Wat Ban Krang, located in Ban Krang Subdistrict, Si Prachan District, Suphan Buri Province, is situated on the west bank of the Suphan River (Tha Chin River). This ancient temple, believed to be around 400 years old, was built during the Ayutthaya period. It is renowned for the discovery of Phra Khun Phaen Ban Krang amulets.

Phra Khun Phaen from Wat Ban Krang is made of Ayutthaya-style baked clay. It is believed that after the royal battle between King Naresuan the Great and the Crown Prince of Burma, the returning army camped along the banks of the Suphan River. King Naresuan ordered the soldiers to create 84,000 amulets, which were then enshrined in Wat Ban Krang to dedicate merit to the soldiers who had died in battle.
It is also home to the legend of the great warrior Khun Paen, thought to have originated in the period BE 2034-2072, during the reign oif King Rama Dhibodii II. This is the reason that a sacred amulet first discovered at Wat Bang Krang, which was to become one of the most popular pims in Thailand, was given the name Phra Khun Paen.

Phra Kru Wat Ban Krang amulets were discovered around BE 2447 from a stupa behind the old vihara in Wat Ban Krang. It is said that when the amulets were newly unearthed, the monks and villagers placed the numerous amulets of various types under a large Bodhi tree near the vihara.

It was recorded there were a total of 20 different variants, mostly distinguished by facial features, for example;

Pim Na Yak(giant face)

Pim Na Devada (fairy face) with single roof

Pim Na Devada(fairy face) with double roof

Pim Sian Tor(big head Buddha Image)

Pim Na Gae(old face)

Pim Na Russi(ascetic)

Pim Na Noom(young face)

Pim Na Yao(long face)

Pim Na Yao Sam Kid (long face with three lines)

Pim Na Klom( round face)

Pim Kao Soong(high knee)

Pim Ok Krut (Garuda breast)

Pim Ok Lek (Small Chest)

Pim Na Mongkol Yai ( auspicious face) (big size)

Pim Na Mongkol Klang ( auspicious face) (medium size)

Pim Na Mongkol Lek ( auspicious face) (small size)

Pim Song Pang (two-style Buddha Images)

Regarding the Phra Khun Phaen amulets of the Samathi or Pim Yai from the Ban Krang Temple in Si Prachan, Suphan Buri Province, these are baked clay amulets characterized by a rough interior with a considerable amount of sand. They are one of several styles from the Ban Krang Temple, featuring the craftsmanship of the Ayutthaya period, and were created no more than 700 years ago.

The Phra Khun Phaen amulets of the Large Figure type are housed within a bell-shaped arch, depicting the Buddha in a meditation posture, exuding grace and majesty. They are considered “the ultimate warrior amulets” and are among the most valuable from the Ban Krang Temple. In these amulets, the Buddha’s head does not touch the arch. The hair curls in a crescent moon shape, the nose is broad and thick, the mouth is curved and prominent, and the eyes are round. The robe (Sanghati) has a forked end resembling a swallow’s tail. The Buddha’s wide lap shows the edges of the robe, with two lines at the knees and ankles.


The distinctive feature of the Phra Khun Phaen coating at Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon is the lacquer coating, which is applied only to the front side. The color tends to be in shades of brown because it is only applied to the front. The coating is created from a mixture of white clay and lime..

There are two main pims: Pim Ok Yai and Pim Kaen both inside a glass enclosure, the buddha image sitting in the Maravichi posture exhibiting qualities of compassion, mercy, and greatness, known as “Krop Jakrawan”. Additionally, other sacred images, such as the red-copper Phra Khun Phaen Shin Thakrawan and Khun Paen Bai Phutsa in both clay and metal.

This amulet is often classified as the prototype to todays modern Khun Paen pims, this amulet is over 300 years old and was consecrated during the reign of King Narusuan the Great

It is believed that the Phra Khun Phaen coating was created by Phra Phanarat, a teacher of King Naresuan the Great, and was enshrined in the main stupa during the occasion when King Naresuan the Great challenged and defeated the Burmese forces. He then built the Great Pagoda as a memorial at Wat Pa Kaeo, which is now Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon.

