Ancient History of Central Thailand

The Khmer temple of Wat Phra Prang Sam Yod, Lopburi.

Thailand ( also called Siam) is an interesting country in Southeast Asia. Situated at the Indochinese Peninsula center, it is formed of 76 provinces spanning 198,120 sq mi (513,120 square kilometers), with a population of 65 million people; Thailand is the world’s 22nd-most-populous and 50th-largest country by land area. The largest city and the capital, as you already know, is Bangkok, a particular administrative area. Thailand is bordered to the north by Leos and Myanmar, to the east by Cambodia and Laos, to the south by the Malaysia and Gulf of Thailand, and to the west by the southern extremity of Myanmar and by the Andaman Sea. Its maritime boundaries include India and Indonesia on the Andaman Sea to the southwest and Vietnam on the southern Gulf of Thailand to the southeast. Nominally, Thailand is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy; however, its government has undergone many coups and military dictatorships in recent history.

The Tai ethnic group, Ancient Hindus, migrated into mainland Southeast Asia over many centuries. The word Siam (Thai: สยาม RTGS: Sayam) has originated Sanskrit श्याम (śyāma, “dark”).

Let’s explore the incredible History of Central Thailand.

Chao Phraya, a river in what is now central Thailand, had once been the Mon Dvaravati culture’s home, which evolved from the 7th century CE to the 10th century CE. They were predominately Hindu tribes with Sanskrit names. Samuel Beal discovered the nation among the Chinese writings on Southeast Asia as “Duoluobodi.”

During the 20th century, archaeological excavations led by George Coedès uncovered Nakhon Pathom Province to be a center of Dvaravati culture. The two most important sites were U Thong (in modern Suphan Buri Province) and Nakorn Pathom. The Dvaravati inscriptions were in Sanskrit and Mon using the script derived from the South Indian Pallava dynasty’s Pallava script.

Territory of Dvaravati.

The main religion of Dvaravati is considered to be Hinduism and Theravada Buddhism through contacts with Ancient India, with the ruling class participating in Hindu rites. Dvaravati art, including the Hindu’s Shiva, Buddha sculptures, and stupas, showed strong similarities to India’s Gupta Empire. The eastern areas of the Chao Phraya region were subjected to a more Hindu and Khmer influence as the inscriptions are found in Sanskrit and Khmer.

Dvaravati was a system of city-states paying tribute to more compelling ones according to the mandala political model. Dvaravati civilization extended into Isan as well as the Kra Isthmus. The culture lost influence around the 10th century CE when they resigned to the more consolidated Lavo-Khmer republic.

Around the 10th century CE, the city-states of Dvaravati consolidated into two mandalas, the Suvarnabhumi (modern Suphan Buri) and the Lavo (modern Lopburi). According to the Northern Chronicles, in 903 CE, a king of Tambralinga attacked and took Lavo and placed a Malay king on the Lavo throne.

The Malay prince was ultimately married to a Khmer monarch who had fled an Angkorian dynastic bloodbath. The couple’s son contested the Khmer throne and became Suryavarman I, thus inducing Lavo under Khmer control through the marital union. Suryavarman I also extended into the Khorat Plateau (later styled “Isan”), building many Hindu temples.

Suryavarman I, however, had no male successors, and again, Lavo was independent. After King Narai of Lavo’s death, however, Lavo was plunged into a bloody civil war, and the Khmer under Suryavarman II took advantage by attacking Lavo and installing his son as the Lavo’s king.

The discontinued and repeated Khmer domination ultimately Khmerized Lavo. Lavo was reconstructed from a Theravadin Mon Dvaravati town into a Complete Hindu Khmer one. Lavo became the entrepôt of Khmer civilization and the influence of the Chao Phraya river basin. The bas-relief at Angkor Wat shows a Lavo troop as one of the aides to Angkor. One amusing note is that a Tai army was represented as a part of the Lavo army, a century before the “Sukhothai Kingdom” institution.

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