Ram Khamhaeng

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Ram Khamhaeng the Great
King of Sukhothai
Ram Khamhaeng the Great (I).jpg
Statue of King Ramkhamhaeng The Great, Sukhothai Historical Park, Sukhothai Province
King of Sukhothai
PredecessorBan Muang
SuccessorPhaya Loethai
Bornc. 1237-1247
Diedc. 1298
May Hnin Thwe-Da
Full name
Pho Khun Ram Khamhaeng
HousePhra Ruang Dynasty
FatherKing Si Inthrathit
MotherQueen Sueang

Ram Khamhaeng the Great (Thai: รามคำแหงมหาราช, pronounced [rāːm kʰām.hɛ̌ːŋ mā.hǎː râːt]) or Pho Khun Ram Khamhaeng (Thai: พ่อขุนรามคำแหง), was the third king of the Phra Ruang dynasty, ruling the Sukhothai Kingdom (early kingdom of Siam) from 1279–1298, during its most prosperous era.

He is credited for the creation of the Thai alphabet and the firm establishment of Theravada Buddhism as the state religion of the kingdom.[1]:197[2]:25

Birth and name[edit]

Ram Khamhaeng was a son of Pho Khun Bang Klang Hao, who ruled as King Si Inthrathit, and his Queen, Sueang,[3] though folk legend claims his real parents were an ogress named Kangli and a fisherman.[4]:23 He had two brothers and two sisters. The eldest brother died while very young. The second, Ban Mueang, became king following their father's death, and was succeeded by Ram Khamhaeng on his own death.[5]

At age 19, Prince Ram Khamhaeng participated in his father's successful invasion of the city of Sukhothai, formerly a vassal of the Khmer, establishing the independent Sukhothai Kingdom. Due to his courage in the war, he allegedly was given the title "Phra Rama Khamhaeng" or Rama the Strong,[1]:196 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 Ram Khamhaeng 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".


The three kings monument in Chiang Mai. King Mangrai of Lan Na (center), King Ngam Muang of Phayao (left) and King Ram Khamhaeng of Sukhothai (right).

Tri Amattayakun (Thai: ตรี อมาตยกุล), the Thai historian suggests that Ram Khamhaeng should have acceded to the throne in 1279, the year he planted a sugar palm tree in Sukhothai City. Prasert na Nagara of the Royal Institute speculates that this was in a tradition of Thai-Ahom's monarchs, who planted banyan or sugar palm trees on their coronation day in the hope that 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 in Siam until 1908,[6] and in Burma to the present.[7][8]


Ram Khamhaeng sent embassies to the Yuan China from 1282 to 1323 and imported the techniques to make the ceramics now known as Sangkhalok ceramic ware. 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.[1]:206 According to current Thai national history, Ram Khamhaeng expanded his kingdom as far as Lampang, Phrae, and Nan in the north, and Phitsanulok and Vientiane in the east, the Mon kingdoms of what is now Myanmar in the west, the Bay of Bengal in the northwest, and the Nakhon Si Thammarat Kingdom in the south.

However, in the mandala political model, as historian Thongchai Winichakul notes, kingdoms such as Sukhothai lacked distinct borders, instead being centered on the strength of the capital itself.[9] Claims of Ram Khamhaeng's large kingdom were, according to Thongchai, intended to assert Siamese dominance over mainland Southeast Asia.[9] His campaign against Cambodia left the Khmer country "utterly devastated."[10]:90

According to Thai history, Ram Khamhaeng developed the Thai alphabet (Lai Sue Thai) from Sanskrit, Pali, and the Grantha alphabet.


According to the Chinese History of Yuan, King Ram Khamhaeng died by 1299 and was succeeded by his son, Loe Thai, though George Cœdès thinks it "more probable" it was "shortly before 1318". Legend states he disappeared in the rapids of the rivers of Sawankhalok.[1]:218–219


The Ram Khamhaeng Inscription[edit]

Much of the traditional biographical information comes from the inscription on the Ram Khamhaeng stele, composed in 1292,[1]:196–198 and now in the Bangkok National Museum. 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.

Sangkhalok ceramic ware[edit]

King Ram Khamhaeng 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.[1]:206–207 Sukhothai for centuries was the major exporter of the ceramics known as "Sangkhalok ware (Thai: เครื่องสังคโลก)" to countries such as Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, and even to China. The industry was one of the main revenue generators during his reign and long afterwards.


The reverse of 20 Baht note(series 16), issued in 2013, depicts images of the royal statue of King Ramkhamhaeng the Great seated on the Manangkhasila Asana Throne, as well as the invention of the Thai script to commemorate King Ramhamhaeng.[11]


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

Video game[edit]

King Ram Khamhaeng is a playable ruler for the Siamese in Sid Meier's Civilization V.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Cœdès, George (1968). Walter F. Vella (ed.). The Indianized States of Southeast Asia. trans. Susan Brown Cowing. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-0368-1.
  2. ^ Chakrabongse, C., 1960, Lords of Life, London: Alvin Redman Limited
  3. ^ Prasert Na Nagara and Alexander B. Griswold (1992). "The Inscription of King Rāma Gāṃhèṅ of Sukhodaya (1292 CE)", 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.
  4. ^ Wyatt, David K. (1995). The Chiang Mai Chronicle. Bangkok: Silkworm Books. ISBN 978-974-7047-67-7. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  5. ^ Prasert and Griswold (1992), p. 265-267
  6. ^ T. Masao, (Toshiki Masao) (1908). "The New Penal Code of Siam" (PDF). Journal of the Siam Society. Siam Society Heritage Trust. 5 (2): 1–10. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
  7. ^ Lingat, R. (1950). "Evolution of the Conception of Law in Burma and Siam" (PDF). Journal of the Siam Society. Siam Society Heritage Trust. 38 (1): 13–24. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
  8. ^ 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" (PDF). Journal of the Siam Society. Siam Society Heritage Trust. 57 (1): 109–148. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
  9. ^ a b Siam Mapped: A history of the geo-body of a nation, by Thongchai Winichakul, University of Hawaii Press. 1994. p 163.
  10. ^ Maspero, G., 2002, The Champa Kingdom, Bangkok: White Lotus Co., Ltd., ISBN 9747534991
  11. ^ Bank of Thailand. Bank of Thailand https://www.bot.or.th/English/Banknotes/HistoryAndSeriesOfBanknotes/Pages/20_16.aspx. Retrieved 14 June 2016. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  • 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
Succeeded by