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Ram Khamhaeng the Great
King of Sukhothai
Royal Statue of King Ramkhamhaeng The Great , located in the Sukhothai Historical Park , Sukhothai Province , Thailand
King of Siam
Reign 12791298
Predecessor Ban Muang
House Phra Ruang Dynasty
Father Pho Khun Sri Indraditya
Mother Queen Suang
Born around 1237-1247
Died 1298

Pho Khun Ram Khamhaeng (Thai: พ่อขุนรามคำแหงมหาราช; Pho Khun Ramkhamhaeng; birth: around 1237-1247; death: 1298) was the third king of the Phra Ruang dynasty, ruling the Sukhothai Kingdom (a forerunner of the modern kingdom of Thailand) from 1279-1298, during its most prosperous era. He is credited with the creation of the Thai alphabet and the firm establishment of Theravada Buddhism as the state religion of the kingdom.


Life and rule



His parents were Prince Bang Klang Hao, who ruled as King Sri Indraditya, and Queen Sueang,[1] although a legend describes his parents as an ogress named Kangli and a fisherman. He had four siblings, including two older brothers and two sisters. The eldest brother died while still young. The second, Ban Mueang, became king following their father's death, and was succeeded by Ram Khamhaeng following his own death.[2]

According to the Yonok Chronicle (พงศาวดารโยนก), Ram Khamhaeng, Meng Rai of Lanna and Ngam Mueang of Phayao were friends, as they all studied at the school of the rishi Sukathanta at Lavo. The Royal Institute of Thailand theorizes that the three were born close together; Meng Rai was born in 1239.


At the age of 19 he participated in his father's successful invasion of the city of Sukhothai, freeing it from Khmer rule and essentially establishing the independent Sukhothai kingdom. Because of his conduct at war, he was given the title "Phra Ram Khamhaeng", or Rama the Bold. After his father's death his elder brother Ban Muang ruled the kingdom and gave Prince Ramkhamhaeng control of the city of Si Sat Chanalai. On his accession, therefore, Prince Ram Khamhaeng had an established reputation for leadership.

RIT also gave another presumption that Prince Ram Khamhaeng's birth name was "Ram" (derived from the name of Hindu's hero Rama), for the name of him following his coronation was "Pho Khun Ramarat" (Thai: พ่อขุนรามราช). Furthermore, at that time there existed a tradition to give the name of grandfather to grandson; according to the 11th Stone Inscription and Luang Prasoet Aksoranit's Ayutthaya Chronicles, Ram Khamhaeng had a grandson named "Phraya Ram", and two grandsons of Phraya Ram were named "Phraya Ban Mueang" and "Phraya Ram".

Accession to the Throne

Historian Tri Amattayakun (Thai: ตรี อมาตยกุล) suggested that Ram Khamhaeng should have accessed to the throne in 1279, the year he grew a sugar palm tree in Sukhothai City.

Prof Prasoet Na Nakhon, fellow of RIT, supported that Thai-Ahom's monarchs, at least seven reign, held a tradition to grow banyan or sugar palm tree on the coronation day for they believed that their reign would stand tall as on a par with the said tree.


Ramkhamhaeng formed an alliance with the Yuan Dynasty of Mongol Empire, from whom he imported the techniques for making ceramics now known as Sawankhalok ware. A story describes his seduction of the wife of King Ngam Muang, the ruler of neighbouring Phayao - an event which may have helped him to form his three-way alliance with Ngam Mueang and with King Mengrai of Chiang Mai, both of whose kingdoms were to the north of Sukhothai. Ramkhamhaeng expanded his kingdom as far as Lampang, Phrae and Nan in the north, Phitsanulok and Vientiane in the east, Mon in the west, as far as the Gulf of Bengal in the northwest and Nakhon Si Thammarat in the south.

Ramkhamhaeng is traditionally credited with developing the Thai alphabet (Lai Sue Thai) from Sanskrit, Pali and Grantha script. He wanted Thai to be free of Mon and Khmer influence. He is also still respected as the king who introduced the style of benevolent monarchy that remains today.


According to a Chinese Chronicle, Ram Khamhaeng died in 1298 and was succeeded by his son, King Loe Thaior some Chronicle Ram Khamhaeng died in 1317.

Ramkhamhaeng University, the first open university in Thailand with campuses throughout the country and in some certain countries, has been named in fond memory of King Ramkhamhaeng the Great for his numerous contributions to the Kingdom of Thailand.

