Wednesday, 11 April 2012

230 Years of Bangkok as the Capital of Thailand

King Rama I
The year 2012 marks the 230th anniversary of Bangkok as the capital of Thailand. The history of Bangkok as a royal capital dates back to the year 1782, when King Rama I, or Phraphutthayotfa Chulalok the Great, established Bangkok as the capital.

The first king of the Royal House of Chakri, King Rama I built the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha complex, which is now a major landmark of Bangkok and one of the country’s important tourist attractions.

He was born in 1736 during the Ayutthaya period and became the ruler of Ratchaburi when he was 25 years old. Following the destruction of Ayutthaya in 1767, Thai people moved south to Thon Buri to regroup and restore their kingdom. King Rama I at that time was appointed a field commander of King Taksin the Great of the Thon Buri Kingdom. He is recorded to have fought many military campaigns before being given the title of Chao Phraya Chakri, the equivalent of a modern Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. When he accepted the throne, the title Chakri was applied to the family line and remains the name of the Royal House.

Grand Palace
After the death of King Taksin, Chao Phraya Chakri ascended the throne on 6 April 1782, when he was 46 years old. He started to establish Rattanakosin, or Bangkok, as the royal capital. Realizing that Thon Buri, on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, would always be threatened by enemy attacks, he moved the capital from Thon Buri to Bangkok on the east side. The architecture of the new capital was modeled after that of Ayutthaya, the former capital.

The establishment of the new capital was the starting point of the history of Bangkok. So the history of the Royal House of Chakri is, in fact, the history of the Bangkok period. Amid political changes in each period, the Royal House of Chakri has reigned over the kingdom for 230 years now.

The shortened official name of Bangkok is Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, meaning the Great City of Angels. The name “Bangkok,” as it is commonly known, is the original name, which comes from “Bang Makok,” or the riverside town of makok, the wild plum trees.

In the early days of its establishment, the Chao Phraya River and canals served as the main communication routes, resembling the former capital of Ayutthaya, and hence the appellation “Venice of the East” was inherited.

Dusit Palace
The city was first concentrated along the east side of the Chao Phraya River. In the fifth Reign, King Chulalongkorn opened the vista of the city beyond the original walls, when he had Dusit Palace built, linked to the Grand Palace by Ratchadamnoen Road.

Besides serving as Thailand’s capital city, the present-day Bangkok is also the center in every respect for the country, geographically and economically. It was named the world’s best city by the US-based Travel and Leisure magazine in 2008, 2010, and 2011.

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