Ram Khamhaeng

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Ram Khamhaeng the Great
King of Sukhothai
Ramkhamhaeng the Great.jpg
Royal Statue of King Ramkhamhaeng The Great , located in the Sukhothai Historical Park , Sukhothai Province , Thailand
King of Siam
Reign 1279–1298
Predecessor Ban Muang
Lerthai
House Phra Ruang Dynasty
Father Pho Khun Sri Indraditya
Mother Queen Sueang
Born around 1237-1247
Died around 1298-1317

Pho Khun Ram Khamhaeng (Thai: พ่อขุนรามคำแหงมหาราช; Pho Khun Ram Khamhaeng; ca. 1237/1247 – 1298) was the third king of the Phra Ruang dynasty, ruling the Sukhothai Kingdom (a forerunner of the modern kingdom of Thailand) from 1279–1298, during its most prosperous era. He is credited with the creation of the Thai alphabet and the firm establishment of Theravada Buddhism as the state religion of the kingdom. Recent scholarship has cast doubt on his role, however, noting that much of the information relating to his rule may have been fabricated in the 19th century in order to legitimize the Siamese state in the face of colonial threats.[1]

Life and rule[edit]

Birth[edit]

He was a son of Prince Bang Klang Hao, who ruled as King Sri Indraditya, and Queen Sueang,[2] though legend claims his real parents as an ogress named Kangli and a fisherman.[3] He had two brothers and two sisters. His eldest brother died while young. The second, Ban Muang, became king following their father's death, and was succeeded by Ram Khamhaeng following his own death.[4]

Name[edit]

At age 19, he participated in his father's successful invasion of the city of Sukhothai, formerly a vassal of the Khmer, establishing the independent Sukhothai kingdom. Because of his conduct in the war, he allegedly was given the title "Phra Ram Khamhaeng" (Rama the Bold), though he is recorded in the Ayyutthaya Chronicles as King "Ramaraj". After his father's death, his brother Ban Muang ruled the kingdom and gave Prince Ramkhamhaeng control of the city of Si Sat Chanalai.

The Royal Institute of Thailand speculates that Prince Ram Khamhaeng's birth name was "Ram" (derived from the name of the Hindu epic Ramayana's hero Rama), for the name of him following his coronation was "Pho Khun Ramarat" (Thai: พ่อขุนรามราช). Furthermore, at the time it was a tradition to give the name of a grandfather to a grandson; according to the 11th Stone Inscription and Luang Prasoet Aksoranit's Ayutthaya Chronicles, Ram Khamhaeng had a grandson named "Phraya Ram", and two grandsons of Phraya Ram were named "Phraya Ban Mueang" and "Phraya Ram".

Accession to the Throne[edit]

Historian Tri Amattayakun (Thai: ตรี อมาตยกุล) suggests that Ram Khamhaeng should have acceded to the throne in 1279, the year he grew a sugar palm tree in Sukhothai City. Prasoet Na Nakhon of the Royal Institute speculates that this was in a tradition of Thai-Ahom's monarchs of planting banyan or sugar palm tree on their coronation day in the hopes their reign would achieve the same stature as the tree. The most significant event at the beginning of his reign, however, was the elopement of one of his daughters with the Captain of the Palace Guards, a commoner who founded the Ramanya Kingdom and commissioned compilation of the Code of Wareru, which provided a basis for the Law of Thailand in Siam until 1908,[5] and in Burma until the present.[6][7]

Rule[edit]

Ramkhamhaeng formed an alliance with the Yuan Dynasty of Mongol Empire, from whom he imported the techniques for making ceramics now known as Sangkhalok ware. Additionally, he had close relationships with the neighboring rulers of nearby city-states, namely Ngam Muang, the ruler of neighboring Phayao (whose wife he, according to legend, seduced) and King Mangrai of Chiang Mai. According to Thai national history, Ramkhamhaeng expanded his kingdom as far as Lampang, Phrae and Nan in the north, and Phitsanulok and Vientiane in the east, the Mon states of Burma in the west, as far as the Gulf of Bengal in the northwest and Nakhon Si Thammarat in the south. Yet, in the Mandala Southeast Asian political model, as historian Thongchai Winichakul notes, kingdoms such as Sukhothai lacked distinct borders, instead being centered on the strength of the capital itself.[8] Claims of Ramkhamhaeng's large kingdom were, according to Thongchai, intended to assert Siamese/Thai dominance over mainland Southeast Asia.[8]

