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Buddha Head in the Roots

Interplay of Nature and God – Buddha Head in the roots of a Tree

Thailand is often called “The Land of Smiles,” as Thai people have an innate ability to smile through virtually every situation. 

So it is not surprising that in Thailand, we have a banyan tree, which made an interesting interplay with a man-made smiling Buddha face.

Before we can know why this Buddha’s Head got entwined in the roots of a tree, we need to understand the place’s history. 

History of Ayutthaya

The location of this Buddha’s Head is Ayutthaya, which is around 80 kilometers from Thailand’s capital, Bangkok.

Ayutthaya was founded in 1350 by King Ramathibodi I as the second capital of the Siamese Kingdom. The decision to establish Ayutthaya as the capital followed the decline of the Sukhothai Kingdom, the first Thai kingdom. The city’s name was derived from an ancient Indian city, Ayodhya, which is the birthplace of Lord Ram. 

The new capital gradually became a major center for trade and cultural exchange in Southeast Asia as it expanded its influence over neighboring regions, including parts of Cambodia and Laos.

Ayutthaya also attracted merchants from various parts of the world as it established diplomatic and trade relations with European powers, including the Portuguese and the Dutch. The kingdom became a hub for international trade commerce, and Ayutthaya’s prosperity grew.

The city’s economic prosperity also led to cultural and artistic flourishing. The kingdom’s architecture, art, literature, and religion thrived. The city became home to many large palaces, temples, and monasteries. The Ayutthaya Kingdom became a regional power for more than 400 years., reaching its peak in the 17th century.

However, like many prosperous kingdoms, Ayutthaya had its share of problems. The city faced a series of conflicts with the neighboring Burmese Kingdom. The Burmese-Siam Wars, also known as the Burmese–Siamese Wars, were a series of conflicts that spanned several centuries and involved territorial disputes.

In 1767, the Burmese invaded and sacked Ayutthaya, leading to the fall of the capital. The city was burned, and many of its inhabitants were either killed or taken captive. The city’s religious artifacts, cultural symbols, and many Buddha statues were also demolished in the process. 

Story of Buddha’s Head in the Roots of a Tree

There are many legends and theories about this strange incident. 

One theory suggests that the tree grew around the head of the Buddha when the temple was abandoned after the fight with the Burmese kingdom. 

Similarly, another theory also states that in the chaos that happened after the attack, a thief moved the Buddha’s head away from the main temple in Ayutthaya, possibly to sell or hide it. But after moving the stone Buddha’s head away from the ruined main temple, it is believed that for some reason, the thief couldn’t move the heavy Buddha’s head beyond the temple walls and left it by the wall. As time passed and trees grew, the Buddha’s head got nestled in the tree roots, which grew and entwined around it.

While the exact details of the story may vary, the legend remains consistent in local accounts and has become an integral part of the cultural narrative. 

Ayutthaya – UNESCO World Heritage Site

After the Burmese attack in the 18th century, the city remained mainly in ruins until the 20th century. 

The city of Ayutthaya is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the site’s architecture, art, and urban development. The historical park of Ayutthaya comprises many temples like Wat Phra Ram, Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Wat Mahathat, Wat Ratchaburana – the Royal Palace, and Wiharn Phra Mongkol Bophit.

Wat Mahathat is where Buddha’s head is entrapped by the roots of an overgrown banyan tree. 

If you visit the place, you will be mesmerized looking at this beautiful work of nature, as how the roots have gently made their way and encircled the Buddha’s face so elegantly. 

The Buddha’s Head is an iconic symbol of Ayutthaya, attracting visitors, tourists, and photographers. However, it is expected visitors show their respect while taking pictures or admire its beauty. 

Wrapping Up

It is just amazing to see how nature has carefully entangled a man-made figure. The Buddha’s head entrapped in the quagmire of roots symbolizes how Peace can exist amid disorder. It’s also a reminder of the interplay between nature and human history.

Watched this video to get a visual perspective.



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