Copy of Ramkhamhaeng stele in the Sukhothai Historical Park

The Ramkhamhaeng stele

Much of the above biographical information comes from a stone inscription in the Ramkhamhaeng stele, now in the National Museum in Bangkok.

This stone was allegedly discovered in 1833 by King Mongkut (then still a monk) in the Wat Mahathat. It should be noted that the authenticity of the stone – or at least portions of it – has been brought into question.[3] Piriya Krairiksh, an academic at the Thai Khadi Research institute, notes that the stele's treatment of vowels suggests that its creators had been influenced by European alphabet systems; thus, he concludes that the stele was fabricated by someone during the reign of Rama IV himself, or shortly before. The matter is very controversial, since if the stone is in fact a fabrication, the entire history of the period will have to be re-written.[4]

Scholars are still divided over the issue about the stele's authenticity.[5] It remains an anomaly amongst contemporary writings, and in fact no other source refers to King Ramkhamhaeng by name. Some authors claim the inscription was completely a 19th-century fabrication, some claim that the first 17 lines are genuine, some that the inscription was fabricated by King Lithai (a later Sukhothai king), and some scholars still hold to the idea of the inscription's authenticity.[6] The inscription and its image of a Sukhothai utopia remains central to Thai nationalism, and the suggestion that it may have been faked in the 1800s caused Michael Wright, a British scholar, to be threatened with deportation under Thailand's lese majeste laws .[7]


  1. ^ Prasert Na Nagara and A.B. Griswold (1992). "The Inscription of King Rāma Gāṃhèṅ of Sukhodaya (1292 A.D.)", p. 265, in Epigraphic and Historical Studies. The Historical Society Under the Royal Patronage of H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn: Bangkok. ISBN 974-88735-5-2.
  2. ^ Prasert and Griswold (1992), p. 265-267
  3. ^ Centuries-old stone set in controversy, The Nation, Sep 8, 2003
  4. ^ The Ramkhamhaeng Controversy: Selected Papers. Edited by James F. Chamberlain. The Siam Society, 1991
  5. ^ Intellectual Might and National Myth: A Forensic Investigation of the Ram Khamhaeng Controversy in Thai Society, by Mukhom Wongthes. Matichon publishing, ltd. 2003.
  6. ^ ibid
  7. ^ Seditious Histories: Contesting Thai and Southeast Asian Pasts, by Craig J. Reynolds. University of Washington Press, 2006, p. vii>
  • ตรี อมาตยกุล. (2523, 2524, 2525 และ 2527). "ประวัติศาสตร์สุโขทัย." แถลงงานประวัติศาสตร์ เอกสารโบราณคดี, (ปีที่ 14 เล่ม 1, ปีที่ 15 เล่ม 1, ปีที่ 16 เล่ม 1 และปีที่ 18 เล่ม 1).
  • ประชุมศิลาจารึก ภาคที่ 1. (2521). คณะกรรมการพิจารณาและจัดพิมพ์เอกสารทางประวัติศาสตร์. กรุงเทพฯ : โรงพิมพ์สำนักเลขาธิการคณะรัฐมนตรี.
  • ประเสริฐ ณ นคร. (2534). "ประวัติศาสตร์สุโขทัยจากจารึก." งานจารึกและประวัติศาสตร์ของประเสริฐ ณ นคร. มหาวิทยาลัยเกษตรศาสตร์ กำแพงแสน.
  • ประเสริฐ ณ นคร. (2544). "รามคำแหงมหาราช, พ่อขุน". สารานุกรมไทยฉบับราชบัณฑิตยสถาน, (เล่ม 25 : ราชบัณฑิตยสถาน-โลกธรรม). กรุงเทพฯ : สหมิตรพริ้นติ้ง. หน้า 15887-15892.
  • ประเสริฐ ณ นคร. (2534). "ลายสือไทย". งานจารึกและประวัติศาสตร์ของประเสริฐ ณ นคร. มหาวิทยาลัยเกษตรศาสตร์ กำแพงแสน.
  • เจ้าพระยาพระคลัง (หน). (2515). ราชาธิราช. พระนคร : บรรณาการ.

External links

Ram Khamhaeng the Great
Born: (around 1237-1247) Died: 1298
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Ban Muang
King of Sukhothai
1279 – 1298
Succeeded by


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