MYTH, Legend And History in the Northern Thai Chronicles. พิมพ์ อีเมล
เขียนโดย Donald K. Swearer   

 SWEARER, DONALD K. MYTH, LEGEND AND HISTORY IN THE NORHTERN THAI CHRONICLES. JSS. VOL.62 (pt.1) 1974. p.68-88.

 

 

                   MYTH, LEGEND AND HISTORY IN THE NORTHERN
                                              THAI CHRONICLES*

                                                             by

                                             Donald K. Swearer**

 

              The title of this article is somewhat misleading. It sounds quite
broad when in fact it is directed toward a rather circumscribed topic,
namely, the founding of the city of Haripuñjaya or Lamphun. This is
primarily an attempt to analyze the myths and legends surrounding that
event in order to elucidate the meaning of these traditions and their
potential historical import. While the focus of this study is a particular
one, the parameters are the broad issues of the nature of myth and
legend and their relationship to history.

             Sound historical evidence for the pre-Thai period in the north is
extremely limited. This period is generally referred to as Mon, although
neither archaeology nor the northern chronicles lend much support for a
dominant Mon presence in Haripuñjaya prior to the 11th century. The
paucity of archaeological evidence for the pre-Thai period compels us to
examine seriously the mythical and legendary, as well as the historical,
traditions embedded in the northern chronicles. While myths and legends
provide a minimum of concrete historical data, an analysis of their con-
tent may offer a modicum of historical information or at least some
degree of historical insight.

          We shall begin with a brief examination of the chronicles studied.

Then following a few remarks about the nature of myth and legend, we
shall move on to relate a connected narrative compiled from the texts.
After postulating an interpretation of the narrative, we shall then con-
clude with some of the historical implications to be derived from the
narrative as interpreted.

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* This article was first delivered as a lecture to the Siam Society on March 26,1973.
** Associate Professor, Department of Religion, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore,
    Pennsylvania, U.S.A. Research on northern Thai Buddhism under grant from
    the National Endowment for the Humanities (USA), 1972-73.

 

 

 

 

 

68                                          Donald K. Swearer

 

                                                       The Texts

            Northern Thailand is blessed with an abundance of historical and
quasi-historical texts written on palm leaf (pai Iān) or very heavy paper
folded in accordion fashion (samut khoi) in northern Thai (Lānnā Thai
or Thai Yuan), Pali or a mixture of northern Thai and Pali. These
northern chronicles or epics are usually identified in Thai as damnān or
phongsāwadān. The most widely known is the Jinakālamālīpakaranam
(JKM). A Pali edition has been printed by the Pali Text Society of
London, and Thai, English and French translations have also appeared.1
Even more important for a knowledge of northern Thai Buddhism but
less well known outside the relatively small circle of students of Thai
history are the Damnān Mūlasāsanā (MS) and the Phongsawādān Yonok
(PY) both published in Thai editions.2 Of more particular focus on the
history of Haripuñjaya are the Cāmadevīwongsa (CdW), Damnān Lamphun
or Lamphun Chronicle (DL).3

 

             The chronicle of Wat Phra Dhatu, Lamphun, Damnān Phra Dhâtu
Haripuñjaya (DPDH), provides additional information as may several
others which have escaped my attention. The Mahāwongsa Luang,
apparently a borrowing from the Ceylonese Mahāvamsa with considera-
ble material appended dealing with northern Thailand, may contain more
information than the Damnān Mūlasāsanā. Few copies are available and
it was not included in this study. Serious, critical investigation of these
texts is still in an infant stage. Perhaps the most critical work remains
Coedès' study of the Jinakālāmalī and Cāmadevīwongsa done around

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1) Ratannapanna Thera, Jinakâlamâlïpakaranam, ed. A.P. Buddhadatta (London;
Luzac & Co., 1962), Ratannapanna Thera, The Sheaf Garlands of the Epochs of
the Conqueror, trans. N.A. Jayawickrama (London: Luzac & Co., 1968);Ratan-

napanna Thera, ชินกาลมาลีปกรณ์ (Bangkok: The Department of Fine Arts, B.E.
2509); G. Coedès, "Documents sur l'histoire politique du Laos Occidental",
Bulletin de. L'Ecole Française d'Extrême Orient, 25 : 1-2 (1925), pp. 1-202.

