A Buddha’s Head Hiding Inside a Tree in Thailand Continues to Amaze

The ancient ruined city of Ayutthaya is one of Thailand’s most popular tourist destinations, with millions of visitors flocking there each year to view the spectacular temples and palaces left behind by the opulent Siamese kingdom.

The site’s main feature, however, is not a grandiose temple complex or a palace, but rather a solitary tree at Wat Mahathat. The answer is simple: if you look closely, you can see the Buddha’s tranquil face peering up from the aerial roots of this twisted banyan tree.

Buddhas face in roots of trees Wat Mahathat Ayutthaya Thailand

The Buddha’s head is a popular tourist attraction and the most photographed artefact at the archaeological site. It’s a fascinating image: the Buddha’s head peering out from the ancient tree’s twisted roots, appearing to come from the tree’s inner innards. Nobody knows how it got there or why it was put within this tree in particular.

Buddha’s head in tree roots at Wat Mahathat (Maha That) in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Province, Thailand

Ayutthaya was founded around 1350 and quickly became the second capital of the thriving kingdom of Siam. According to UNESCO, this lovely city was one of the most active, cosmopolitan towns in the region between the 14th and 18th centuries, and it served as a hub of world trade and business.

The success of Ayutthaya was due in part to its strategic position. It was perched on an island surrounded by three rivers that connected to the sea, making it easily protected from invasion while remaining open to trade and diplomatic envoys. Unlike many other villages in the area, it was also sheltered from seasonal flooding. It is hardly surprising that the city increased in significance and flourished during the late medieval and early modern centuries.

The cash that poured into Ayutthaya was invested in key construction projects. It is famous for its towering reliquary towers, also known as prang, which have a characteristic conical shape and are situated on beautifully carved plinths.

Furthermore, the city was home to a number of opulent Buddhist monasteries. Buddhism is an important part of Thai culture and history, and the ancient Siamese monarchy was a major supporter of what became the official religion. The city became regarded as a hub for Thai Tantric Theravada, which was a mainstream style of Buddhism in Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos, according to the BBC.

Mahathat temple

Ayutthaya’s affluence enabled the construction of several great monasteries and temples, including Wat Mahathat, also known as the Temple of the Great Relic, somewhere around the year 1374. This temple, located near to the magnificent palace, was one of the most significant in the city. The royal family made a yearly procession to Wat Mahathat to give sacrifices and pray for prosperity, and it was regarded as a royal monastery.

However, calamity hit the city in the 18th century. In 1767, the neighboring Burmese kingdom launched an attack into Siam, sacking Ayutthaya. The attackers destroyed the city to the ground, inflicting a terrible blow on the local populace and losing most of the city’s wealth, antiques, and historical records.

buddhas head in Mahathat temple is covered by roots of a tree

According to UNESCO, the temple of Wat Mahathat was plundered and set on fire, causing significant damage to the enormous Buddha sculptures that graced the temple and other city structures. Looters would take the heads of these gorgeous Buddha sculptures and bring them away to be sold throughout this time period and in later years.

This may shed some light on how the Buddha’s head ended up in the banyan tree at Wat Mahathat. It’s possible that some adventurous looter hauled off the head after 1767, only to learn he couldn’t carry it away. He concealed it under a banyan tree and never returned to retrieve his reward. The tree grew around the skull over time, and it now rests snuggled in its roots.

Ayutthaya, Thailand June 3, 2017: Buddha’s head in tree Roots. the head was fell off the main body to the ground. It was gradually trapped in to the roots at Mahathat temple.

Thailand, Ayutthaya Buddha’s head among tree roots, June 3, 2017. The head dropped to the ground from the main body. It was progressively absorbed by the roots of the Mahathat temple.
Whatever the reason, the Buddha’s head is one of the most interesting and strange sights in Ayutthaya, a city already brimming with architectural and historical treasures.

Must Read