According to conventional Thai history, Ramkhamhaeng is credited with developing the Thai alphabet (Lai Sue Thai) from Sanskrit, Pali and the Grantha script. His rule is often cited by supporters of the Thai monarchy as evidence of a "benevolent monarchy" that continues today.[9]

Death[edit]

According to a Chinese chronicle, King Ram Khamhaeng died in 1298 and was succeeded by his son, Loethai, although some Thai chronicles say he died in 1317.

Ramkhamhaeng University, the first open university in Thailand with campuses throughout the country, was named after King Ramkhamhaeng the Great.

Copy of Ramkhamhaeng stele in the Sukhothai Historical Park

Legacy[edit]

The Ramkhamhaeng stele[edit]

Much of the above biographical information comes from a stone inscription on the Ramkhamhaeng stele, now in the National Museum in Bangkok. The formal name of this stone is The King Ram Khamhaeng Inscription Documentary heritage inscribed on the Memory of the World Register in 2003 by UNESCO.

This stone was allegedly discovered in 1833 by King Mongkut (then still a monk) in Wat Mahathat. The authenticity of the stone – or at least portions of it – has been brought into question.[10] Piriya Krairiksh, an academic at the Thai Khadi Research institute, notes that the stele's treatment of vowels suggests that its creators had been influenced by European alphabet systems; he concludes that the stele was fabricated by someone during the reign of Rama IV or shortly before. The subject is very controversial, since if the stone is a fabrication, the entire history of the period will have to be re-written.[11]

Scholars are divided over the issue about the stele's authenticity.[1] It remains an anomaly amongst contemporary writings, and in fact no other source refers to King Ramkhamhaeng by name. Some authors claim the inscription was completely a 19th-century fabrication, some claim that the first 17 lines are genuine, some that the inscription was fabricated by King Lithai (a later Sukhothai king). Most Thai scholars still hold to the inscription's authenticity.[1] The inscription and its image of a Sukhothai utopia remain central to Thai nationalism, and the suggestion it may have been faked caused Michael Wright, an expatriate British scholar, to be threatened with deportation under Thailand's lèse majesté laws.[12]

The Ram Khamhaeng stele has also been brought into the discussions of the Wat Traimit Golden Buddha, a famous Bangkok tourist attraction. In lines 23-27 of the first stone slab of the stele, "a gold Buddha image" is mentioned as being located "in the middle of Sukhothai City". This has been interpreted by some scholars as referring to the Wat Traimit Golden Buddha.[13]

Sawankalok ware[edit]

King Ram Khamhaeng has been credited with bringing the skills of ceramic from China and laying a foundation of a strong ceramic ware industry in Sukhothai Kingdom. As a result of this, Sukhothai has, for centuries, been of the main exporter of ceramic ware known as "Sawankalok ware (เครื่องสังคโลก)" to several countries such as Japan, Philippines, Indonesia, and even export back to China. This industry is also one of the main revenue generator to the kingdom under his reign and beyond.

Video games[edit]

King Ramkhamhaeng is a playable ruler for the Siamese in Civilization 5. His concept of paternal rule is the inspiration for the Siamese unique ability of "Father Governs Children".