2) MTdasâsanâ (ตำนาน มูลศาสนา) (Bangkok: The Department of Fine Arts, B.E.

2513); Phongsawadan Yonok (พงศาวดาร โยนก) (Bangkok: Klâng Witayâ, B.E.

2503).

3) Bodhirangsï, Cāmadevīwongsa (จามเทวีวงศ์ พงศวดาร เมือง หริบุญไชย) (Bangkok :

The Department of Fine Arts, B.E. 2510); G. Coedès, op. cit.; Chronique de La :

p'un, trans. M. Camille Notton, Annales du Siam, Vol. II (Paris : Charles Lavau»

zelle, 1930).

 

 

 

 

 

MYTH, LEGEND AND HISTORY IN THE NORTHERN THAICHRONICLES    69

 

925. As David Wyatt observes, however, in his review of the recently
published Chiengmai Chronicle. (DamnānPhuan Muang Chiengmai),
"Indeed, this reviewer cannot recall a single major Thai text which has
ever been properly edited . . ."4

Of the major damnān mentioned there is disagreement as to which
is oldest. Prince Damrong was of the opinion that the MS was older
than the CdW.5 There are, however, some internal evidences in the MS
which seem to contradict this judgment. 1 have discovered at least two
instances where the MS notes that the same event is interpreted differently
in another damnān, e.g. that Cāmadevī’s husband was free to leave
Lavapuri for Haripuñjaya because her husband had become a monk.
That particular interpretation is, in fact, found in the CdW. Conse-
quently, either the CdW is older than the MS or utilized an older tradi-
tion. We know that the CdW was written by Phra Bodhirangsl, the
author of Sihinganidāna in the first half of the 15th century. It is thought
that the MS was begun by Phra Buddhanāna, the 4th abbot of Wat Suan
Dok in Chiang Mai (1417-1429) and completed by Phra Buddhapukâma,
the 12th abbot (1489-1499). It would appear that whereas the CdW and
the MS might have been begun at about the same time, the completion
of the MS was over fifty years later. It might also be speculated that
the narrative style of the CdW is closer to an older, oral tradition than
the MS which is more descriptive in style. Indeed, on general stylistic
grounds there appears to be an evolution from the loose, narrative
expositions of the CdW to the more descriptive style of the MS to the
comparatively terse directness of the JKM.

        We know that the JKM was written by Phra Ratanapanna of the
Sinhala Nikaya at Wat Pa Daeng in Chiang Mai between 1516 and 1528
A.D. The CdW was written before 1450 and the MS before 1500. The
DL, mentioned half of the 15th century. The DL, mentioned in the
JKM, refers to the MS, so, it in turn must have been composed in the
latter part of the 15th or early 16th centuries. Finally, the DPDH is

estimated to have been written about 1565. In sum, with the exception

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4) David K. Wyatt, "The Chiengmai Chronicle", Journal of the Siarn Society, LXI, i

     (January, 1973), p. 348.

 5) Introduction to Prasert Churat's unpublished English translation of the Mūla-

      sāsanā.

 

 

 

 

 

70                                          Donald K. Swearer

 

of the PY, an acknowledged later composite of several chronicles, the
major northern damnān with which we are familiar were written over a
period of a little more than a century between the early 15th to the mid-
16th centuries. Roughly speaking, this covers the period from the return
of the Buddhist mission to Ceylon in 1430 through the reigns of two of
the greatest Buddhist monarchs of the north, Tilokarāja (d. 1487) and
Phra Muang Keo (d. 1525;.

The content and style of the northern chronicles relevant to the
Haripuñjaya story vary greatly. It has been mentioned that stylistically
the CdW is a loose narrative in a rather florid style, that the MS com-
bines narration and description, and that the JKM is almost entirely
descriptive. While all of the CdW and the DL are devoted to Haripuñ-
jaya, only about a third of the MS deals with Haripuñjaya and just a
small section of the JKM. In terms of the range of coverage the MS is
the most important chronicle, although, as we shall see, the CdW pro-
vides additional valuable information.