The Phra Khun Phaen coating is not only found at Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon but also in various other temples. However, they do not have the same lacquer coating but share the same mold as Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon. In 2506, at Wat Chong Tha in Nonthaburi province, similar molds were found, but the lacquer was clearer and less intense compared to those at Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon.

khun Paen Wat Chai Mongkhon

Clandestine excavation of the temple for artifacts in the year BE 2478 resulted in The Fine Arts Department declaring Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon as a national historical site, and in 2499, Phra Khru Phawanarangsi (Phra Rong Chaiyan) took charge of the restoration of the pagoda. Monks also began to reside and observe the rains retreat (Phansa).

In 2500, Phra Khru Phawan requested cooperation from the Fine Arts Department to conduct further excavation. Golden Buddha images were found beneath the central base of the pagoda along with evidence that treasure hunters were still actively pilfering sacred artifacts. Eventually, a joint resolution with the Fine Arts Department was made to cease all excavations and fill the holes with concrete reinforced with steel to prevent further clandestine excavations.

pagoda wat chai mongkhon

During the Ayutthaya period, this temple was built during the early reign of King Ramathibodi I, also known as King U-Thong, the founder of Ayutthaya. Legend has it that in the year 1900 of the Buddhist calendar, King U-Thong graciously ordered the excavation and cremation of the bodies of Lord Kaew and Lord Thai, who died of an incurable disease. He then ordered the establishment of a monastery named Wat Pa Kaew (Pa Kaew Forest Monastery). Subsequently, a group of monks from Sri Lanka, who had completed their studies at Ratanamahathat Monastery in Sri Lanka, came to be greatly revered by the people of Ayutthaya.

This led to an influx of people coming to ordain and study at the monastery, leading King U-Thong to establish a new sect called the Nikaya Sangha and appoint a Sangharaja (ecclesiastical head) for this sect, named Sangharaja Phra Wannarat. He held the position of the Sangha’s right-hand preceptor alongside the Sangharaja Phra Phutthakosajarn, who held the position of the Sangha’s left-hand preceptor. Later, he became the teacher of the monks of Wat Pa Kaew Monastery, and because of this, the monastery came to be known as Wat Chao Phraya Thai Nikaya Pa Kaew.

The Victory Pagoda, a monument of glorious triumph, was erected to commemorate the victory of His Majesty King Ramathibodi over the Mon Kingdom of Myanmar. It is believed that the construction of the Chai Mongkol Pagoda was inspired by this historic event.

During that time, the Mon forces invaded the borders of Thong Seema, Nong Sarai Subdistrict, Suphanburi Province. His Majesty King Ramathibodi and His Majesty the Crown Prince, who was a sage prince, led the army to confront the enemy. They fought valiantly, with His Majesty even mounting an elephant and entering the fray surrounded by a group of soldiers, shooting guns and arrows at the enemy. The enemy soldiers, who were unable to keep up with His Majesty’s pace, were defeated. His Majesty then declared loudly that he would stand under the shade of a tree to await the enemy’s challenge to battle. He declared that henceforth, no king would have the right to challenge him to battle. Subsequently, the Mon King emerged on an elephant to challenge His Majesty to battle. In the ensuing battle, His Majesty King Ramathibodi used his divine light to defeat and drive off the Mon King.

Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon is located in Tambon Khlong Suan Phlu, Amphoe Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Province. The highlights of the temple include the newly renovated grand pagoda and the interior containing the sacred image of Phra Phuttachai Mongkhon. The principal image is a sacred symbol of the temple and is a significant tourist attraction in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Province.

The sacred katha for this Khun Paen “Namo, Moha, Lo.”  used for protection from supernatural powers

 


In my opinion, quite simply some of the most visually attractive amulets ever to have been created, but what may amaze you is that these were hand carved in the Dvaravati period and accurately dated  by scholars to a period 1,300 -1,400  years ago.

These semi translucent votive tablets are often mistaken for glass, but a close inspection will quickly reveal that the beautiful colouration often associated with these pims is due to the natural  characteristics of the semi precious gem stones or crystals from which they are created.  For example, Topaz and quartz being the most common.

The most common colour is a semi transparant milky quartz and referred to by many names such as “Pra Gaew Juyajia”,  “Gaew Paleuk” . “Pra Gaew Phet Nam Dtom” (diamond boiled water) or “Pra Gaew Phet Nam Kaeng (Diamond Ice). Other colours include yellow, green, blue and red. The warm amber amulets for example are made from Topaz, “Pra Gaew Butsaraakam” whereas the green amulets are made from a jade quartz refered to as “Hin Kieow Hanuman”

Fortunately these amulets cannot be mass produced and as such you seldom, if ever, see fakes and furthermore you dont need to be any kind kind of expert to authenticate. The difference between natural gem stone and glass or other synthetic materials is significant.

