Nakhon Si Thammarat Kingdom

Nakhon Si Thammarat Kingdom (Thai: อาณาจักรนครศรีธรรมราช RTGS: Anachak Nakhon Si Thammarat), Nagara Sri Dharmarashtra or Kingdom of Ligor, was one of the major constituent city states (mueang) of the Siamese kingdoms of Sukhothai and later Ayutthaya and controlled a sizeable part of the Malay peninsula. Its capital was the eponymous city of Nakhon Si Thammarat in what is now Southern Thailand.

Nakhon Si Thammarat Kingdom
Anachak Nakhon Si Thammarat
13th century–1782
StatusVassal State of the Sukhothai Kingdom (c. 1283–1438), Ayutthaya Kingdom (16th century[1]–1767), Thonburi Kingdom (1769–1782), and Rattanakosin Kingdom (1782)
CapitalNakhon Si Thammarat (Ligor)
Common languagesSouthern Thai, Pali, Sanskrit, Tamil(for religious and ceremonial use), Malay
Theravada Buddhism (dominant),
Islam, Hinduism
Sri Thammasokaraj
Historical eraMiddles Ages, Early modern period
 Establishment of a Tai kingdom
13th century
 Vassal of Sukhothai
c. 1279–1298
 Vassal of Ayutthaya
16th century[2]
 Vassal of Thonburi
 Demoted to Rattanakosin province
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Rattanakosin Kingdom

Establishment and Sukhothai period

Most historians identify the Tambralinga kingdom (existing c. 10th to 13th century) with a precursor of Nakhon Si Thammarat. During the late-1st and early-2nd millennium CE, Tai peoples expanded in mainland Southeast Asia. By the 13th century, they made Nakhon Si Thammarat one of their mueang (city states).[3] The exact circumstances of the Tai taking over the earlier Buddhist and Indianised kingdom at this location remain unclear.

Nakhon Si Thammarat Kingdom as a vassal of the Kingdom of Sukhothai in 1293.

The Ramkhamhaeng stele of 1283 (or 1292) lists Nakhon Si Thammarat as the southernmost tributary kingdom of Sukhothai, probably ruled by Sri Thammasokaraj, a relative of King Ram Khamhaeng. Nakhon Si Thammarat's Buddhist Theravada tradition was a model for the whole Sukhothai kingdom.[4] Exemplary for the Southeast Asian Mandala model, the dependency towards Sukhothai was only personal, not institutional. Therefore, after Ram Khaemhaeng's death, Nakhon Si Thammarat regained its independence and became the dominant Thai mueang on the Malay peninsula.

Naksat cities

The modern seal of Nakhon Si Thammarat Province refers to the circle of twelve Naksat cities

According to the 16th-century Southern Thai Chronicles of Nakhon Si Thammarat and the Chronicles of Phra That Nakhon, Nakhon Si Thammarat was surrounded by a chain of twelve inter-linked cities, or Mueang, on the Malay Peninsula, called the Naksat cities (Thai: เมือง ๑๒ นักษัตร RTGS: Mueang Sip-Song Naksat). According to these accounts, the cities acted as an outer shield, surrounding the capital Nakhon Si Thammarat (Ligor), and were connected by land so that help could be sent from one city to another in the event of surprise attacks.[5]

The Thai term naksat (from Sanskrit nakshatra) refers to the lunar calendar system with a duodenary cycle of years (Pi Naksat), based on the Chinese zodiac, with each year being associated with a particular animal.

M.C. Chand Chirayu Rajani identified eleven of the twelve cities and their associated zodiac emblems with the following locations on the Malay peninsula: Narathiwat (Rat), Pattani (Ox), Kelantan (Tiger), Kedah (Dragon), Phattalung (Snake), Trang (Horse), Chumphon (Goat), Krabi (Monkey), Tha Chana (Rooster), Phuket (Dog), Kraburi (Pig). The exact location of Mueang Pahang, identified with the Rabbit, is unknown.[5]

However, there is no historic evidence that Nakhon Si Thammarat actually controlled these cities. Other reports from that period rarely describe Ligor as having any special role on the Malay peninsula.[6] The account in the chronicles seems to reflect the Siamese (Thai) claims to suzerainty over the Malay regions of the south during the mid-Ayutthaya period.[7]