 

                                            Myth, Legend and History

 


               The terms, myth and legend, are popularly used to denote the
opposite of the truth. When we say, "It's a myth" or "He's legendary"
we imply that the story or person referred to is false, untrue or exagger-
ated. Such a popular understanding of myth and legend is at odds with
the way in which these terms are understood and used by students of
religion and culture. While myths and legends about gods or superhuman
beings do not relate stories that are historically or empirically true, they
convey archetypal or paradigmatic truth. Thus, a creation myth may
include a hierogamy and also function as a model and justification for
all human activities including whole complexes of discursive, ethical
and ritual systems.6 We might say simply that the patterns of truth
encased in myth and legend infuse the cultures which gave birth to them
with higher or transcendent meaning. Myths and legends, consequently,
have greater import than factual history for the on-going life of a people.
History records what has happened, and while myths and legends may

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6) Mircea Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religion (Cleveland : Meridian Books,
1963), p. 412.

 

 

 

 

 

MYTH, LEGEND AND HISTORY IN THE NORTHERN THAICHRONICLES   71

 

have a relationship to a past history, their contemporaneity lies in the
fact that they transcend history. Myths and legends may be used to
tell us something about the history of a people, but more significantly,
they give a commentary on what a people has held and holds to be of
lasting value.

The myths and legends surrounding the founding of Haripuñjaya
can be divided into three layers : the Buddhist, the Rishi and the Cāma-
devi. These layers are intermeshed, yet a study of the chronicles reveals
them to have been three distinct traditions which came to be amalgamated
into one story. The Rishi and Cāmadevī elements are more closely
related to each other than to the Buddhist element. The Buddhist layer
is comprised of the Buddha's forecast that his religion would prosper in
the area, his visit to Haripuñjaya and the establishment of his relic, and
the appearance of his relic during the reign of Ādittarāja (fl. 1047 A.D.).
The Rishi tradition describes the founding of several towns including
Haripuñjaya and the calling of Cāmadevī as its ruler. The Cāmadevī
layer brings the founding of Haripuñjaya into the realm of the historical.
Whether Cāmadevī actually existed as an historical person is, perhaps,
debatable; however, she serves to establish historical connections between
Lamphun, Lopburi and Lampang where one of Cāmadevī's sons was in-
stalled as ruler within his mother's lifetime.

The three elements from the chronicles which constitute the Hari-
puñjaya story proceed in rough fashion from the mythical to the legendary
to the historical. The Buddha's visit to Haripuñjaya is mythical, yet
the visit enhances the significance of the reign of Ādittarāja for the his-
tory of Buddhism in the area. The rishis are legendary cult heroes or
clan progenitors who represent not only supernatural power but the
creation of civilization (i.e. cities). And the narrative surrounding
Cāmadevī often has the style of legend ( e.g. the enumeration of her
retinue, the founding of cities along the way from Lopburi to Haripun-
jaya), yet she appears on the scene as a historical personage. The most
archaic part of the Haripuñjaya story appears to be the Rishi tradition
to which the Cāmadevī layer is appended. The Buddhist element seems
to be a later overlay. Interestingly enough, the episode of the Buddha's
prediction and visit to Haripuñjaya is not related to Cāmadevī but to

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

72                                         Donald K. Swearer

 

Ādittarāja some three to four hundred years later. The narrative from
Cāmadevī to Ādittarāja definitely has been Buddhasized but the structure
of the story does not denote this period as being predominantly Buddhist.
From a structural perspective, Buddhism comes to the fore only with
Ādittarāja.

                            The Story of the Founding of Lamphun

Our purpose here is to tell the story of the founding of Haripuñjaya
as compiled from several of the northern Thai chronicles. The chronicles
differ to some degree in their accounts. However, our intention is not
to offer a critical analysis of these differences, but, rather, to present a
unified narrative noting conflicting reports or other discrepancies only
when relevant to the main thrust of the paper. Interpretation will follow
the narrative.

