Feb 172017

Ho Nang Usa (หอนางอุสา)

Ho Nang Usa, Phu Phrabat Historical Park, Udon Thani

Ho Nang Usa (Thai: หอนางอุสา) is the most impressive rock formation at Phu Phrabat Historical Park (Thai: อุทยานประวัติศาสตร์ภูพระบาท) Udon Thani, Thailand.

Most of the bizarre rock formations in the park are featured in a legend about a king (Phaya Kong Phan), his stunningly beautiful daughter (Nang Usa), a hermit (Rishi Chantra) and a love-struck prince from another kingdom (Tao Baros).  Ho Nang Usa is said to be the tower where the beautiful princess was forced to live by her overprotective father.


Story Of Nang Usa And Tao Baros

Nang Usa was the daughter of Phaya Kong Phan, ruler of the city Phan, and Nang Saeng Deuan. When Nang Usa was old enough to receive an education, Phaya Kong Phan placed her in the care of the ascetic Rishi Chanta. A tower was constructed in the forest for her to live in. Nang Usa studied the arts under Rishi Chata until she reached the age of 16. She began to feel lonely and restless because she had no contact with other people and also because she had now reached the age of maturity.

One day Nang Usa made a float in which she placed a note bemoaning her loneliness and restlessness. This she set adrift in a small stream in the forest in the hope of finding a lover. The float was carried along in the stream until it reached the Mae Khong River. At that time Tao Baros, son of Tao Narai and Nang Kham Phaeng Kaew of Pakho Town, was bathing in the river. He saw the float and, after reading the note, set out on horseback in search of Nang Usa, not stopping until he had found her. He immediately fell in love with her and invited her to go and live with him. When the news of this reached Phaya Kong Phan he became upset and challenged Tao Baros to compete against him in constructing a temple. The temple had to be built in one night and construction had to be completed before the morning star (Venus) appeared. Whoever could not complete the temple in time would be considered the looser and would be beheaded.

Construction of the temples began with the setting of the sun. However, Nang Usa feared that Tao Baros would be defeated. She thus thought of a trick, she would light candles and place them in a tree on the top of a mountain to fool Phaya Kong Phan into believing that the morning star had risen and he would stop construction. Tao Baros continued building the temple and defeated Phaya Kong Phan. After that, Tao Baros took Nang Usa to live with him in Muang Phakho. They had not been living together long when Nang Usa became the subject of evil gossip, so she ran away and went back to live in her tower where she pined for Tao Baros and soon died of a broken heart.

When Tao Baros knew that Nang Usa had run away and gone back to her tower he set out after her to try and persuade her to return; however, he was too late. On learning of her death he was greatly distressed and he also died. After her death Nang Usa was reborn as Nang Suchada, consort of Indra and Tao Baros was reborn as Indra. Together they enjoyed sublime happiness in the heavenly realm.

Feb 162017

Khon has developed as the ancient masked dance drama of Thailand since the Ayuthaya period, it is believed that it evolved from sacred rites related to faith and belief with respect to Brahminism and Hinduism. The development of Khon has been long interwoven with the Royal Institute as a dramatic performance in the Royal Court; it has an important role in praising and demonstrating loyalty to the Monarchy and symbolises the King’s majestic power. In the art of Khon, all components of the performance are related to tradition and subtle rites.

Feb 162017
Nang Nak - นางนาก

Nang Nak Shrine

Nang Nak (Thai: นางนาก)

The story of Mae Nak is a well known and popular Thai ghost story which has been the subject of many movies, television series, and books. Folklore claims that this story is based on actual events that took place during the 1800s.

During the reign of King Mongkut a beautiful young woman named Mae Nak lived by the Phra Khanong canal (Thai: คลองพระโขนง) in Bangkok with her husband, Mak.

Mak is sent to fight in a war leaving behind his pregnant wife. Mak is injured and barely survives. He returns home to his doting wife and child, or so he thinks. A friend visits and sees Mak living together with Nak. The villagers, knowing that Nak died in childbirth several months previously, realize what is happening, that Mak is spellbound by Nak’s ghost. People who attempt to tell Mak, or who know too much, are killed by Nak’s ghost, who becomes more and more aggressive due to her inability to accept her early death and her desperate desire to stay with her husband.

Eventually a respected Buddhist monk arrives and takes charge and in a tearful farewell Nak repents, leaving her husband to live his life. The centre of Nak’s forehead is cut out and kept in a waistband which the monk wore until his death. Legend states that the waistband later became the possession of His Royal Highness Prince Chumbhorn Ketudomsak.

Mae Nak’s story is popular because her true love and devotion for Mak inspires many people.

There is a shrine dedicated to her memory at Wat Mahabut (Thai: วัดมหาบุศย์) in Bangkok.  The shrine consists of a low building under large trees with a roofing that encompasses the tree trunks. The main shrine has a number of minor shrines surrounding it. There is a wide fenced area around the shrine with a gate towards the Wat Mahabut temple compound and another more elaborate roofed gate facing the canal (Klong Phra Khanong).

Klong Phra Khanong

In addition to adorning the statue of Mae Nak and her baby with gold leaf, the faithful also make offerings of coloured cloth that are wrapped around the trunk of the tree inside the shrine compound.  Other offerings are fruits, lotus flowers, incense sticks and a collection of dresses.  Among the most poignant offerings are clothing and toys left for her child.

Offerings are also made outside at the Phra Khanong canal itself by the shrine, where living fishes, turtles, birds, eels and fish etc are  are brought in buckets to the edge of the canal and released. This is done to make merit (Thai: ทำบุญ).

Mae Nak offerings at Klong Phra Khanong

The easiest way to get there is to take the Sky train to On Nut Station, then backtrack a short way until reaching On Nut Road, intersecting with Sukhumvit Road.

About 1 km down On Nut Road, on the left, there is a small lane signposted as soi 7. Wat Mahabut and the Mae Nak shrine are at the end of the lane, with the shrine at the far side of the larger temple compound near the canal known as Klong Phra Khanong.