Lamphun's temples: Once an ancient kingdom
- Published: 20/09/2013 at 07:31 PM
- Online news:
Golden pagodas & temples many built by Lamphun's founder Queen Camadevi, make this often overlooked ancient capital a must see.
Phra That Hariphunchai is one of the top destinations in Lamphun.
Lamphun's cultural riches
A bronze statue of Queen Camadevi, founder and famous queen of Lamphun.
While often overshadowed by its big brother to the north Chiang Mai which is only 26 kilometers away, Lamphun has a cultural identity all its own.
Motorists who are not in a hurry may prefer taking the old scenic route Celebrated as one of the most beautiful stretches of road in Thailand, this is a two-lane road lined on both sides by towering trees (ton yang na) planted during the reign of King Rama V that have now grown to a truly impressive size. What tells you immediately that you've arrived in Lamphun is the sight of the yellow flowers of another kind of tree, the khee lek or cassod tree; they are dotted along both sides of the old road.
Lamphun is not a large town and it's easy to see the main sights just by renting a bicycle and cycling around at your own pace or you can jump onto one of the open-sided buses (rot-rang) at Wat Phra That Hariphunchai and for 50 baht see nine local landmarks mostly temples. There's a guide on board who hops off at the various stops and conducts brief tours of each site
Lamphun is the smallest province in the North and also the oldest kingdom. The Mon city-state of Haripunjaya was founded there in the 7th century AD by Queen Camadevi. Queen Camadevi founded a dynasty that lasted until the middle of the 11th century when king Phraya Mengrai of Chiang Mai invaded and made Lamphun part of his kingdom of Lanna only fully absorbed into Siam in the late 19th century. Some artefacts from that earlier civilisation, mostly inscriptions in stone, have survived and are now on display at the Hariphunchai National Museum in the centre of town, along with exhibits from the later Lanna period
Wat Mahawan Wanaram houses a highly revered Buddha statue that was cherished by Queen Chamma Thewi, first ruler of Hariphunchai. She believed that the statue protected her and her troops during the seven-month journey they made from her father’s kingdom in Lop Buri north to Lamphun where she founded her new realm Carved from stone, the image is called Phra Rod Luang and it has been placed in a position of honour, right in front of the principal Buddha image in the temple’s prayer hall.
Wat Phra That Hariphunchai is the site of a glittering 46m-high golden pagoda now used in the official seal for the province of Lamphun. The stupa is believed to house relics of the Lord Buddha and the temple itself is one of the most respected in the whole country.
A short walk from its main entrance is a bridge which spans the Kuang River with a small handicraft market. Stroll across the bridge and you will come to Wat Ton Kaeo, another interesting temple in whose compound a group of elderly people carry on the local cotton-weaving tradition creating lengths of brocade and other beautiful fabrics for sale.
Another popular spot is Wat Mahawan, a temple dating back to Queen Camadevi's reign with a Buddha statue named Phra Rod Luang which the queen is said to have brought with her all the way from her father's realm in Lavo. Last but not least is a temple named after the queen herself Wat Camadevi which has a greatly revered stupa called Ku Kut within which the queen's ashes are believed to have been interred. This step-pyramid-style pagoda is thought to be more than 1,300 years old and to have undergone numerous restorations The architecture of Ku Kut is unique displaying as it does, artistic styles popular in Hariphunchai and the Mon-speaking Dvaravati civilisation as well as influences from the kingdom of Srivijaya, a powerful empire far to the south on the island of Sumatra.
About 60 images of the Buddha in a standing posture were carved into the four sides of this pagoda at Wat Chamma Thewi. Its official name is Chedi Suwan Chang Kot, but the locals call it Ku Kut and it is believed to be the final resting place of the cremated remains of Queen Chamma Thewi, Lamphun’s first ruler.
Located on Inthayongyot Road, almost opposite Wat Phra That Hariphunchai, the Hariphunchai National Museum takes care of more than 2,000 ancient artefacts discovered throughout the province It was founded in 1927 by the last chao (titular ruler) of Lamphun and today comprises three separate buildings. The main exhibition hall showcases prehistoric items like pottery and tools as well as a human skeleton whose discovery has been taken to indicate that there were people living in Lamphun more than 2,500 years ago. The exhibits also include ancient beads, Buddha heads from the Dvaravati period bronze and wooden Buddha images from the Lanna era plus tools and other objects used in the later Rattanakosin period The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday from 9am to 4pm (closed on Mondays, Tuesdays and public holidays). Call 053-511-186 or visit www.thailandmuseum.com/ hariphunchai for more information.
About the author
- Writer: Jon Fernquest
Position: Assistent Manager Educational services