THE KINGDOM OF LANNA

The Kingdom of Lanna - History of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya

Running parallel to the history of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya is that of the Lanna Kingdom, which ruled the mountain valleys of the North.

This was also a Thai state, friend of Sukhothai but foe of Ayutthaya, and maintained a largely separate development until the modern era.

The earliest inhabitants of the North were probably the Lawa, who were subsequently forced into the highlands where the valleys were taken over by the lowland people.

First came an offshoot of the Mons, led by a legendary queen, Chama Devi, who founded a capital in 660AD at Haripunchai, present day Lamphun.

Later, migrating Thais settled in parts of the North, setting up petty city states.

By the 13th century the most powerful of these was Chiang Saen, on the banks of the Mekong River, and in 1259 its ruler, King Mengrai, set about exerting his control over neighbouring Thai principalities.

Through patience and guile, he eventually became ruler of a state he was to call Lanna, meaning a million rice fields, for which he built a new capital, Chiang Mai, in 1296.

By the time he died in 1317, reputedly struck by lightning, he had brought much of what is now northern Thailand into one fold, Lanna, with Chiang Mai as its power base.

Immediate successors were kings of lesser stature and there were some troubled times, but the power of Lanna became such as to attract the hostile interest of Ayutthaya.

A see-saw kind of conflict persisted between Lanna and Ayutthaya from the mid 15th century onwards. This did not prevent Chiang Mai from experiencing its golden age during the reign of King Tilokaraja (1442-87).

He fought to a stalemate with Ayutthaya's equally forceful King Trailok, but scored notable successes elsewhere, conquering the state of Nan in 1449.

He was also a stalwart upholder of Buddhismand a patron of the arts, and several distinguished Chiang Mai temples and Buddha sculptures date from his reign.

In 1557 Lanna was conquered by the Burmese. Independence was lost for the next two centuries. The form of the eclipse, however, was erratic. Sometimes there were puppet Lanna kings. At other times, there was direct rule from Burma.

This state of affairs persisted until the late 18th century when King Taksin succeeded in expelling the Burmese from all Thai territory.

Lanna, although now part of the Thai fold, retained a certain autonomy under a line of hereditary rulers until the early 20th century when the central government assumed direct rule.

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