                                        A. The Buddhist Layer

The Buddha was living in the Isipatana forest in Benares with his
disciples when he looked into the future and predicted that 1008 years
after his parinibbāna a great city named Haripuñjaya would be established
in the country of Sāmadesa or Muang Ping7 where his religion would
prosper. The next day after his morning ablutions the Buddha picked
up his begging bowl and flew to Muang Takara (now known as Jaiyabhūmi)
where he went on his pindapata rounds. The villagers in the area, iden-
tified by the CdW and PY as Meng (i.e. Mon), were amazed by his beauty
and inquired whether he was a deva, Nāga king, Indra or Brahma. The
Buddha then identified himself as the samma sambuddha, the savior of
the three worlds. After being presented with gifts of food, the Buddha
preached to the Mons who then followed him to the future site of Hari-
puñjaya along the Raming or Mae Ping River.8

 

            Arriving at a spot on the west bank of the river, the Buddha put
down his begging bowl and on the spot a boulder miraculously arose from
the ground to prevent the bowl from becoming soiled. The Buddha then
predicted that this spot would be the location of his relic to be revealed

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 7) PY reads Sāmadesa; MS reads Samanta or Muang Ping. Not designated in JKM.

 8) The PY elaborates this episode into the conversion of the Mons as disciples of

      the Buddha. Sāmadesa, p. 164.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MYTH, LEGEND AND HISTORY IN THE NORTHERN THAICHRONICLES   73

 

in Haripuñjaya during the reign of Ādittarāja9 for the adoration of men
and devas. In the DPDH the Buddha is presented with fruit of a betel
nut tree by a Lava hunter. After eating the Buddha cast aside the seed,
whereupon it circled (patakasin) three times. The Buddha then interprets
this miracle to Ānanda as a sign that at this place Haripuñjaya would
be located and upon the place where he sat a golden chedi for several
bone relics would be built. Furthermore, he predicts that these relics
will appear when the Lava hunter who gave him the fruit of the betel nut
tree is reborn as Ādittarāja. When the Buddha had spoken, those who
were with him-the arahants, King Asoka, a pink Nâga king and the
king of the crows all requested a hair relic. He offered one which
was encased in an urn and placed in a cave to the south of where he
sat.

             After his predictions about Haripuñjaya, his relics and Ādittarāja,

the Buddha commands his bowl to fly back to Benares. He returns in
the same manner and along the way is followed by a white crow who
had overheard the Buddha's predictions, The white crow returned to
its home in the Himalāyas and ordered his nephew, a black crow, to go
to the Mae Ping to guard the holy spot until the advent of Ādittarāja.
Also guarding the place were indigenous devas (MS, DL). The DPDH
has the pink Nâga king and 100,000 of his followers remain to guard the
relic and specifically notes that the crow was to prevent the sacred site
from pollution by animals and people.10 It should be noted, in concluding
this description of the Buddha's visit to the future site of Haripuñjaya,
that this episode is part of an extensive visitation by the Buddha to nor-
thern Thailand. The Phra Caw Liep Lok and other Buddha Damnān have
both a cosmogonic and etiological import and account for the founding
of many towns, Wats and other holy sites in the north. To my knowledge,
the physical presence of the Buddha as represented by his reputed visit
to the north plays a more omnipresent role here than in other parts of
the country. That subject, however, is beyond the scope of this present
paper.

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9) Variant spellings for Ādittarāja are Āditayaraja (PY) and Adicca (JKM).
10) Singkha Wannasai, DamnānPhra Dhātu Chao Haripuñjaya (ตำนาน พระธาตุเจ้า

หริปุญไชย ) (Chiang Mai, B.E. 2516), p. 9.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                       74                              Donald K. Swearer

 

In the PY, MS and the DL the Buddhist layer of the chronicles tied
to the Buddha's visit and the Buddha relic is broken by the Rishi and
Cāmadevī traditions. It is resumed again with the advent of Ādittarāja
in the year 409 of the Culasakara Era (i.e. 1047 A.D.).11 Ādittarāja
and his queen, Padumavadi, are depicted as devout supporters of the
Buddhist Sangha who ruled faithfully according to the Ten Royal Pre-
cepts : to provide for the poor, to be established in the five precepts, to
make gifts to the Three Gems, to be truthful in word, thought and deed,
to be humble and sympathetic toward others, to be diligent in eradicating
demerit, to have pity toward all, not to oppress anyone, to have patience
and be restrained, and to be sensitive to the feelings of others.12

