The Sukhothai Historical Park, situated near the Sukhothai provincial capital city in northern Thailand, displays the remnants of the Sukhothai Kingdom, which was acclaimed as the ‘dawn of happiness’ from the 13th to the 14th century. The city is shaped like a rectangle and spans approximately 2 km from east to west and 1.6 km from north to south, with 193 ruins scattered across 70 km2 of land. There are gates on each wall, and within the walls are the remains of the royal palace and 26 temples, including Wat Mahathat.
The park is maintained by the Fine Arts Department of Thailand and UNESCO, which has designated it as a World Heritage Site. Every year, the park attracts numerous visitors.
During the Khmer Empire, Sukhodaya served as an outpost and several monuments were built there. The Tai tribes rebelled in the mid-13th century, led by Si Indradit, and founded Sukhothai as an independent Tai state which remained the center of power until the end of the fourteenth century. Si Satchanalai or Sri Sajanalaya, another Khmer military outpost, is located about 50 kilometers to the north of Sukhothai. Some of the monuments built during the Khmer reign still exist in the Sukhothai Historical Park.
Before the 13th century, various Tai kingdoms existed in northern highlands such as the Ngoenyang and Heokam. Sukhothai was part of Lawo and initially a trade hub. Scholars suggest that Sukhothai’s separation from the Khmer Empire began as early as 1180 when Pho Khun Sri Naw Namthom was its ruler. Sukhothai regained its autonomy from the Lawo Mons in 1239, thanks to two brothers, Pho Khun Bangklanghao and Pho Khun Phameung. Bangklanghao expanded his kingdom and by 1257, Sukhothai encompassed the entire upper Chao Phraya River valley, known as Menam. While Thai history goes back further than Sukhothai’s founding, it is still an important event celebrated in Thai history.
During Ramkhamhaeng’s reign, the Sukhothai Kingdom expanded through conquests led by him and his brother. They brought neighboring kingdoms under their control, adopted Theravada Buddhism as the state religion, and enforced tribute from other areas. Ramkhamhaeng also promoted cultural exchange and allegedly invented the Thai script, as well as established trade relations with the Yuan Dynasty in China. The Sukhothai Kingdom produced Chinese-styled ceramics called Sangkalok for export, but their use declined in the 14th century.
Sukhothai rose to power but eventually declined after Ramkhamhaeng’s death in 1298. The kingdom lost control over its tributaries, including Suphanburi, under Loe Thai’s reign. Sukhothai became a local power and was invaded by Ayutthaya Kingdom in 1378. Though it was repopulated, Sukhothai suffered from the Burmese-Siamese wars. The old city was abandoned when Rama I founded New Sukhothai and moved the capital.