The Thai people believe that Phra Sayam Thewathirat is a Deva-guardian, or supreme deity, who perpetually safeguards the Nation, the King and the Royal Family. The term was first used by King Rama IV (1851-1868) who realized that Thailand must have long had a Deva-guardian to protect her from all kinds of threat and calamity, thereby ensuring her survival, especially from Western colonialism which, in the end successfully brought all of Thailand’s neighbours under its control. In this regard, as a measure of the far-sightedness and prescience of Thai kings, King Rama III (1824-1851) warned his most senior officials near the end of his reign to start preparing the country against threats from the Western powers, stating that in the future there would no longer be any serious warfare with neighbouring countries, but only conflicts with the West, a prognosis that proved to be remarkably accurate.
As a result of this belief in the existence of a benevolent Devaguardian, King Rama IV commissioned Prince Pradit Worakarn, to create a statuette to give concrete expression to the idea and to provide an object for continuing worship and reverence, so that the Deva would protect the Nation and assure its prosperity, forever. Phra Sayam Thewathirat is an 8-inch high standing Deva image cast in gold, with the right hand holding a sword, and the left hand raised to the chest in a posture of blessing. The statuette was first placed in the Song Tham Throne Hall, where King Rama IV as well as successive kings after him would, by tradition, pay homage and present offerings of food and other worship items daily. The image has since been moved to the Phaisan Thaksin Throne Hall and set on a carved sandalwood base, having a design of a swan and dragon in front of a plaque with the words “The Abode of Phra Sayam Thewathirat” inscribed, where the figure remains to this day.
At present, the ceremonial offerings are performed twice a week, on Tuesdays and Saturdays. It is an ancient Thai belief that these two days are auspicious for holding ceremonies connected with all kinds of arms. Phra Sayam Thewathirat symbolizes a defensive weapon protecting the Nation and the Royal House of Chakri. An important offering-ceremony is also held on Thai New Year’s Day, or Songkran, which is celebrated on 13 April. Thus, the ceremonies are seen as a symbolic enhancement of the power and sacredness of the Deva.
In 1982, the year commemorating the Bangkok Bicentennial as the capital city. The image of Phra Sayam Thewathirat was brought out to the Dusit Throne Hall for the people to view and pay homage for the first time. Each time, the courtyard of the Throne Hall overflows daily with a constant stream of people vying to be in the presence of one of the most venerated images of the land.
Taken from: Thailand: Traits and Treasures. The National Identity Board, Royal Thai Government 2005.
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