Ayutthaya period

In the Old Javanese Desawarnana document of 1365, the Majapahit kingdom recognised Nakhon Si Thammarat as belonging to Siam.[8] The Palatine law of King Trailok dated 1468, listed Nakhon Si Thammarat as one of eight "great cities" (phraya maha nakhon) belonging to the Ayutthaya kingdom. Nevertheless, it maintained its own dynasty and had vassal states of its own, which it mediated to Ayutthaya[9] (again a typical feature of the Mandala model with its tiered levels of power). Under king Naresuan (r. 1590–1605) it became instead a "first class province" (mueang ek). However, the post of provincial governor was still quasi-hereditary and usually handed down from father to son within the old Nakhon Si Thammarat dynasty. It was the most important among Ayutthaya's southern provinces and enjoyed a primacy vis-à-vis the other provinces on the Malay Peninsula. Its role in overseas trade (involving Dutch and Portuguese merchants) resulted in the province's substantial wealth and contributed to a high level of confidence and claim of autonomy in relation to the central power.

During the Ayutthayan succession conflict of 1629, Nakhon Si Thammarat rebelled against the new king Prasat Thong. The usurper sent the influential Japanese adventurer Yamada Nagamasa with his mercenary force to quell the rebellion and made him governor and lord of Nakhon Si Thammarat for a short time.[10] Another insurrection of Nakhon Si Thammarat against the capital took place after the Siamese revolution of 1688 when the local ruler refused to accept the accession of usurper king Phetracha.[11]

Thonburi period

After the fall of Ayutthaya in 1767, Nakhon Si Thammarat again enjoyed a short period of independence, including its subordinate provinces on the Malay peninsula, but was subdued by Taksin in 1769 on his mission to reunite Siam.[12]

Rattanakosin period

Under Rama I, the rank of the Lord of Nakhon Si Thammarat was demoted from a vassal ruler to a mere governor of a first-class province and his control over the Northern Malay sultanates (including Patani) was taken away, instead awarding them to the governor of Songkhla.[13] Nakhon Si Thammarat was supervised by the Kalahom (Minister of the Southern provinces).[14] In 1821 and 1831 however, kings Rama II and Rama III again tasked the governor of Nakhon Si Thammarat to quell rebellions in the Malay sultanate of Kedah.[15]

Integration into the Siamese central state

With the Thesaphiban reform of Prince Damrong Rajanubhab at the end of the 19th century the kingdom was finally fully absorbed into Siam. A new administrative entity named monthon (circle) was created, each supervising several provinces. Monthon Nakhon Si Thammarat, established 1896, covered those areas on the east coast of the peninsula, i.e. the provinces Songkhla, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Phatthalung.

List of rulers of Nakhon Si Thammarat

The following table is a list of rulers of Nakhon Si Thammarat. The english terms "governor" and "province" are translations used by Munro-Hays in his book. However, there is strong evidence that both the rulers themselves and European powers regarded these rulers as kings in their own right. The Siamese term for Nakhon Si Thammarat changes over time. In the Palatine Law of 1458, it is a prathetsarat (often translated as tributary state) and the ruler entitled a chao phraya. Chao phraya is a general term for kings. For example, the main river running through Bangkok is the Chao Phraya River, or River of Kings. During the reign of Naresuan, the title prathetsarat was abandoned and Nakhon became a first-class "city". Again, the translation "city" is misleading and comes from the Thai mueang, which is also used for the capital of Siam, Ayutthaya. Official titles for cities and rulers in pre-modern Siam is complex. We know Nakhon was closely allied with Siam and that Ayutthaya became involved in succession politics, sometimes appointing outsiders to the position. However, most of the rulers were chosen from among the ruling elite of Nakhon.

