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Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Legend of Jatukam Ramathep

Ist Story Once upon a time, many centuries ago (about 1700 years ago), it was a time of war and trouble. There lived a king and his princes in Central Siam. The elder prince named Jatukam and the other named Ramathep. After many years of war, the King finally conquered and managed to secure Sri Lanka into part of his Kingdom. There was a saying that the King possessed a sacred treasure, this was none other than the holy relics of Lord Buddha. Before the King began his journey to the newly conquered land, he tasked the protection of the relics to his two princes, & ordered them to guard it with their lives.Some time later, the princes received information of plan by their enemies to capture the relics. They immediately informed the King in Sri Lanka. The King instruction was to quickly take the relics away by sea and head to Sri Lanka. Halfway through the journey, a thunderstorm struck and their ships were sunken. Except the two princes, the rest of the crew did not survive. The two princes were washed ashore, but well. Without the sea transport, they could no longer bring the relics to Sri Lanka. They started praying sincerely to the relics, saying: “Dear Enlightened One! If this land we step upon is a holy piece of land, then please guide us let us live a new life here. With our people, we shall guard and protected your relics forever.”Later the two princes built a temple on this holy land and with much hard work, they also establish a wealthy and strong city. They brought new hope and peace to all the people. In remembrance of the great deeds by the two princes, they named this place Nakhon Si Thammarat in their honour. This is now located at Southern of Thailand at the present time. The temple that the two princes built for the relics is called Wat Mahathat - as it is known now.Ever since then, after a few centuries, many people had travelled to Wat Mahathat to locate the relics that were buried by the princes. Finally, they found a stone carving and the relics buried at the Wat. The stories of the two princes were found engraved on this stone.The two princes had done many great deeds and the greatest is by erecting the temple to house the relics. And they promised to guard the Relics with their lives. They had earned respect from both the heavenly and earthly beings. Later, the people combined the two princes into one and named him Tao Jatukam Ramathep when praying to him. Tao Jatukam Ramathep becomes one of the most respected and popular deities in the South of Thailand. In olden days, Tao was used to address noble ones. It is believed that those that pray to Tao Jatukam Ramathep will be blessed with fulfilling life and better in all aspects in everyday work. Story 2 Jatukam Ramathep, unknown in Buddhist or Hindu sacred literature. In order to understand, we need to get the god's name right: Jatukam Ramathep is the Thai pronunciation of the Pali Catugamaramadeva, meaning God Rama of the Four Villages. This is near nonsense as no ancient literature, Buddhist or Hindu, connects Rama to "Four Villages". Thus the name seems to have been created out of thin air. However, the talisman is connected in the popular imagination to the Great Stupa of Nakhon Si Thammarat. According to respectable tradition preserved in an ancient document (see Wyatt, DK, "The Crystal Sands: The Chronicles of Nagara Sri Dharmmaraja", Cornell) the relics enshrined in the Great Stupa there came from Sri Lanka and the stupa was established with the assistance of traders from Sri Lanka, where Buddhism has always been protected by Hindu gods. (The evidence is in the Mahavamsa and in folk religion to this day.) At the Great Stupa at Nakhon Si Thammarat, the stairs leading up to the circumambulatory terminate in a narrow stage with four images of gods. To the extreme left and right are two gods in brick and plaster with no attributes. However inscribed stone plaques (in apparently old lettering) announce that they are Lord Khattugama and Lord Ramadeva. Jatukham Rammathep is two people, not one. The names are the aliases of brother princes Inthara Sairen and Inthara Khao Kheo, sons of King Jantharaphanu, who ruled the Sri Thammasokerealm, the capital of the Krung Srivijaya Kingdom (757-1257) in southern Thailand, after his father who founded it. The Sri Thammasoke realm began to degenerate as a result of their father's absence of 20 years during which he expanded his dominion to as far as eastern India. The brothers founded a new capital at Chang Khom Sirithammarat (present day Nakhon Si Thammarat), and renamed the realm Srivijaya Suvarnabhumi. Some legends say Jatukham Rammathep was another royal person living in a different era altogether, while others suggest it was a name given to King Jantharaphanu himself. But all legends - under the influence of Mahayana Buddhism which was widely observed during the period - commonly believe that whatever king or royal person the name belongs to, the right holder of the name is an Avalokitesvara, a future Buddha after numerous rebirths committed to intense self-dedication and intense sacrifice. Long after their deaths, the two princes continue to be idealised by succeeding generations of residents of Nakhon Si Thammarat and today are remembered by their preferred names of Jatukham and Rammathep as guardian angels. The Jatukham Rammathep amulets were first produced in 1987 as part of the establishment of the province's Holy Pillar Shrine. The circular amulet, with a 5cm diameter, was priced at Bt39. Today, the amulets sell for between Bt200 and Bt500 for the basic item, and as much as Bt1,000 for amulets produced in a limited edition. The prices can soar sharply by up to 10 times when their popularity peaks after just a few months. For example, the "Arch-Millionaire" series now trades at around Bt10,000 compared to about Bt150 when it was released in May last year. The reported highest price ever paid for a single amulet is Bt1.2 million - by a mine owner to the original owner of a 1987 charm. An unconfirmed report earlier this year said the owner of a local lingerie store in the province sold a number of the amulets for Bt3.2 million to a buyer based in the United States Jatukham Ramathep is a guardian god of holy relics of Lord Buddha, and was engraved on the doorway at the entrance of Wat Phra Mahathat Temple in 1987 during the celebration of the City Pillar in Nakhon Si Thammarat. The legend of this deity states that he was formerly King Janthara Bhanu, the founder of Si Vijaya Kingdom and the first king of the Si Thamma SokkaratDynasty. After establishing a wealthy and strong city, he was later known as the “Black King of the Southern Sea” or “Phaya Phang Pakan”. Due to his good deeds, he became Bodhisattva, who helped relieve the hardship of mankind. The popularity of collecting Buddhist amulets is set to continue to rise as was seen last year. It is of note that antique amulets have become rarer in the market since the previous year. Among the newly-cast Phra Kruang that has been most sought-after in the market is “Jatukam Ramathep”. It could be said that this amulet series has gained greater popularity - as it is commonly seen on show at amulet trading shops - at the expense of other newly-cast Buddhist amulets. Jatukam Ramathep has been in high demand among amulet aficionados both at home and abroad, particularly in Malaysia and Singapore.

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