Rama I (1782 - 1809)
King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke the Great
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Born in Ayutthaya, the son of a nobleman, Tong Duang spent his early years working as a page in the palace of King Borommaracha (Ekatat). As a young man, Tong Duang served as a general under Phraya Tak (later to become King Taksin of Thonburi). Together they fought many successful battles, primarily against the Burmese (who had invaded the country's capital Ayutthaya) and worked to unify Siam, which had been split into several separate kingdoms. Tong Duang's reputation as a powerful military leader grew and, at the age of 32, he was awarded the title of Chao Phraya Chakri (similar to Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces).
In 1782, while Chao Phraya Chakri was away fighting in Cambodia, a group of military rebels staged a coup d'état, forcibly removing King Taksin from the throne. Upon his return to Siam, Chao Phraya Chakri quashed the rebellion and proclaimed himself King.
Chao Phraya Chakri became the founder and first monarch of the House of Chakri, which remains the ruling royal house of the Thai Kingdom to this day. The name of a Siamese king was and continues to be considered sacred and therefore is never spoken. When the ex-military leader took the throne, he did not give himself a royal name, only being referred to as ‘Phan Din Ton' meaning ‘The First Kingdom'. It was the King's grandson, King Jessadabodindra (Rama III), who posthumously awarded him the title with which he is referred to today: Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke. And although the name Rama (taken from the Hindu god Rama) had been previously linked to the Siamese monarchy, it wasn't until the reign of King Vajiravudh (Rama VI, 1910 - 1925) that the practice of using the name Rama for the Chakri Kings was first introduced.
Following his coronation, the new King moved the country's capital from Thonburi to an area on the other side of the Chao Phraya River, which he called ‘Rattanakosin' (known as Bangkok today). There, His Majesty set about salvaging or replacing any important literary works that had been lost in the chaos after the Burmese sacked Ayutthaya in 1767. Many Thai translations of ancient Pali, Sanskrit and important Buddhist texts had been destroyed during the fighting. Nine out of ten of the countries law books were also either destroyed or missing. The King commissioned replacements for the lost translations and set about revising the laws of the kingdom, creating the ‘Laws of the Three Seals'. He also wrote a Thai, Buddhist version of the Ramayana epic called the Ramakien. It remains the only known complete version of the story in existence.
Under the King's reign Siam fought many territorial battles against the neighboring countries of Vietnam, Cambodia and Burma. With the successful defeat of her enemies the Kingdom's territory expanded much further and wider than it had ever done before.
In 1809, after a short illness, the King passed away. He was succeeded by his eldest son.
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Article written by Christine Oatley.
Asia Products LLC Thailand Discovery Pages provides articles a variety of topics including current events, politics, and travel ideas for learning about Thailand. Asia Products LLC also offers an e-commerce store selling Thailand products on http://www.asiaproductsllc.com. He is documenting some of his more interesting travels in his Thailand Travel Pages website : http://www.apllc-connect.com.