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Ayutthaya: Capital of a Kingdom, Part 14
The Transition Period from (1768-1782)
King Taaksin to (1782-1809) King Rama I

King Taaksin
King Taaksin celebrated his official coronation in the new capital, 28 December 1767, after Ayutthaya was sacked and ruined by the Burmese.

After King Taaksin led Siam through a painful unification and a series of battles with the Burmese, the Kingdom enjoyed a brief period of peace. But domestic rebellions soon erupted, and a nervous breakdown eventually resulted in his exile from power. Taaksin's boyhood friend, Jao Phraya Chakri, was a popular candidate for the throne, as he had gained a loyal following in his heroics in war under Taaksin's leadership. Both Taaksin followers and those who did not agree with Taaksin respected him. He became the King of Siam under the title Phrabuddha Yordfah Chulalok, but is generally referred to as King Rama I, the first King of Thailand's current royal dynasty. BOYHOOD FRIENDS

The family lived near a Chinese couple whose baby was almost strangled by a snake. According to Chinese tradition, the baby should have been killed to prevent bad luck, but Siamese laws prohibited killing. A noble family of Jao Phraya Chakri (could be the Minister of Interior) who lived in the same neighborhood adopted and raised him in the capital. Jao Phraya Chakri convinced the couple that it would be good luck for the 4 day old baby (born, 17 April 1734) to come and live in his house. He named the baby Sin or Sihn, meaning "money and treasure", and predicted that he would grow up to become an important person. Indeed, Sin grew up to become one of the greatest Kings Siam has ever known. When Sin was 7 years old, he was sent to study with a monk, Phra Thong Dee, the abbot of Wat Gosawart.

 

King Rama 1
Jao Phraya Chakri took over the leadership on 6th April 1782 which eventually became Chakri Dynasty Day and the coronation took place on 10th June 1782. He built the new capital opposite Thouburi.

King Rama I was born Tong-Duang on 20 March 1737 in Ayutthaya. He was the eldest surviving son of a nobleman serving the reign of King Boromakot. He had two living brothers (one of these brothers, Boonma, later became Jao Phraya Surasee, co-King to King Rama I) and three sisters. As a very young boy, Thong-Duang ran and fell into a fire but was unhurt. It was a magical sign that someday he would become an important leader who would rescue the nation. Tong-Duang's ancestors were Mons who came away with Prince Naresuan, who declared independence in 1584 and left Pegu for Ayutthaya. The Prince gave those Mons a home at Wat Khun Saen, (which still exists in ruins in Ayutthaya) and they had served in Siam's government positions ever since.

Education in those days was found only in Buddhist temples where monks acted as tutors or coaches, teaching reading and writing and the moral precepts of Buddhism. When he was 6 years old, Tong-Duang was sent for an education with the abbot of Maha Talai Temple. Until Thong-Duang and Boonma were old enough, they were ordained as Buddhist novices at Wat Saamwiharn. Meanwhile, the abbot of Wat Gosawart sent Sin to be ordained as a novice at the same temple. It was here that the three boys met. Sin acted as a leader for the temple boys, organizing gambling and other delinquent activities.

The boys were whipped, and Sin got the extra punishment of being fastened to a ladder at the riverbank with his legs submerged in the water. Time passed and the abbots and monks forgot about Sin. At sunset, the high tide had come in, and by the time they remembered, the monks frantically rushed to the riverbank, expecting to see him drowned. But while he was still tied to the ladder, it got loose and floated to the top of the water. The monks took it as a lucky sign and prayed over Sin, asking supreme beings to show favor to him throughout his life.

After they left their novicehood, the boys were sent to work as pages in the palace of Prince Dorkmadua (later King Utoomporn), where they learned several languages. By the time they entered the Buddhist monkhood in their early twenties, they were fluent in Chinese, Indian and Vietnamese. While they were monks at different Wats, Sin at Wat Gosawart and Thong-Duang at Wat Mah-Talai, the young men often met on their merit alms rounds. Once, a Chinese fortune teller looked at their palms and predicted that they would each become Kings of Siam.

