Legends and Folktales customarily consist of tales and stories handed down from generations to generations. Not only do they reflect a particular cultural heritage in the form of entertainment but also an embodiment of local ideas, beliefs and surroundings. Cultural groups in Thailand have been traditionally divided into four geographic regions : north, central, northeast and south. Although they may have experienced different historical, social and cultural developments, all these four regions share a common belief in Buddhism and comparable tradition of agricultural society.
The Legend of Cham Thewi
Once upon a time, Suthewa, a hermit of Burapha Nakhon, inadvertently found a baby girl borne by a lotus flower. He took care of the baby until she grew up to be a maiden. The hermit was worried that the people would think that she was his wife. He then placed her on a bamboo raft floating along the Raming River. Fortunately the King of Lavo discovered her. He took care of her and brought her up as foster – daughter. Upon maturity, she was wedded to the King’s son, Prince Kamphotcha.
In the meantime, Burapha Nakhon was stricken by calamity because the King had failed to fulfill the ten virtues of any incumbent king. In fact, the guardian deity was angry, inspiring flood and inundation that resulted in the death of large numbers of people and animals. In response to this, Suthewa, the hermit, invited another hermit, Sukthanta, to found a new city named Hariphunchai (now known as Lamphun Province) and requested the King of Lavo to appoint Princess Cham Thewi to the new throne of Hariphunchai. Cham Thewi was very pleased and agreed to take the crown, especially since she could meet Suthewa again. Prince Kamphotcha refused to come with her, saying that Suthewa wanted to meet her alone. On her way to Hariphunchai the procession passed along the Raming River and many places were named in honour of Cham Thewi, who had passed the waterway before. Those names have survived to this day, for instance, “Ban Tak” is believed to be the place where Princess, Cham Thewi dried
her clothes after taking a bath and “Sam Ngao District” is the place where the Princess while pregnant, stayed by the river and when the sun shone on the Princess, it cast shadows of three persons.
Thao Saen Pom
A king who has established the kingdom of Chiang Saen, was invaded by a great king of Mons from the City of Satong. Since the King of Chiang Saen was unable to resist the invasion, he took flight to the south and established a new city called Trai Trueng. The fourth king of this new kingdom had a beautiful daughter who was fond of eating eggplant. A poor man by the name of Saen Pom kept a garden to grow eggplants. (“Saen Pom” means 100,000 skin growths all over the body). On one of the plots near his hut, big eggplants grew and Saen Pom always urinated on the plants. When he knew that the daughter of the King extremely liked eggplants, he picked the biggest one and presented it to her. The King’s daughter soon got pregnant and eventually gave birth to a fatherless boy. The King immediately summoned all the male subjects in the kingdom and asked each one of them to bring one kind of food. He used this occasion to prove that if the baby boy took any food given by one of them, that man was surely the boy’s father. The boy took the balled rice from Saen Pom and ate it. The King got so mad and embarrassed to find out that his daughter had chosen an ugly looking commoner. He expelled her and the boy including Saen Pom from the palace. Saen Pom took them to the forest. Since Saen Pom was divinely blessed, the God Indra transformed himself as a monkey and handed him a magic drum. He was told that if in his prayer, he made three wishes and then beat the drum, he would be granted all that he wished for. Saen Pom requested for all the skin tumours
to disappear so that he would be handsome, for him to rule a kingdom and for his son to have a golden cradle. All his three wishes were granted. He ascended the throne as King Sirichai Chiang Saen. A golden cradle was given to his son who later, after the death of his father, ascended the throne as King U Thong [Golden Cradle]. King U Thong later moved down to the south and established a new kingdom which later became known as Ayutthaya. He was then crowned under the name of Somdet Phra Rama Thibodi I. In history, Ayutthaya was known as one of the prosperous kingdoms in Southeast Asia. This can be seen in a number of great and artistic monuments and art objects. In fact, in 1991 A.D. the ancient historic city was declared one of the World Cultural Heritages.
