Phimai Historical Park Khmer Monuments
Phimai Khmer Monument Isan
- Phimai Historical Park is an ancient Khmer city of the Khmer Empire in Thailand situated in Phimai District of Nakhon Ratchasima Province and is about 60 kilometers north from Phimai, the Capital. The ancient Khmer city (and earlier in 7 - 8 C part of Chenla Kingdom) is surrounded by a moat adjacent to the Mun River on the east and north boundaries. Phimai is the largest Khmer ruins complex in Thailand and comprises an inner moated city, 565 by 1030 metres, which was built in the 11 – 12 C with further additions in the 13 C.
- The Temple City was surrounded by a laterite wall 3,350 feet by 1,900 feet with the Temple enclosed by two walls, the outer measuring 900 feet by 720 feet and the innermost wall 272 by 243 feet. The complex includes the usual structures, naga terraces, gopuras, pavilions, a library. The key feature is the inner court yard which houses three towers. The central and principal tower was built in 11 – 12 C and is made of sandstone. The outer walls are decorated with lintels and bas-reliefs depicting scenes from the Ramayana, illustrating battles between Ravana and Rama. The southern side has bas-reliefs of Shiva and its interior has bas-reliefs of Buddha, Bodhisattvas and Mara. The Temple is Budhist, not Hindu and was part of the Mahayana school which was prevalent in the Mun Valley from the 7 C onwards.
- Phimai has large and small ponds to represent the oceans. The central sanctuary is enclosed by narrow corridor galleries. Cruciform entrances (or Gopuras) are installed at cardinal points. Carvings of Hindu Gods ornament the pediments and lintels of these entrances. Within the sacred area the central tower (or prang) culminates in a lotus bulb shaped finial and represents Mount Meru. This is built of sandstone. The Prang is many tiered and rests on a base, which is a tall re-dented cube like structure which itself is set on other re-dented and ascending sandstone platforms. Below the tiers of the tower and set in the cube re-dented base was placed the linga, or phallic emblem of the God Shiva and later a Buddha image.
- The other two towers were built in 13 C. One was made of laterite and the other, of red sandstone. The former houses a large sculpture of King Jayavarman (of Angkor) who reigned during its construction. Phimai has similar features to those at Phnom Rung , it has access via a long causeway with terraces, the stone balustrades of which are shaped as serpents or Nagas. These Nagas have multiple flaring heads which are crowned, and act as guardians of the earths' waters and are said to represent the rainbow, the link between the world of men and the Gods. Accordingly when one approaches these sanctuaries (or Temples) via these Naga causeways one is reminded that as a devotee he or she is leaving the earthly plan, physically and spiritually, for higher levels of enlightenment.
- Just north of Phimai Historical Park, and not to be missed, is the Phimai National Museum which houses Khmer artifacts and works of art from excavations, not only from Phimai, but other Khmer ruins in southern I 'san. This complex is the most outstanding example of Khmer Architecture in Thailand.
Phimai Khmer Monument Isan
- UNESCO has Phimai designated as a World Heritage Site for future listing and the following is its description and reason for the designation.'' Phimai or Vimai was the name of a large rectangular ancient Khmer city surrounded on all sides by boundary walls and moats, lying 260 kilometers northwest of Angkor. Prasat Phimai was the Mahayana Buddhist sanctuary situated at the center of the city. Prasat Phimai itself together with the Cultural Route and the associated temples of Phanomrung and Muangtam are among the finest Khmer monuments and constitute a testimony to the civilization, prosperity and wealth, and the power of the Khmer Empire at its peak. From Phimai the historical route stretched out Southeast into the southern sub-region of the Khorat Plateau leading to the pass across the Phnom Dongrak mountain range on the Thai-Cambodian border. In the ancient time of the Khmer Empire, travelers and pious pilgrims taking this route, which connected Angkor to Phimai, had at their disposal rest houses spanning over the route as well as some hospitals along the route. The remains of these rest houses and hospitals mark out Phimai 's unique cultural route, covering approximately a distance of 150 kilometers.
Phimai Historical Park
- Prasat Phimai was originally built in the 11th century after a large part of the Buddhist Kingdom of Dhvaravadi was conquered and became the domain of the Khmer Empire. It is evident from the statuary of Phimai that it was built as a Mahayana Buddhist sanctuary. The inscriptions inside the principal tower also signify the Buddhist origin of Phimai, praising Lord Buddha and mentioning the name of King Suriyavaraman I as a Mahayana Buddhist, as well as specifying the years corresponding to the Buddhist Era of 1579 and 1589 (1036 and 1046 AD). It is significant to note that other Khmer temples belonging to the same era, such as Angkor Wat or Prasat Phanom Rung, all were built as Hindu temples, the unique Buddhist sanctuary of Phimai being the single exception. Besides the Buddhist temple of Bayon in Cambodia, Phimai was duly recognized as the most important full-fledged Khmer Buddhist sanctuary by Jayavaraman VII the Great, who was a renowned fervent Buddhist.
- The plan of the township was in the shape of a rectangle enclosed on all sides by moats and surrounding walls, of which traces still remain. Of the four walls, the front side of the ancient town stood, as the Temple itself, facing Southeast in the direction of Angkor. The fact that the temple of Phimai faces Southeast in the direction of Angkor instead of facing east, which is the common feature of other Khmer temples, is significant, the reason however, is unknown. It might have been by design to give effect to the special position and importance of Phimai in its relationship to Angkor, as made evident later by the command of King Jayavaraman VII to build rest houses and hospitals on the cultural route to Phimai.
- The restoration of Prasat Phimai from 1964 to 1969 with the technical assistance from the French Government was supervised by Prince Yachai Chitrabongse and M. Bernard Phillip Groslier, who was the director of the restoration work at Angkor. The lintels on the inside of the buildings, depicting scenes of the life of Buddha as well as episodes from the Ramayana, are among the foremost of Khmer art. A very fine sandstone statue of King Jayavarman VII in meditation was also found inside of one of the buildings.''
Phimai Historical Park