The honey coloured semi translucent Topaz amulets for example are highly distinctive in the way in which light is both captured and refracted.  These amulets not only reflect the Buddhist history of the region they also epitomise the exceptional ability of artisans of that period, an amazing standard that even today continues to differentiates them from any would be modern pretender.

The natural crystalline composition also lends a unique subset of powerful properties, dependent on the vibrational essence of the stone. The clear quartz pims for example are thought to deflect negativity and enhance positive change. The Topaz is known to enhance vibrational enery, manifesting in abundance and wealth. There are also other examples carved from stone such as Rae

According to legend these amulets were to be found at every temple in any city region before becoming a “Meuang” which in this case refers to a historical semi independent city state, often characterised by the presence of a defensive wall and ruler. These pims are generally only found in nothern Thailand and in particular ChangMai, although some have been discovered in the central plains such as Ayuthaya but there is a very big difference in both quality and beauty, some interestingly being moulded from common glass.

It is presumed that this original artistic style was inherited from Lanna, the former Northern Thai kingdom which existed from the 13th to the 18th century before becoming a Burmese tributary state in 1558. Lanna was culturally seperate from the many of the Thai kingdoms such as Sukhothai and Ayutthya. In fact a succession of the Thai Yuan kingdom, and during the 15th century a dominant power rival to that of Ayutthya the former Thai capital. Many of the Lanna kings were known to be strong patrons of Thervada Buddhism.

This is an important aspect as durung that time, known as the “Dvaravati” period there were two factions of Buddhism practiced in the region that now encompasses modern day Thailand, namely Mahayana and Thervada. The types of religous art, statues and amulets for example, reflect this difference. Much of the style was of course inherited from India with a degree of Khmer influence.

The style of religous art during this era is commonly referred to as Chang Saen or Lanna , and reflects a style similar to the Pala style Buddha images of India, with lotus bud or orb shaped hair curls, round faces, narrow lips and prominent chests. Slightly later Chaeng Saen images were constructed from crystals and gemstones such as these Pra Kru Hot votive tablets which you will note many depict the Buddha in the “Subduing Mara” position, cross legged. Many ancient amulets from this region are simply referred to as Pra Chang Saen, a term that you may come across frequently if you have an interest in religious history and art associated with amulets.

Todays modern day amulets more often than not refelect what is typically known as the Indian Gandhara style tainted with what sometimes appears to me as an ever heavier western influence. One of the reason why these Pra Kru Hot amulets are such a real treasure and very little else in the 21st century even starts to compare.

The Phra Kru Hot amulets were not actually discovered until about 50 years ago and recovered by the Fine Arts Department in BE 2502 from numerous Chedis in Chang Mai. The excavations were made necessary due to the newly constructed Bhumipol Dam which would completely flood the city area known as ” Meaung Hot”

Almost every temple revealed a cache of these ancient amulets. Accademic research suggests that the Topaz (Citrine) almost certainly originated fron Sri Lanka or Ceylon, and the green quartz possibly from China, which is believed to sparkle with “Palang Khon Cheen Bohran” or ancient Chinese power that can defend the individual from evil and danger.

Essentially three different sizes were recoved during the offical dig and by villagers in the time thereafter, including 3 and 5 inch lap. The Fine arts department at the time were amazed at the quality of the amuletic images and in fact described the skill and workmanship superior to that of modern day moulded amulets. It was also said that considering each amulet was individually carved, the craftsman must truly have been blessed with the concentration of Lord Buddha.

When you consider the age of these amulets, I find these comments particularly thought provoking. When you think about it, we are talking of the 7th Century AD, a time when Muhammad, the holy Islamic prophet was alive and had just started preaching.

The exact dating of these amulets was made possible in BE 2513, when an archeological dig at Wat Don Kaeo, Lamphun province, revealed known dated finds (BE 1203) that were directly comparable with similar items recovered from Kru Wat Hot. If you are looking for a life long amulet, then I can say with complete honesty, you are unlikely to find much in the same league as these seriously special pims.