Ram Khamhaeng

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Ram Khamhaeng the Great
Pho Khun Ramarat
Ram Khamhaeng the Great (I).jpg
Statue of King Ram Khamhaeng the Great, Sukhothai Historical Park, Sukhothai Province, Thailand
Pho Khun of Sukhothai
Reign1279 - 1298
PredecessorBan Mueang
SuccessorLoe Thai
Bornc. 1237/1247
Khmer Empire/Sukhothai Kingdom
Died1298 (51/61 years old)
Sukhothai Kingdom
IssueLoe Thai
May Hnin Thwe-Da
HousePhra Ruang Dynasty
FatherSi Inthrathit
ReligionTheravada Buddhism

Ram Khamhaeng (Thai: รามคำแหง, pronounced [rāːm kʰām hɛ̌ːŋ] (About this soundlisten)) or Pho Khun Ram Khamhaeng Maharat (Thai: พ่อขุนรามคำแหงมหาราช, pronounced [pʰɔ̂ː kʰǔn raːm kʰam hɛ̌ːŋ má hǎː râːt] (About this soundlisten)), also spelled Ramkhamhaeng, was the third king of the Phra Ruang Dynasty, ruling the Sukhothai Kingdom (a historical kingdom of Thailand) from 1279 to 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 Pho Khun 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, he 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 Ram Khamhaeng” or “Rama the Bold”.[1]:196 After his father's death, his brother Ban Mueang ruled the kingdom, assigning Ram Khamhaeng control of the city of Si Satchanalai.

The Royal Institute of Thailand speculates that Ram Khamhaeng's birth name was "Ram" (derived from Rama, the name of the hero of the Hindu epic Ramayana), 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 Mueang" and "Phraya Ram".

In English, an alternate spelling of his name is Ramkhamhaeng. The title Maharat (Thai: มหาราช) is the Thai translation of “the Great”.


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

Tri Amattayakun (Thai: ตรี อมาตยกุล), a Thai historian, suggests that Ram Khamhaeng should have acceded to the throne in 1279, the year he planted a sugar palm tree in Sukhothai. Prasoet na Nakhon of the Royal Institute speculates that this was a tradition of Thai-Ahom 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, May Hnin Thwe-Da, with the captain of the palace guards, a commoner. The commoner founded the Burmese Hanthawaddy 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 Yuan Mongol 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 His campaign against Cambodia left the Khmer country "utterly devastated."[9]:90

According to Thai history, Ram Khamhaeng is credited with creating the Thai alphabet (Lai Nangsue Thai) from a combination of the Sanskrit, Pali, and Grantha alphabets.[citation needed]

It is speculated that Ram Khamhaeng expanded his kingdom as far as Lampang, Phrae, and Nan in the north, Phitsanulok and Vientiane in the east, the Nakhon Si Thammarat Kingdom in the south, the Mon kingdoms of what is now Myanmar in the west, and the Bay of Bengal in the northwest. However, in the mandala political model, kingdoms such as Sukhothai lacked distinct borders, instead being centered on the strength of the capital itself.[10] Claims of Ram Khamhaeng's large kingdom were intended to assert Siamese dominance over mainland Southeast Asia.[10]


According to the Chinese History of Yuan, King Ram Khamhaeng died in 1298 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. Another possible source states he was slain by a Malay warrior princess named Adruja Sriwijayamala Singha during a battle between Thai and Malay armies, in a campaign to conquer Malay lands which make up a third of modern Thailand today.[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, and contains vague facts about the king.[1]:196–198 It is now found 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]

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 the 20 Baht note (series 16), issued in 2013, depicts images of the royal statue of Ram Khamhaeng seated on the Manangkhasila Asana Throne, and commemorates the invention of the Thai script by the king.[11]


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

Video games[edit]

King Ramkhamhaeng 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. ^ Maspero, G., 2002, The Champa Kingdom, Bangkok: White Lotus Co., Ltd., ISBN 9747534991
  10. ^ a b Siam Mapped: A history of the geo-body of a nation, by Thongchai Winichakul, University of Hawaii Press. 1994. p 163.
  11. ^ "History and Series of Banknotes, 20 Baht Series 16". BOT. Bank of Thailand. Archived from the original on 31 March 2013. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  • 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