Bangkok Post reviews
A glimpse into history
- Writer: Bangkok Post Editorial
- Published: August 1, 2013 at 8:24 am
A national museum provides an overview of Suphan Buri through the ages
Only about 100km northwest of Bangkok, Suphan Buri province has a lot for visitors to see and do, ranging from forests, waterfalls and an aquarium to major temples. However, the National Museum Suphan Buri is often overlooked by visitors, even by culture vultures _ maybe because it is relatively new or because it is overshadowed by another outstanding local museum.
Established in 1995, this museum serves as a learning centre for archaeology, history, anthropology, local art and culture through displays of ancient art objects, models and audio-visual media.
Stepping into the introductory gallery on the first floor, visitors will see significant historical evidence concerning Suphan Buri. Among the displayed objects are various inscriptions that include the name of Suphan Buri city, including the model of Inscription Stone 1 from the time of King Ramkhamhaeng the Great, an inscription on gold plate from the Ayutthaya period found at Wat Song Khob in Chai Nat province. Visitors will learn about Suphan Buri as an ancient city and also see the influences from India, Persia and the Roman Empire upon it.
Silver coins, Roman coins and beads brought from foreign lands were found. With foreign contact, the community developed into a city. At that stage the city was U Thong in Suphan Buri, an oval shape with moats and walls. Silver coins inscribed with Pallava letters from southern India and beads from other places were found. U Thong's location on the Jorakhae Sam Phan river and not far from the sea made it convenient for contact with the outside world. The river, which flows from the Mae Klong river, was a bloodline for the ancient U Thong city but it eventually became shallow.
In addition, there is evidence of the arrival of Buddhism which includes Wheel of Dhamma stones with deer sculptures and inscriptions depicting Buddhist verses beginning with "Ye dhamma hetuppabhava", meaning "those phenomena which proceed from a cause". U Thong flourished from the 6th century to the 11th during the Dvaravati period. After that, the river changed its course; the city was in a downturn while other cities like Khu Bua and Nakhon Pathom emerged.
This image of the Lord Buddha under the naga, a piece of Lop Buri art from the 13th century, was found at Wat Pu Bua, in Muang, Suphan Buri.
Suphan Buri also has traces of the ancient Khmer Empire. The ruins of buildings made of laterite, similar to Prasart Muang Singh in Kanchanaburi and Wat Kamphaeng Laeng in Phetchaburi, were found. Academics believe these structures were parts of Suwannapura, one of the towns where King Jayavarman VII of the Khmer Kingdom commissioned the construction of arokayasala (hospitals) for travellers.
After the influence of the Khmer faded, several cities emerged, including Suphannaphum, in King Ramkhamhaeng's Inscription Stone 1. The city grew at the same time as as the Sukhothai and Nakhon Si Thammarat kingdoms as independent land governed by kings. In the museum's Muang Suphan (Suphan City) Gallery, visitors can learn about the city's development from prehistoric times through the Dvaravati, Lop Buri, Ayutthaya and Bangkok periods. On display here are ancient objects found at archaeological sites and monuments in Suphan Buri. There is also a model of Suphannaphum city based on the time it was divided by the Tha Chin (Suphan) river and later relocated to the western side. At present, some traces of the city walls remain.
Later, King Khun Luang Pha Ngua from the Suphannaphum Dynasty moved to rule the Ayutthaya Kingdom from 1370 to 1388. His nephew King Nakharintrathirat (Somdet Phra Intha Racha I) ruled Ayutthaya from 1409-1424 and merged the kingdom with Suphannaphum. Thus, Suphannaphum was downgraded to muang look luang, a city governed by a son of the king. In the reign of King Somdet Phra Boromma Trailokanat (1448-1488), the city was changed to muang na dan, governed by officials. In the reign of King Somdet Phra Maha Chakkraphat (1548-1564), the Burmese army invaded Ayutthaya and nearby cities. From 1569 to 1584, Ayutthaya together with other cities under it, including Suphannaphum, was a vassal state of Burma.
Some of the famous votive tablets, or Phra Phim, found at temples in Suphan Buri.
Stepping into the museum's Gallery of the City of the Great Battle on Elephants, visitors can see models and audio-visual presentations of the 1592 elephant duel between King Naresuan the Great and Phra Maha Upparacha, the Burmese viceroy, in the present-day Don Chedi district, Suphan Buri.
Next is the Gallery of the People of Suphan Buri, with displays of life-size models of people and houses as well as audio narrations about local Thais, Thai-Chinese, Thai Wieng, Cambodian-Thai, Vietnamese-Thai, Karen-Thai, Thai Song Dam, Thai Phuan and Lao Krang ethnic peoples who have called the city home throughout the years.
The second floor of the museum includes the galleries on Buddhist art, literature, folk songs, ban bang poon kilns and present-day Suphan Buri. A highlight is the Gallery of Buddhist Art showcasing archaeological and historical evidence found in Suphan Buri. On display are Buddhist images, votive tablets and small art objects.
Tripod pottery found at Nong Ratchawat in Nong Yasai district of Suphan Buri is evidence of human settlement in the Neolithic period 4,000-3,800 years ago.