            As expected, the major event in the reign of Ādittarāja is his dis-
covery of the holy relic, related by the chronicler in a humorous manner.
After the coronation ceremony in which sixteen Brahmins poured lustral
water over the hands of the sovereigns, Ādittarāja retired to his private
quarters to relieve himself. It so happened that these quarters were
built directly over the spot where the Buddha relic was being protected
by the indigenous guardian of the soil and the black crow. The crow,
being warned by the deva of the desecration due to take place, quickly
flew over the king and let its droppings fall on his head. The king was
understandably angered, and when he opened his mouth to call his cour-
tiers, the crow let more of its droppings fall into the king's mouth. So
great was Ādittarāja's consternation now that he ordered the entire city
to set traps to capture the crow. After catching it, the king was advised
by his astrologers not to kill the crow for the bird's strange behavior must
portend some important event. That night a deva appeared to the king
in a dream and told him to have a new-born child live with the black crow
for seven years in order to learn the crow's language. This advice was
followed and after the alloted time had passed, the child was then able to

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11) Epochs of the Conqueror, p. 106. There is disagreement on the succession of

        Ādittarāja. In the MS his reign is 27th after Camadevi; in the DL and JKM

        it is the 31st. There are even more problems with the chronology. See

        Coedès, p. 25.

 12) This list of virtues is also applied to Câmadevî-DL, p. 29; MS, p. 169. One

        of the purposes of the chronicles was to offer advice and good counsel to the

        wielders of political power.

 

 

 

 

 

MYTH, LEGEND AND HISTORY IN THE NORTHERN THAICHRONICLES  75

 

act as an interpreter between Ādittarāja and the crow. When the king had
ascertained the cause of the crow's behavior, he had his private quarters
demolished and the ground reconsecrated. He then prayed, "Servants
of the Buddha of the magnificent destiny, Lord, 1 beg that you deliver all
of us, Servants of the Master of the Sages. Lord;, make the relic appear
to us soon; show to us now this excellent marvel. Render us pure in the
merit of our Buddha."13 After this invocation, the relic miraculously
appeared. Both the DL and the CdW add considerable detail regarding
the relic and Âdittarâja's reign, while the MS and JKM end the narrative
with the relic's appearance. While Ādittarāja takes us far beyond the
founding of Haripuñjaya under Cāmadevī, his reign deserves the brief
mention allowed because it is tied directly to the myth of the Buddha's
visit. Indeed, the appearance of the relic is not unlike a second founding
of the city, an argument to be expanded in our interpretation of the
narrative.

 

                                                 B. The Rishi Layer

 

              The founding of Haripuñjaya is attributed to a rishi named Vāsu-
deva.14 He appears in the chronicles with either three (CdW) or four
(MS, JKM, PY) other rishis. All of the rishis are associated with moun-
tains or towns or both : Vāsudeva with Doi Suthep near Chiang Mai,
Sukkadanta (or Sukkanta) with Lāvo or Lāvo (Lopburi), Anusissa or
Anusisata with Sajjanālaya (near Sukhothai), Buddhajatila with Doi
Juhapabbata (or Doi Pa Yai, near Lamphun), and Subrahma with Doi
Ngām near Lampang. These five high-born clansmen found the teaching
of the Buddha attractive and were ordained as monks. Unable to follow
the strict rules of the vinaya, they reverted to lay life. However, the
householder life was ultimately unsatisfying, so they became rishis or
hermits and acquired the five higher knowledges (abhinnas) and five
perfections (sampattis).15 Of these five rishis, Vāsudeva is the most

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 13) DL, p. 48.

 14) In the PY he appears as Sudeva. While the names of the rishis and the places

       with which they are associated differ somewhat between the PY and MS. there

       are significant differences between the CdW and the other two chronicles. It

       would appear that CdW relied on a different source from the other chronicles

      at this point.