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Intellectual Might and National Myth: A Forensic Investigation of the Ram Khamhaeng Controversy in Thai Society, by Mukhom Wongthes. Matichon Publishing, Ltd. 2003.
  2. ^ Prasert Na Nagara and Alexander B. Griswold (1992). "The Inscription of King Rāma Gāṃhèṅ of Sukhodaya (1292 A.D.)", p. 265, in Epigraphic and Historical Studies. Journal of the Siam Society. The Historical Society Under the Royal Patronage of H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn: Bangkok. ISBN 974-88735-5-2.
  3. ^ David K. Wyatt (1995). The Chiang Mai chronicle. Silkworm Books. p. 23. ISBN 978-974-7047-67-7. Retrieved 4 November 2012. 
  4. ^ Prasert and Griswold (1992), p. 265-267
  5. ^ T. Masao, (Toshiki Masao) (1908). "The New Penal Code of Siam". Journal of the Siam Society (Siam Society Heritage Trust) 5 (2): pp. 1–10. Retrieved February 20, 2013. 
  6. ^ Lingat, R. (1950). "Evolution of the Conception of Law in Burma and Siam". Journal of the Siam Society (Siam Society Heritage Trust) 38 (1): pp. 13–24. Retrieved February 20, 2013. 
  7. ^ Griswold, Alexander B.; Prasert na Nagara (1969). "Epigraphic and Historical Studies No. 4: A Law Promulgated By the King of Ayudhyā in 1397 A.D". Journal of the Siam Society (Siam Society Heritage Trust) 57 (1): pp. 109–148. Retrieved February 20, 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Siam Mapped: A history of the geo-body of a nation, by Thongchai Winichakul, University of Hawaii Press. 1994. p 163.
  9. ^ Vickery, Michael T. "The Ramkhamhaeng Inscription: A Piltdown Skull of Southeast Asian History?" 3rd International Conference on Thai studies, Canberra, Australia. 1987"
  10. ^ Centuries-old stone set in controversy, The Nation, Sep 8, 2003
  11. ^ The Ramkhamhaeng Controversy: Selected Papers. Edited by James F. Chamberlain. The Siam Society, 1991
  12. ^ Seditious Histories: Contesting Thai and Southeast Asian Pasts, by Craig J. Reynolds. University of Washington Press, 2006, p. vii
  13. ^ THE GOLDEN BUDDHA IMAGE
  • ตรี อมาตยกุล. (2523, 2524, 2525 และ 2527). "ประวัติศาสตร์สุโขทัย." แถลงงานประวัติศาสตร์ เอกสารโบราณคดี, (ปีที่ 14 เล่ม 1, ปีที่ 15 เล่ม 1, ปีที่ 16 เล่ม 1 และปีที่ 18 เล่ม 1).
  • ประชุมศิลาจารึก ภาคที่ 1. (2521). คณะกรรมการพิจารณาและจัดพิมพ์เอกสารทางประวัติศาสตร์. กรุงเทพฯ : โรงพิมพ์สำนักเลขาธิการคณะรัฐมนตรี.
  • ประเสริฐ ณ นคร. (2534). "ประวัติศาสตร์สุโขทัยจากจารึก." งานจารึกและประวัติศาสตร์ของประเสริฐ ณ นคร. มหาวิทยาลัยเกษตรศาสตร์ กำแพงแสน.
  • ประเสริฐ ณ นคร. (2544). "รามคำแหงมหาราช, พ่อขุน". สารานุกรมไทยฉบับราชบัณฑิตยสถาน, (เล่ม 25 : ราชบัณฑิตยสถาน-โลกธรรม). กรุงเทพฯ : สหมิตรพริ้นติ้ง. หน้า 15887-15892.
  • ประเสริฐ ณ นคร. (2534). "ลายสือไทย". งานจารึกและประวัติศาสตร์ของประเสริฐ ณ นคร. มหาวิทยาลัยเกษตรศาสตร์ กำแพงแสน.
  • เจ้าพระยาพระคลัง (หน). (2515). ราชาธิราช. พระนคร : บรรณาการ.

External links[edit]

Ram Khamhaeng
Born: (around 1237-1247) Died: 1298
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Ban Muang
King of Sukhothai
1279–1298
Succeeded by
Loethai