When King Utoomporn's elder brother Prince Ekatat became King of Siam, Tong-Duang was appointed as deputy-governor of Rajburi, where he married the daughter of a rich man. Meanwhile, Sin was promoted to Luang Yokrabut, a government position in the city of Taak. When the ruler of Taak died, Sin was promoted to Phraya Taak, and friends and followers began referring to him as Taaksin. Eventually, King Ekatat promoted Taaksin to rule Kamphaengphet.

Fighting The Burmese Invaders

Wat Aroon
Looking out from King Taaksin's palace, the view of Wat Aroon in the north remeins today. Thouburi capital lasted only 15 years.

Siam had been fighting the Burmese for more than a hundred years. Tong-Duang was a safe distance away at Rajburi, but Taaksin was asked by King Ekatat to help fight the Burmese in the capital. Tong-Duang and his brother Boon-Ma joined their friend Taaksin in Ayutthaya to help fight off the Burmese. Taaksin was sent to lead six battles against the Burmese. Finally, in 1767, the Burmese took the capital at Ayuthaya in a most violent and destructive fashion.

Taaksin proved to be a ruthless and strategic warrior, and earned himself the title Jao Taaksin (King Taaksin) after forcing Rayong to join forces with the rest of Siam. He forcefully coerced four appointed rulers to recognize him as the new King of Siam and fought at least three other battles with independent rulers to unify the Siamese territory against future Burmese attack.

As one of King Taaksin's generals, Tong-Duang became known by new title, Jao Phraya Chakri. He went to battle nine times as Taaksin's top general three of those battles he led without the aid of Taaksin.

Over the next several years, King Taaksin, with help from loyal friends like Jao Phraya Chakri, succeeded in unifying Siam as a loosely conglomerated Kingdom and driving out the Burmese invaders. Siam fought eight more battles against the Burmese, five of which Taaksin personally lead. He also ordered two attacks on Cambodia. Taaksin fought at least 23 battles in his life, and is rememberd as a great warrior.

But he also implemented several reconstruction programs during peacetime, but domestic rebellions and mental illness put an end to his rule. When Taaksin was exiled, his relatives were all imprisoned and his own prisoners were released and sought revenge on their accusers (During his life time, King Taaksin had at least 9 wives, 29 children and 9 grandchild). Fortunately for Jao Phraya Chakri, the rebels had no quarrels with him, and even respected him. They felt it was politically possible to raise him up as the new ruler of Siam, since Taaksin followers also respected his association with the former king. But Jao Phraya Chakri openly condemned the rebel leaders and had them executed just before taking the throne as King Rama I.

A New King, A New Capital

New Capital
Construction began on 6 th May in the same year and was finished in 1785. The new capital was officially named "Krungthep Mahanakorn Borworn Rattanakosin Mahintrayutthaya Mahadilokpob Nopparat Rajthanee BruiromUdom Rajnives Mahasathaan Amornpimaan Awataansathit Sakgatattiya Visanugumprasit"
The current palace at Thonburi was located on the west bank of the Jao Phraya River and hemmed in between two monasteries, Wat Aroon Raj Wararaam (Wat Jaeng) and Wat Tye Talaad. The location made it exposed to possible future Burmese attacks via the Three Pagodas Pass. To protect the wats and make it easier to defend the palace, the new King moved the capital from Thonburi across the river to what is now present day Bangkok. Woodworkers, canal builders, masons, fortification experts and other artisans flocked to build new palaces, administrative buildings, temples and strong city walls. With memories of long-gone Golden Ayutthaya, the small fishing township of Bangkok was transformed into "The City of Angels". The King oversaw construction of Dusit Palace and established a royal family, appointing his brother Jao Phya Surasee as the Co-King. He also built a Royal Chapel, where he placed the sacred image of the Emerald Buddha, which can still be seen today.

See related articles (History of Ayutthaya):


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