Name of Ruler Years of Rule Title Name of Dynasty Siamese Historical Period
Luang Sri Worawong 1375-? governor
Luang Pirentrathep ?-? governor There is no record of a ruler in between Sri Worawong and Pirentrathep, but Munro-Hays cannot confirm with certainty that one succeeded the other, p.110
Maharacha Dynasty
*This is not an official dynastic title, but the historic records show a clear patrilineal succession.
Sri Maharacha I Maharacha founds Lantaka--unclear if he is King of NST or not
Sri Maharacha II (Phra La?) Maharacha son of Sri Maharacha I
Khun Indra I Maharacha son of Sri Maharacha II
Sri Danu (Khun Indra II, Sri Maharacha III) 1493-? Maharacha son Khun Indra I
First Era of Siamese-appointed Rulers
Khun Ratanakan governor ?
Sri Maharacha IV Munro Hays says he was appointed by Ayutthaya and not recorded in the chronicles as a relative of the previous ruling family (p.110).
Phraya Pontheparat 1495-? Chao Phraya Nakhon Sri Thammarat Munro-Hays says he was appointed by Ayutthaya (p.110)
Sri Thammarachadet Dynasty
*This is not an official dynastic title. The chronicles only clearly show that this period began with Sri Thammarachadet and ended with his grandson (or nephew) Sri Thammarat
Phraya Sri Thammarachadet 1497-? governor Sri Thammarachadet
Phraya Ramrachatayanam 1500-? governor possible alternative dynasty: Ramrachatayanam Munro-Hays simply lists him as appointed by Ayutthaya. Does not mention if he is related to Sri Thammarachadet.
Ramrachatayanam 1532-? governor possible alternative dynasty: Ramrachatayanam Munro-Hays simply lists him as appointed by Ayutthaya. Does not mention if he is related to the first Ramrachatayanam (he states: "nothing is recorded of his time as governor"). Borommarachathirat IV (1529-1533)
Phraya Sri Thammarat 1535-? governor Sri Thammarachadet grandson or nephew of Phraya Sri Thammarachadet Chairacha (r.1533-1546)
Second Era of Siamese-Appointed Rulers
*We have scant information on this time period, especially the end of the 16th century and the mid-to-end of the 17th century.
Phraya Ponlarat 1553-? Chao Phraya Nakhon Sri Thammarat former governor of Tenasserim Chakkraphat (r.1548-1569)
Intharathep governor Chakkraphat (r.1548-1569)
1612 his son was the governor of Phattalung
Abolished phraya maha nakhon. NST a first class province. Naresuan
??? ?-? Only seem to have mention of this rulers brother, Okphra Amorarit
Yamada Nagamasa 1629-1630 governor Japanese governor appointed by Ayutthaya (Siamese title: Okya Seniphimok) Prasat Thong
Okkhun Senaphimuk 1630-? Son of Yamada, Married the daughter of the unknown ex-ruler's brother (Okphra Amorarit)
? ? Sent from Ayutthaya, fell ill on the way. Does not mean not part of the local ruling elite, who often went to reside in Ayutthaya, perhaps as a means for Siam to control the succession.
1631 van Vliet writes that King Prasat Thong of Ayutthaya attacked Nakhon himself, though the details of this story seem to be mixed up with an expedition to Chiangmai (Munro-Hays, p.237).
1645 New governor arrives from Ayutthaya (Munro-Hays, p.138, citing the Batavia Dagh-Register).
1649 Ligor is occupied by Songkhla, which is united with Pattani and Phattalung (Munro-Hays, p.139)
Fa Chai
Si Suthammaracha
? Governor executed by Narai for murdering his former court poet (whom Narai had exiled to NST), Munro-Hays p.156. Narai
NST demoted to 2nd rank city Narai
Phraya Ram Dejo 1689-92 governor (pu rang muang) acting governor? Of Malay descent. NST reduced in rank. Nakhon did not accept the usurping of the throne by Phethracha and rebelled. Phetracha
Phumintharacha (Thai Sa)
Phraya Chaiathibet 1742-? Chao Phraya Nakhon Sri Thammarat Borommakot
Phraya Sukhotai ?-1758 Chao Phraya Nakhon Borommakot
Phraya Rachasutawadi 1758-1760 Chao Muang Nakhon Sri Thammarat Uthumphon (r.1758-1758) / Ekkathat (last king of Ayutthaya) /

