Friday, March 25, 2011

Bangkok Name - Wat Suthatthepwararam

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Strolling along the King River, at Taksin BTS station, I saw modern and high buildings on the River's both sides.  The roof’s architectural style of some buildings tells me that I am in the Eastern World.  I find particularly stunning the way how these building were built.  I mean, on these building I see a synthesis between both Western and Eastern styles;   It looks like someone dressing smarter!  This last subjective point of view remembers me that Bangkok currently is not only one of the largest cities in Southeast Asia -living roughly 10 million people- but also a cosmopolitan and very modern city.  Besides, due to its many canals Bangkok is well known by Western people as the “Venice of the East”.
On future posts I will talk about how and when these canals were dug.  I am planning to make a tour along some canals and take some pictures.  But what I want to talk about is on the brief story of Bangkok’s name.
Bangkok was founded in 1782 by King Rama I (named Phra Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke).   It situates on the Great Chao Phraya River Delta which flows from the North down to the Gulf of Thailand.  Thais will never call their capital city Bangkok – This city in Thai is known as Krung Thep (กรุงเทพ), which roughly translates to 'City of Angels'.  This name is still used among the Thais today as always,  while the foreigners know Krung Thep as Bangkok.
Well, let’s take a look back on the history.  Since the destruction of the Thai Kingdom’s old capital Ayutthaya near Thonburi, which was then Siam, the new city which is where Bangkok now stands has changed its name four times. The then King Rama I built this new city on the opposite bank of the Menam River to the old city. This new capital, off the Chao Phraya River, was not but a small village; however, two years later it was renamed, Rattanakosin in 1787. During the reign of King Rama III, the name was altered again to what it is now, but barely ever uttered.  The name that King Rama III granted for the new capital of Thailand, is the city’s present name.
The King Rama I gave a very long name to the capital, i.e. Krung Thep Mahanakhon Bowon Rattanakosin Mahinthrayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udom Ratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Phiman Awatan Sathit Sakkathatiya Witsanukam Prasit. (Later, King Rama IV (1851-1868) changed the word "Bowon" in the full name into "Amon".) This long name is still a world record, though in normal usage it is shortened to "Krung Thep".   In English this long phrase (name) means:  “The City of Gods, the Great City, the Residence of the Emerald Buddha, the Impregnable City (of Ayutthaya) of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace which resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn.”
In the early Rattanakosin period (1782-1851), Bangkok remained a quiet place. It was covered with lush vegetation and had waterways as its chief routes of transportation. The capital underwent some development based on Western models in the reign of King Rama IV who ordered road building, canal digging, ship building, and a reorganization of the Thai army and administration. The great reform occurred in the reign of King Rama V (1868-1910) who brought the nation into modernization. In 1932, a revolution was staged and the political system was changed into constitutional monarchy. Bangkok on the east bank known as Krung Thep or Phra Nakhon became a province and Thon Buri on the west bank became another province. In 1971, the two provinces were merged under the name of Nakhon Luang Krung Thon Buri or Bangkok-Thon Buri Metropolis. One year later, the form of local government in the metropolis was reorganized and the province obtained a new name as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon or popularly called Krung Thep for short. 

The word -Bangkok is derived from two primitive Thai words, i.e. "Bang" means Village and "Kok" means Olive, thus its original meaning is "Village of Olive".  In the olden days, Bangkok was just a small agricultural and fishing village where people traveled mainly by rowing boats.   After reading this brief story, standing up on the King River close to Taksin Bridge, I could imagine for a while that these high buildings were tall strong green trees and that the sound of the traffic was the sound of wild animals, yes, I am a wander, a pathfinder!
























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