 15) The JKM has Sukkanta becoming a layman again. Epochs . ..., p. 97.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

76                                         Donald K. Swearer

 

important and figures as the founder of several towns including Hari-
punjaya.16 It should also be kept in mind that Vāsudeva plays an
important role in the Lava tradition where he is the son of the clan pro-
genitors, or two of the major guardian spirits of the Lava, Pu Sae, Ya Sae.

Vāsudeva always bathed in the Rohini River or Maenâm Khan at
the base of Doi Suthep near the present site of Wat CedïCet Yod. One
day while bathing in the river he saw three sets of male and female
infants in the footprints of an elephant, rhinoceros and gayal or bullock.17
In the CdW rendering, Vasudeva "looks in all directions" and sees chil-
dren in four footprints (also note that in the CdW there are four rishis
instead of five) : elephant, rhinoceros, bullock and cow (wua)M Feeling
sympathetic for their plight he adopts them and miraculously nurses the
children with his fingers. To these six are added yet another couple
born of a doe who had conceived by drinking Vāsudeva's urine contain-
ing his semen. The rishi named the boy Kunâra Rasi and the girl
Migapati Rasinî. He married the two when they attained the age of
sixteen and made them sovereigns of a city he created named, Miga-
sangara. They also ruled over the other children Vāsudeva had raised
as well as a large number of hill tribesmen.

             Kunāra Rasi and Migapati Rasinī had three sons and one daughter.

The eldest son, Kunārikanāda (MSJ or Kunarishiganāsa (JKM), succeeded
his father as the ruler of Migasangara. The other two sons were made
rulers of two new cities, Anarapura Nagara (MS) or Rannapura (JKM)
and Kulissa Nagara (MS).19 For reasons unstated in the chronicles,
Vāsudeva became dissatisfied with the original city, Migasangara

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16) Kraisri Nimmanahaeminda provides an interesting account of the conversion

        of the Lava to Buddhism in, 'The Lawa Guardian Spirits of Chiengmai",

       Journal of the Siam Society, LV, ii (July, 1967), pp. 185-225. There would

       seem to have been distinctive Lava and Mon Buddhist traditions which become

       merged in the chroniclers' accounts.

 17) Jayawickrama's rendering as 'elephant-footed' following the suggestion of

        Sayadaw U Titthila has no meaning in terms of the probable cosmological

        structure of this mythic-legendary event. See Epochs . . . , p. 98.

 18) The Thai terms translated here as bullock and cow are เค and วัว They are

        formal and common terms for the same kind of animal. It would seem that

        the author's purpose was to emphasize the four cardinal directions.

 19) The details of this part of the narrative including the names of the cities are

        quite at variance among the CdW, MS, DL and JKM. For the most part, I shall

        follow the MS.

 

 

 

 

 

MYTH, LEGEND AND HISTORY IN THE NORTHERN THAI CHRONICLES   77

 

Nakhorn, and built a new city to the south of the place where the Buddha
had made his prediction and named it, Pura Nagara, which was ruled by
Kunārikanāda.

Kunārikanāda. apparently proved to be an unworthy ruler. In the
MS it is said that he refused to observe the ten royal Precepts and, in
particular, refused to mete out justice to a boy who had beaten his elderly
mother. She appealed to the devas for help. They heard her plea and
said to her, "Old woman, go and tell your relatives and friends to leave
the city immediately." After these people had gathered up their belong-
ings and escaped, the devas deluged the city with a great flood destroying
everything within it including the wicked king.

Vāsudeva, being informed of the destruction of the city by the
devas who protected the world and seeing that the city had, indeed,
been entirely annihilated, said, "When I was a Bhikkhu I realized that
people without wisdom and virtue, no matter of what rank or position or
number of followers, usually make no progress or self-improvement.
Not only are they dangerous to themselves but also cause sorrow to other
people. This is the teaching of the Buddha. Now, where can I find a
man of wisdom and virtue to rule in accordance with the ten royal
Precepts ?"20 Deciding that his friend, Sukkadanta in Lavo, could help,
Vāsudeva descended from Doi Suthep to seek him out. Coming to the
place the Buddha had predicted as the future site of Haripuñjaya, he
decided to found the new city there. He sent a message to Sukkadanta
via a deva who resided in a nearby bamboo grove. Not only did the deva
bear the message to Sukkadanta but miraculously brought the hermit
upstream using the bamboo grove as a raft. Along the way Sukkadanta
founded several villages including one where he built a shrine to the deva
of the bamboo grove.

