|The Ancient City of Ayutthaya|
Ayutthaya flourished for over 400 years and despite it being a turbulent time with battles, invasions and assassinations peppering much of its history, the Ayutthaya Kingdom is seen as the pinnacle of Thai power and influence. In 1360, King Ramathibodi declared Theravada Buddhism the official religion of Ayutthaya and invited Ceylonese monks to establish new religious orders and spread the faith. He also compiled a legal code, much of which remained in general use right up until the late nineteenth century. In 1378, the King Thammaracha II of Sukhothai (the previous capital of Siam) relinquished his power to Ayutthaya and by 1438 Sukhothai became a province of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya.
Meanwhile, Ayutthaya grew into a cosmopolitan and outward looking Kingdom. It became a major trading center with diplomatic ties to countries such as China, Japan, Persia, Spain, France and Portugal. Many of the early European traders were clearly amazed by the richness of the Kingdom. One report described the major cities of Europe as being mere villages when compared to the wealth of Ayutthaya, while another suggested that London should adopt Ayutthaya's idea of using street lights at night.
By the late 1700s, Ayutthaya had become a very rich and powerful Kingdom. However, the nation was suffering from an internal crisis. The absolute power of the King meant that commoners had no rights and hence no interest in the politics of the Kingdom. On the other hand, the ruling classes fought bitterly for power. Throughout Ayutthaya's history there were countless rebellions and attempts to seize the throne. As a result there was no unity among the people and insecurity within the Kingdom raged.
Then in 1765, the Burmese converged again on Ayutthaya. They took siege of the city for a year and two months, during which time they robbed and killed the people and raised the city to the ground. By 1767 the city was in ruins, with many buildings, art treasures and historical records being destroyed. The Burmese occupied the city for two years and the Thais fled to establish a new capital in Thoniburi, ending the great era of Ayutthaya.
Today, visitors to the World Heritage Park in Ayutthaya will find that only a few ruins remain, so it is difficult to visualize the splendor of Ayutthaya in its glory days, but what fragments there are, help us to realize that Ayutthaya was a very rich and vibrant period in Thai history.
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