|King of Sukhothai|
Royal Statue of King Ramkhamhaeng The Great , located in the Sukhothai Historical Park , Sukhothai Province , Thailand
|King of Siam|
|House||Phra Ruang Dynasty|
|Father||King Sri Indraditya|
King Ram Khamhaeng (Thai: พ่อขุนรามคำแหง; rtgs: 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.
Life and rule
Ramkhamhaeng was a son of Prince Bang Klang Hao, who ruled as King Sri Indraditya, and his Queen Sueang, though folk legend claims his real parents were an ogress named Kangli and a fisherman. He had two brothers and two sisters. The eldest brother died while very young. The second, Ban Muang, became king following their father's death, and was succeeded by Ram Khamhaeng on his own death.
At age 19, Prince Ramkhamhaeng 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 courage 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, assigning 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 his name following his coronation was "Pho Khun Ramarat" (Thai: พ่อขุนรามราช). Furthermore, the tradition at the time was 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 Muang" and "Phraya Ram".
Accession to the Throne
Historian Tri Amattayakun (Thai: ตรี อมาตยกุล) suggests that Ram Khamhaeng should have acceded to the throne in 1279, the year he planted 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, who 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 used Siam until 1908, and in Burma until the present.
Ramkhamhaeng formed an alliance with the Yuan Dynasty of the Mongol Empire, from whom he imported the techniques to make the ceramics now known as Sangkhalok ware. Additionally, he had close relationships with the rulers of nearby city-states, especially Ngam Muang, the ruler of neighboring Phayao (whose wife according to legend he seduced), and King Mangrai of Chiang Mai. According to current 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, the Gulf of Bengal in the northwest, and Nakhon Si Thammarat in the south. However, 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. Claims of Ramkhamhaeng's large kingdom were, according to Thongchai, intended to assert Siamese/Thai dominance over mainland Southeast Asia. His campaign against Cambodia left the Khmer country "utterly devastated".:90
According to conventional Thai history, Ramkhamhaeng developed 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 exists even today.
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.
The Ramkhamhaeng stele
Much of the traditional biographical information comes from the inscription on the Ramkhamhaeng stele, now in the National Museum in Bangkok. The formal name of the stele is the King Ram Khamhaeng Inscription. It was added to the Memory of the World Register in 2003 by UNESCO.
This stone allegedly was discovered in 1833 by King Mongkut, at the time a Buddhist a monk, in Wat Mahathat. The authenticity of the stone – or at least portions of it – has been brought into question. 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 concluded 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 fake, the entire history of the period will have to be re-written.
Scholars are sharply divided on the stele's authenticity. It remains an anomaly amongst contemporary writings, and no other source refers to King Ramkhamhaeng by name. Some scholars claim the inscription was completely a 19th-century fabrication; others claim the first 17 lines are genuine; while a third view is that the inscription was fabricated by King Lithai (a later Sukhothai king). Most Thai scholars hold to the inscription's authenticity. 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.
The Ramkhamhaeng 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 as referring to the Wat Traimit Golden Buddha.
King Ramkhamhaeng is credited with bringing the skills of ceramic making from China and laying the foundation of a strong ceramic ware industry in the Sukhothai Kingdom. Sukhothai for centuries was the major exporter of the ceramics known as "Sawankalok ware (เครื่องสังคโลก)" to countries such as Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, and even to China. The industry was one of the main revenue generators under his reign and long afterwards.
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- Siam Mapped: A history of the geo-body of a nation, by Thongchai Winichakul, University of Hawaii Press. 1994. p 163.
- Maspero, G., 2002, The Champa Kingdom, Bangkok: White Lotus Co., Ltd., ISBN 9747534991
- Vickery, Michael T. "The Ramkhamhaeng Inscription: A Piltdown Skull of Southeast Asian History?" 3rd International Conference on Thai studies, Canberra, Australia. 1987"
- Centuries-old stone set in controversy, The Nation, Sep 8, 2003
- The Ramkhamhaeng Controversy: Selected Papers. Edited by James F. Chamberlain. The Siam Society, 1991
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- THE GOLDEN BUDDHA IMAGE
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- RAM KHAMHAENG INSCRIPTION (1292) English translation accessed 15:34 UTC 4/8/2008
- Overview of Ramkhamhaeng Orthography
- Ramkhamhaeng Consonant and Vowel flashcards
Ram KhamhaengBorn: (around 1237-1247) Died: 1298
|King of Sukhothai