Phimai Historical Park located in the middle of Phimai District in Nakhon Ratchasima Province. Phimai Historical Park is the largest of all Khmer temples and one of Historical Park in Thailand. The complex measures over 1,000 meters long and almost 600 meters wide. The attraction structure is the highest main pagoda in Thailand, the height from the top to the bottom is 28 meters tall. Thai people called Prasat Hin Phimai that means Phimai Stone Castle.
Nowadays, Prasat Hin Phimai is a well-known, especially people interested in history, archaeology and Khmer arts. Phimai historical park was renovated during the second half of the 1960’s. It is placed on UNESCO’s tentative list for future listing as a World Heritage Site. So, Phimai Historical Park is perfect for someone who loves Khmer temple.
History of Phimai Historical Park
Phimai is a small rectangular gallery surrounding the courtyard, which has been newly rebuilt. Though built as a Mahayana Buddhist temple or Hindu temple, the carvings also feature many Hindu deities, and design elements at Prasat Phimai influenced Angkor Wat. Within the gallery there is a pre-Angkorean Buddhist inscription that tells the story of prince Siddhartha Gautama and his journey to becoming Buddha, along with other classic Buddhist stories. And the prang symbolize that the area is a sacred space.
Prasat Hin Phimai or Phimai stone castle is comparable with that of Angkor Wat which is important city in the Khmer empire. The Historical Park was original built during the 11th and 12th century in the reign of King Suriyaworaman I, which time the area was part of the Khmer empire after a large part of the Buddhist Kingdom of Dhvaravadi was conquered and became the domain of the Khmer Empire.
From stone inscriptions inside the principal tower also signify the Buddhist origin of Phimai, praising Lord Buddha and mentioning the name of King Suriyavaraman I as a Mahayana Buddhist, as well as specifying the years corresponding to the Buddhist.
The style of Phimai is Baphuon style but some characteristics are similar of Angkor Wat style, which became popular at a later period. Most buildings are from the late 11th to the late 12th century, built in Baphoun style, Bayon style and Angkor Wat style. However, the Khmer at that time were Hindu, the temple was built as a Buddhist temple. Some additions were made to the site in the early 18th Buddhist century when Phimai had close relations with the Khmer Empire during the reign of King Jayavaraman VII the great, who was a renowned fervent Buddhist. That make the sanctuary was always a religious site of the Mahayana sect of Buddhism because King Suriyaworaman I and King Jayavaraman VII were followers of the sect.
Prasat Hin Phimai was one of the major Khmer temples in ancient Thailand and constructed on the end of the ancient highway connecting with Ankor. This place is oriented towards the South East as the direction of Angkor in Cambodia.
Phimai Historical Park was opened by Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn on April 12, 1989 and Now managed by the Fine Arts Department
The attraction structures of The Historical Park
Phimai Stone Castle’s cultural and architecture decorations are heavily influenced by Khmer Art. Architecture on the temple shows of the ancient Khmer civilization for worshiping Shiva god in the Hindu religion. Ancient Khmer architects were best known for their superior use of sandstone over the traditional bricks and laterite architectures. Sandstone is used on the visible outer layer. Laterite on the other hand was used for the inner wall and other hidden parts. All the structures are huge sandstone blocks.
This place was intended to resemble the universe. The main building resembles of Mount Meru which is the center of the universe. The surrounding walls resemble the water and encircling mountains. The ponds around the temples symbolize of the oceans surrounding Mount Meru.
When you visiting Phimai Historical Park, first part you will see is Naga Bridges. Naga Bridge located in front of the Gopura or the entrance to the south of the main Pagoda, the bridge made by sandstone. Naga Bridge is starting point for journey to the sacred place for worship of the gods. The intention may have been to build a link between the world of humans to the world of Gods or the earth to the heaven according to beliefs concerning the universe.
The left of Naga Bridge is a small structure that call ‘Plabpla’ as a place where the King could prepare himself for ceremonies inside the inner sanctuary. This small structure is a rectangular building known as ‘Khlang Ngein’ or ‘Treasury’ because the archaeologists discover ancient bronze coins, jewellery, antiques and many artifacts.
The next structure is Gopura or the entrance as the wall around the sanctuary and above the entrance is a lintel of various designs. The porches and walls that are made primarily of red sandstone. From Gopura to entrance inside is a large corridor for connecting the outer and inner areas of the main sanctuary. After pass the Gopura, you will see the inner sanctuary which is surrounded by narrow corridor galleries. The lintels and pediments on top of the Gopuras contain finely carved pedictions of stiries from ‘The life of the Buddha’ and the Indian epic ‘Ramayana’.
The highlight of Phimai Historical Park is The main Prang or Pagoda that is the highest main Pagoda in Thailand bacause of the Pagoda is 28 meters talls. There also many Pagoda which are made of red sandstone, but the main or the cantral Pagoda is made entirely of white sandstone because white sandstone is more durable than red sandstone. The main Pagoda is on an open area in a curved walkway. The white Prang or the central Prang represents Mount Meru, the center of the universe. It enshrined the sacred linga, the symbol of Shiva.
This Pagoda was built during the 11th to 12th century. And two other towers, the Prang Hin Daeng and the Prang Bhramadat (to the right) were built in the 13th century.
The Pagoda consists of a base, outer walls, columns and porches. The Pagoda or Prang have many tiers and rests on a base, which is a tall re-dented cube like structure which set on other re-dented and ascending sandstone platforms. The most important room of the Pagodas are all about Buddhism reflecting the Buddhist influence. Below the tiers of the Prang was placed the linga of Shiva and Buddha inage.
The main Pagoda contains inscriptions dedicated to the Buddha, indicating that Phimai was built as a Buddhist temple. In the largest chamber inside the central Pagoda, thers is also a statue of the Buddha. That is a reproduction as the original figure sites in the Phimai Museum.
In addition to, there are also Phimai National Museum which houses Khmer artifacts and works of art from excavation, but not only from Phimai Historical Park. The museum displays a large number of artfacts from various sites in the lower region of North East Thailand. Phimai National Museum exhibits many items, including sculpted lintels and a statue of Jayavaraman VII, the statue was discovered in one of Phimai’s Prang and ceramic pottery.
Admission time and fees for entrance The Historical Park
The historical park is open daily from 07.30 am to 06.00 pm. and Phimai national museum is open daily too from 09.00 am until 04.00 pm.
Admission fees : for entrance to historical park is 40 baht per person. and 30 baht per person for entrance the museum.