitors at this and other sites on this trip. No "tagging", no trash dumped where people finished with things, nothing carved into the stone. Here at home such relics would need to be cordoned off or guarded to protect them.

In fact, the only things I remember being protected were some relics in a couple of small museum-like rooms that contained crafts found excavated from the area and the skeletal remains of a few folks that I didn't note information on, sorry to say.

However, if what I did note is correct the grounds are open Wednesday through Sunday, from 07:30 to 17:30. Admission was next to nothing.

When I'd looked around long enough Suphot reminded me that we still had some distance to cover and another stop to make before landing where we'd be spending the night, so I followed him (and these two boys on their bicycle) along the path and out to his truck to move on.


krobbie said...

That does it, Bobey and I will be going to Lopburi for sure. This place really is my cup of tea.

I have checked the train timetable and there are fast railcars 3 or 4 times a day and take about 2 hours 50 minutes from BKK.

Cheers for these wonderful shots Bao-Bao,

khunbaobao said...

I think you guys will enjoy it. We just scratched the surface, I think. Doing a post today about the temple on top of the volcano near Suphot's family home.