Ram Khamhaeng Day in Thailand Date in the current year: January 17, 2024

Ram Khamhaeng Day in Thailand Ram Khamhaeng Day (Wan Pho Khun Ram Khamhaeng Maharat) is observed in Thailand annually on January 17. It commemorates the day the future King Rama IV discovered the Ram Khamhaeng Inscription in 1833.

Pho Khun Ram Khamhaeng Maharat, also known as simply Ram Khamhaeng or Ramkhamhaeng, was the third king of the Phra Ruang dynasty, who ruled the Sukhotai Kingdom from 1279 to 1298. The Sukhotai Kingdom is regarded as the first Thai kingdom, and it is generally believed that Ram Khamhaeng’s reign was its golden era.

Ram Khamaeng was the third and youngest son of King Si Inthrathit, the first king of the Sukhotai Kingdom and the founder of the Phra Ruang dynasty. His eldest brother died at a young age, and the second brother, Ban Mueang, succeeded their father as the king in an unknown year and reigned until his death around 1279. Ram Khamaeng ascended the throne upon his brother’s death and ruled for nineteen years.

During his reign, Ram Khamaeng maintained close relationships with the rulers of neighboring city-states, such as Chaing Mai and Phayao, and sent embassies to China (then ruled by the Yuan dynasty). He went to war with the Khmer Empire (Kambuja), leaving it devastated, and is believed to have expanded his kingdom in all directions (although it should be noted that during that time, a kingdom was as strong as its capital, and territory mattered less than it does today).

Ram Khamhaeng is known as the “Father of the Thai language” because he is credited with creating the Thai script, derived from the old Khmer script. He is also credited with bringing the art and craft of ceramic making from China to the Sukhotai Kingdom, and establishing Theravada Buddhism as the state religion of the kingdom.

Most of the traditional biographical information about Ram Khamhaeng comes from Sukhotai Inscription No. 1, commonly referred to as the Ram Khamhaeng Inscription. It is a 13th-century stone stele bearing inscriptions that are regarded as the earliest example of the Thai script.

The Ram Khamhaeng Inscription was discovered in 1833 by Prince Mongkut, the second son of King Isarasundhorn (Rama II) and younger half-brother of King Nangklao (Rama III). Mongkut was ordained as a Buddhist monk in 1824, following an old Siamese tradition that young men should spend some time as monks, and dedicated the next 27 years of his life to religion.

In 1833, Mongkut made a pilgrimage to the ruins of the ancient city of Sukhotai, which used to be the capital of the Sukhotai Kingdom. He discovered the stele among the ruins and brought it back to Bankgok. Mongkut made initial studies of the inscription and then established a commission tasked with its deciphering in 1836. However, the first satisfactory Thai-language work on the inscription was published in 1898, years after Mongkut’s death.

The anniversary of the day when Prince Mongkut founded the Ram Khamhaeng Inscription is observed in Thailand as Ram Khamhaeng Day. Although it is not a public holiday, special events are held at the Sukhothai Historical Park to celebrate the occasion. They include historical re-enactments and cultural performances.

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