Walking down the pathways in those ancient temples, I was most amused by the shape of the bricks on which I was walking and climbing. Quite a lot of them were inwardly curved at the center and it was becoming uncomfortable to climb the endless stairs with those anomalies. Having been looking at them for a while, I could notice a slight pattern in the ones which were curved and the ones that weren’t, but could fathom none.
I was strolling in the old capital of the kingdom of Siam (present day Bangkok, Thailand). Built in 1350 AD, flourishing as one of the most glamorous centers of foreign trade and destroyed in 1767 AD during the Burmese attack, Ayutthaya, in its glorious days had been an attraction to adventurers, travelers, diplomats, merchants, mercenaries and missionaries. Today, it stands as a historical site, enchanting travellers from all over the world. The old capital today, consists of the Royal Palace and all the temples that stand on the palace grounds. Surprisingly enough, Ayutthaya has been named after our very own Ayodhya, while the monarchs have all been titled after King Ram. The current and the tenth king of the Chakri dynasty has been titled ‘King Rama X.’
It was a steep climb to Wat Phra Si Sanphet – six hundred and sixty five years old, the grandest and the holiest temple on the site of the Royal Palace. With tall spires adorning the base structure, it looked completely out of this world. The bricks are exposed and have duly withstood the ramifications of time and with each passing years have only become more graceful. There is a strange calm that has settled in the temples, as if having witnessed everything that the world could possibly show, there is nothing that could surprise them anymore. As if with the monks, the bricks have grown wiser too.
Two larger-than-life Buddha statues sit meditating on either side of the entrance. The entrance is made of a steep flight of twenty-eight steps, which leads you to a narrow passage way containing another eleven steps. Before you enter the narrow passage way, there are two flights of steps on either side taking you to outer periphery of the temple. The inner sanctorium has eight sides and every side has a niche with a Bronze Buddha meditating within. In the centre is a well which goes deep, finally hitting a wooden floor. Strangely, despite having hundreds of tourists flocking in and out of the sanctorium, I felt immensely at peace with everything I have going on in life in that old temple in a city I never thought I’d ever visit.
I climbed the stairs to go to the outer periphery of the temple and reached a platform like pathway, which monks used to circumambulate the main structure. I was alone, the entire city of Ayutthaya sprawled beneath my eyes. Standing there, thinking of my previous visits to Buddhist monastries in Dharamshaala, Darjeeling and Manali I was visualising my conversations with the Buddhist monks that had taken place because of their unending magnanimity and my blatant curiosity. As I tried to recall the words, their faces came in and slowly their expressions. All I could clearly remember was the weight of their words, the weight in their expression and it suddenly dawned on me that those inward curves weren’t designs on the bricks; they were the marks left by the ancient monks of Ayutthaya by simply walking on the same bricks everyday.