PHRA BUDDHA YODFA CHULALOKE MAHARAJ KING RAMA I (1782-1809)
His Majesty King Phra Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke, the first king of the Chakri Dynasty who established Bangkok as the capital of Thailand. The most renowned event in his reign was the Burmese-Siamese War of 1785, which was the last major Burmese assault on Siam. Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke was also the first Somdet Chao Phraya, the highest rank the nobility could attain, equaled to that of royalty.
King Rama I, who was formerly known as Duang or Thong Duang was born in Ayutthaya on March 20, 1737 during the reign of King Barommakote. Following the fall of Ayutthaya in 1767, he entered the King's service as an officer of the royal household. Later, at the age of 25, he was promoted to be the governor of Ratchaburi Province and played an important part in helping King Taksin restore the country's sovereignty many times. He was created Luang Yorkrabat, then Phra Rajvarin, Chao Phraya Chakri and eventually Somdetch Chao Phraya Maha Kashatriya Suk by King Taksin, and following the deposition of King Taksin in 1782 was chosen as king, becoming the founder and first ruler of the House of Chakri. He was crowned King at the age of 46 in 1782 and reign for 27 years, dying at the age of 73.
After his coronation, he decided to move the capital from Dhonburi to the opposite bank of the Chao Phraya River, thus founding the city of Bangkok, as the land there was level with vast space for expansion. Besides, it offered excellent security against enemy attacks.
King Rama I, after considering the pros and cons from a military strategic and economic point of view, decided to move the capital to the new site. He, therefore, erected the city's sacred foundation post as will as transferred the Lord Buddha's relics to a temporary shrine in a definite indication as to where the new capital city would be located. After the foundation post was officially erected, King Rama I moved to the new site and stayed in a temporary palace made of wood. Soon after, the construction of the new palace building began and included the Grand Palace where installed the Emerald Buddha in the Chapel Royal, Dusit Mahaprasat Hall, Pimarnrattaya Hall, Ammarin Vinichchai Hall, and Chakkrabhat Piman Hall, with residential buildings on both side of the Chakkrabhat Piman Hall.
In ruling the country, King Rama I was very democratic. He would listen to other people's ideas since he believed that the kingdom did not belong to him alone. Consequently, the people had their say and helped in running the country.
When the new capital city was being built, King Rama I was constantly thinking of the welfare of the people. So after digging canals for the defense of the country, he ordered the digging of the Mahanak canal strictly for the people to use as a waterway.
King Rama I also revised the law making it suitable to the changing times. In a book called "King Phra Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke and his Cultural Revivals" written by HRH Prince Phitayalap Phreuttayakorn, a part reads, "His Majesty the King was worried about the missing law books, nine out of ten of which were destroyed or found missing after the Burmese sacked Ayuthaya. In 1804, King Rama I made a major revision on the laws of the kingdom and came out with a new one called "Laws of the Three Seals" which consisted of civil and military sides.
King Rama I did much in terms of religious reform with the noble aim to make Buddhism outer for the Rattanakasin era. In 1788, he ordered the grand council held by Buddhists to revise the Tripitaka as in the previous ones there were many errors.
King Rama I considered literature of highest importance. He called an assembly learned people and monks to revive Thai literature and bring it to the level of what it was during the Ayutthaya period. His most outstanding literary work was the epoch Ramayana. The Ramayana has really captured the Thai hearts in all respects. Furthermore, his literary works also include the famous E-Now, Dalunk and Anurat and an epic concerning the war against the Burmese at Ta Din Daeng.
King Rama I also promoted the field of architecture, sculpture and drama. He collected old Buddha images from all over the country and enshrined them in temples in Bangkok. King Rama I fought in many wars, protecting the country from foreign forces and had always defeating them. He thus expanded Thai territory farther and wider than it had been before. It is therefore deemed most appropriate to accord King Rama I the title "The Great" on the occasion of celebrating the Bangkok, or Rattanakosin Bicentennial.