Thao Pachit _ Nang oraphim
The origins of the city of Phimai [now located in Nakhon Ratchasima Province] are well depicted in the legend of the ruler of the Khom Kingdom. It was related that King Uthumrat of Nakhon Thom [Angkor Thom] sent his soldiers to find beautiful women for his son, Thao Pachit, to choose from as his bride. The prince, however, did not show interest in any of them. The king then called an astrologer to foretell the prince’s bride. The astrologer predicted that the future bride of the prince was in the womb of a woman farmer, who had a halo over her head. Prince Pachit travelled to find the woman until he reached Ban Samrit, located in what is now Phimai district. There he met a pregnant woman who was about to give birth. This was precisely as foretold by the astrologer. The Prince approached the woman and helped her in farming. Soon, she gave birth to a girl, named Oraphim. When the girl grew up she truly fell in love with Thao Pachit. One day, he asked for a leave to the city of Nakhon Thom and promised to return with a procession to take her home as his bride. At the same time, King Phrommathat, the ruler of the city of Phimai, who had heard of the beauty of Oraphim, sent his soldiers to capture her and kept her in his palace. Oraphim requested the king to wait for her brother to meet her before she could become his queen.
When Thao Pachit and his entourage reached the city of Phimai, on knowing what had happeded to Oraphim, he disquised himself and headed for King Phrommathat’s palace, informing the guard that he was the brother of Oraphim. The guard led him to Oraphim and when she saw Thao Pachit, she exclaimed “Oh! Phimai” [means “Oh! My brother comes”]. The expression later developed into “Phimai” and has remained so until today. Mean while, King Phrommathat was deeply pleased to see Thao Pachit since Oraphim promised that she was to become his Queen after having met her brother, Pachit. The king threw a big party to celebrate the occasion where Oraphim unceasingly served him liquor until the king was drunk and unconscious. Thao Pachit took the chance and beheaded the king. He fled with Oraphim to Nakhon Thom. On their way, they successfully overcame diverse obstacles confronting them until they reached the city. On their arrival, King Uthumrat bestowed the throne to Thao Pachit. According to some accounts, Thao Pachit and Oraphim returned to the city of Phimai, occupying the throne under the name of “King Phrommathat”. Furthermore, the new king offered a solemn cremation ceremony for the late King Phrommathat and dedicated to his memory a high rising crematorium in the heart of the city of Phimai, which is called “Phrommathat Crematorium”. It is located about 300 metres away from Prasat Phimai. Inside the Prang Phrommathat or Phrommathat Stupa, an ancient stone carving showed a woman with her palms together in worship of a man. It was believed that the woman was Oraphim and the man was King Phrommathat.
The folktale of Manora generally prevails in all regions of Thailand. However, in Southern Thailand, it has been performed as the traditional dance of the region, called “Nora”. The story of Manora unfolds as follows :
King Athittayawong of the City of Udon Panja had a son named Phra Suthon. One day, a brave, competent hunter named Phran Bun went to hunt at the faraway Himavanta forest. On his way, he came across seven kinnaris [half female-half bird creatures], who took off their wings and tails for a swim. The hunter used a noose to harness them and caught the youngest, Manora. He promptly brought her back to the city and presented her to Phra Suthon to become his wife.
One day, when the enemies attacked the capital city of Udon Panja the King authorized Phra Suthon to expel them. The night when Phra Suthon defeated the enemy, King Athittayawong dreamed that his intestines came out, binding the universe. He sent for an astrologer to interpret the dream. The astrologer who had wicked intentions toward Phra Suthon, deceptively predicted that it was a bad omen, for Phra Suthon had taken an evil woman from Himavanta as his wife. To ward off the bad omen, he had to offer Manora as a sacrifice. When Manora heard of the advice, she developed a tactic for an escape.
She requested to have enough ornaments that would make her more beautiful before her death. She put on wings and a tail and then performed fabulous dances that overwhelmingly excited the audience. Then she hastily flew back to her parents at Khao Krailat. However, since Manora had been associated with human beings for quite some time, she was ordered by her father to confine herself to a palace outside the city. Only when she succeeded in getting rid of the odour of human beings, she would be brought back to the city. Phra Suthon was surprised to know what had happened to Manora when he returned to the city after his victory over his enemies. He immediately went to Khao Krailat. At the time of his arrival in the city, Manora had just completed washing herself for the total of seven years, seven months and seven days . Thao Pathum, Manora’s father, heard of Phra Suthon’s arrival. The King thought that his guest had great powers and enormous tenacity so he asked Phra Suthon to demonstrate his powers until the King was happily satisfied. Then he ordered his seven daughters to sit together and asked Phra Suthon to identify Manora among the seven. If he could identify Manora, they would be allowed to get married. Since all the seven daughters were very much alike, Phra Suthon was extremely confused. By the power of Phra Suthon’s confusion transforming himself into a golden fly and landed on Manora’s hair. Phra Suthon then could point her out and they got married.
Taken from: Thailand: Traits and Treasures. The National Identity Board, Royal Thai Government 2005.
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