This old temple, originally Wat Sampheng, built during the Ayutthaya period, was abandoned due to Burmese raids, but restored by Rama I’s brother Prince Surasinghanat in honour of their father, and renamed Wat Phatum Khongkha (Lotus of the Ganges River) and from that time, just like the Ganges- it was associated with the religious disposal of the dead.
Due to degradation and it’s exposed riverside position, the temple needed extensive repair at least every 50 years, one of the most extensive being by a Chinese merchant Phraya Sawadiwari, and his nephew, during the reigns of Rama III and Rama IV.
From the establishment of Rattanakosin in 1782, the temple was a centre for royal funeral observances. In the early days a portion of the royal ashes (the residual were kept in the Grand Palace) were transported here by barge and lowered into the river for dispersal. Today barges with royal remains pause at the temple and continue downstream for dispersal in a strong current.
In most South East Asian monarchies the possession of White Elephants was the preserve of the monarch. In Siam, when they died their bodies were transporter by barge to this temple, interred near the temple or sunk in the river. Today remains are buried elsewhere or the bones are exhibited within the Grand Palace compound.
The Rattanakosin era echoed many traditions of Ayutthaya – in the old capital royal executions were carried out at Wat Khok Phraya or “The Monastery of the Mound of the Kings” – the method used was to tie the victim in a red velvet sack, and dash in the chest or throat with a club of sandalwood. By this means the royal body was not touched (burst). Royal blood was not to touch the ground. In reality trying to hit an often moving object in a sack led to a prolonged agony of the victim. Executioners were often ordered to hinder the “coup de grâce “. Wat Khok Phraya in Ayutthaya was the killing ground for five dynasties of kings starting by the U-Thong and ending by the Ban Phlu Luang Dynasty, Ayutthaya’s last
“In 1633, during the third year of King Prasat Thong’s reign,
the usurper king succeeded in killing nearly all scions of King Songtham at Wat Khok
Phraya. The Dutch explorer Van Vliet wrote: “Hereupon the three boys (who together were about
eighteen years of age) were apprehended, taken to the same place of execution,
and killed in the same manner as their lawful uncle and their four brothers. The
woman was cut in two and her remains were thrown into the river”.
Wat Phatum Khonkha –
– the execution ground of the early Chakri dynasty.
In the present car park of the temple is the Thaen Hin Paraharn Kabot ( rebel execution stone). This was used to execute Prince Rakronnaret, once a favourite of King Rama III and an extremely high ranking prince, who was found guilty of arrogance, accepting bribes and corruption, such as taking funds given expressly as religious offerings. He was also accused of treason -trying to succeed the king by choosing himself as the Uparat ( heir presumptive) rather than the king to be Rama IV, and of favouring male actors to his many wives.
He was thus demoted to Mom Kraison, and was sentenced to death by sandal wood club, which was done after he was flogged 90 times. Three accomplices, a judge, a deputy and an official were beheaded. Four others were dismembered. The shrine with the execution stone was erected by the Prince’s descendants – the Phoengbun family.
There were others. King Rama 1 ordered the execution of one concubine for attempting to lure him with love potion and another for attempting to burn down the palace. The first 20 years of execution at this site are presently unrecorded.
The first still existing records date from 1804, when the Princes Inthapat and Lamduan and their subordinates were convicted of attempted usurpation of the throne of Rama I. They were sons of the King’s brother Surasinghanat, and executed at the temple which he had rededicated in honour of the King’s father, the founder of the Chakri dynasty.
Another was a son of King Taksin, Prince Kasatranuchit, who was also a grandson of Rama I (one of his daughters, Chim Yai, was a wife of Taksin and the mother of the Prince). He was executed together with his younger brother, a younger sister, all of his six sons, and forty subordinates.
In total over 40 recorded executions of royalty took place here, together with many more of their subordinates and servants, and those found treacherous to the ruling family.
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