Alaungphaya of Burma (1760-1767) took Ligor

Palat Nu Dynasty
*This is not an official dynastic title. The historic record clearly shows that Nu, Noi, Noi Klang, and Nu Prom was a patrilineal succession
Nu 1760-1767 Chao Nakhon Palat Nu Nu was deputy governor to Phraya Rachasutawadi and was known as Luang Sit Rai Wen Mahatlek or Phra Palat Nu. Munro-Hays says that although we have no information on Nu's origins, certain references in the Chronicles and the former titles he held suggest he was likely a member of the Nakhon ruling family. He immediately commanded loyalty from Chumpon in the North to Kelantan and Trengganu in the South. Ekkathat (last king of Ayutthaya)
Nu 1767-1769 Proclaimed himself King of all of Siam Palat Nu subdued by Taksin
Chao Narasuriwong 1770-1777 Chao muang pratetsarat Nephew of King Taksin, appointed while Nu sent to Thonburi. NST raised to status of tributary again.
Nu 1777-1784 Phra chao Nakhon Sri Thammarat / Chao Phraya Nakhon Palat Nu Nu also ruler of a vassal state (prathetsarat) and has power to appoint own ministers in same manner as court of Thonburi (Source: Chronicle of the First Reign by Chao Phraya Thiphakorawong). Nu's title was downgraded to Chao Phraya. Taksin/Rama I
Phat 1784-1811 governor Palat Nu former uparat, son-in-law of Nu (Munro-Hays, p.169). NST downgraded to a first class province Rama I/Rama II
Phra Aphirakphubet (Noi) 1811-1839 Chao Phraya Nakhon Sri Thammarat Palat Nu son of Nu (by Lady Prang), formerly assistant governor of Nakhon Rama II / Rama III
Phra Sanchamontri (Noi Klang) 1839-1867 Phraya Nakhon Sri Thammarat Palat Nu son of Noi Rama III / Mongkut (Rama IV)
Chao Phraya Suthammontri (Nu Prom) 1867-1901 1867-1894, Chao Phraya Nakhon Sri Thammarat

1894-1901, Pu wah ratchakarn (governor)

Palat Nu son of Noi Klang Mongkut/Chulalongkorn

Note: This table is under construction

Source: Munro-Hay (2001), pp.437-447 "Chronological Chart"

Further reading

  • Stuart Munro-Hay. Nakhon Sri Thammarat - The Archaeology, History and Legends of a Southern Thai Town. ISBN 974-7534-73-8


  1. Baker, Chris; Phongpaichit, Pasuk (2017). A History of Ayutthaya: Siam in the Early Modern World. Cambridge University Press. p. 50. ISBN 978-1-316-64113-2.
  2. Baker, Chris; Phongpaichit, Pasuk (2017). A History of Ayutthaya: Siam in the Early Modern World. Cambridge University Press. p. 50. ISBN 978-1-316-64113-2.
  3. David K. Wyatt (2004). Thailand: A Short History (Second ed.). Silkworm Books. p. 30.
  4. David K. Wyatt (2004). Thailand: A Short History (Second ed.). Silkworm Books. pp. 35, 43–46.
  5. M.C. Chand Chirayu Rajani (1971). "Background To The Sri Vijaya Story—Part I" (PDF). Journal of the Siam Society. 62: 174–211, at pp. 176–179.
  6. Stuart Munro-Hay (2001). Nakhon Sri Thammarat: The Archeology, History and Legends of a Southern Thai Town. White Lotus Press. pp. 129–130.
  7. G. S. P. Freeman-Grenville; Stuart Christopher Munro-Hay (2006). Islam: An Illustrated History. Continuum. p. 250.
  8. Fukami Sumio (2006). "The Rise of Tambralinga and the Southeast Asian Commercial Boom in the Thirteenth Century". XIV International Economic History Congress. Helsinki (72): 4.
  9. David K. Wyatt (2004). Thailand: A Short History (Second ed.). Silkworm Books. pp. 72–74.
  10. David K. Wyatt (2004). Thailand: A Short History (Second ed.). Silkworm Books. pp. 93, 96–98.
  11. David K. Wyatt (2004). Thailand: A Short History (Second ed.). Silkworm Books. p. 108.
  12. David K. Wyatt (2004). Thailand: A Short History (Second ed.). Silkworm Books. pp. 123–124.
  13. David K. Wyatt (2004). Thailand: A Short History (Second ed.). Silkworm Books. pp. 141–143.
  14. David K. Wyatt (2004). Thailand: A Short History (Second ed.). Silkworm Books. p. 146.
  15. David K. Wyatt (2004). Thailand: A Short History (Second ed.). Silkworm Books. pp. 149, 156.
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