Vāsudeva and Sukkadanta met at a place half way between Doi

Suthep and Muang Lavo which was given the name of Chiang Krung or

"half-way city". This spot coincided with the place where the Buddha's
begging bowl had been received by the rock. Vāsudeva thrust his staff
into the ground and pulling forth a clump of earth and perceived that the
area was rich in precious gems, fuel (charcoal) and paddy rice. If ruled by

_____________________________________________________________

20) MS, p. 140; DL, p. ! 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

78                                           Donald K. Swearer

 

a man of virtue and justice (dhamma), the area would prosper, while an
unjust ruler would bring only calamity and famine.

Having decided to found the city of Haripuñjaya at that very loca-
tion, Vāsudeva consulted with Sukkadanta regarding the city's proper
size and shape. Sukkadanta suggested that the city's plan should be
based on the sea shell model of Halitavalli Nagara (Sajjanālaya) founded
by their friend Anusissa. The two rishis immediately set off for Sajja-
nâlaya where Anusissa promised to find a shell they could use as a
design for the borders of their town. Afterwards he instructed a Has-
satiling21 bird to secure a sea shell from the ocean and take it to the
two rishis. The bird returned with the shell, perched on the branch of
a tree, and let it fall at a spot to the west of where the Buddha had made
his prediction. Vāsudeva then took his staff and traced a line around
the parameter of the shell. Through his supernatural power, the line
became deeper and deeper until it formed the city's moat. Houses and
shrines for five kinds of spirits arose from the soil and, for this reason,
the city was named Lamphun.22 Vāsudeva then had the tree devas move
their abodes beyond the moat to make the city neat and orderly.

           The city being properly prepared, Vāsudeva next sought Sukka-

danta's advice about a virtuous and just ruler. "My friend," replied
Sukkadanta, there is a universal monarch (cakkavatti) who has succeeded
his father as ruler of Muang Lavaratha or Lavo. He has a daughter
named Nāng Cāmadevī who practices the five precepts. Let us go and
request that she rule our city."23 Sukkadanta and Gavaya24 armed with
appropriate gifts and an escort of five hundred retainers then proceeded
to Lavo to request that Cāmadevī become the ruler of Haripuñjaya.

___________________________________________________________

 21) The Hasatiling, a mythological bird with an elephant head and a bird's body,

         is often used in funeral processions to transport the coffin of an abbot from

         the Wat to the cremation ground. It signifies the passage from one mode of

         being to another. Here it symbolizes the creation of a new order of things,

         the Muang Haripuñjaya.

 22) DL, p. 16.

 23) Ibid.

 24) JKM has Gavaya going on this mission alone, and the translator queries in a

         footnote whether Gavaya might be one of the Gavaya-pāda children. See

         Epochs . . . , p. 100.

 

 

 

 

 

MYTH, LEGEND AND HISTORY IN THE NORTHERN THAICHRONICLES      79

 

                                               C. The Cāmadevī Layer

Cāmadevī is depicted in all of the northern chronicles as the daugh-
ter of the ruler of Lavo. The DL adds an interesting footnote to that
tradition. There she becomes an incarnation of the fifth wife of Indra
born as the daughter of the wife of a village headman. Indra intervenes
in an argument over the girl and places her in a 500 petaled lotus.
Vāsudeva discovers her one day while searching for food and looks after
her in his hermitage until she is two or three years old. His three
friends, Sukkadanta, Anusissa and Buddhajalita, admonish him, because
adopting a girl is not acceptable behavior for a rishi. The four then
agree to send Cāmadevī on a raft to Muang Lavo with a note requesting
the king to adopt her as his daughter. The devas guide the raft safely
to the city where the ruler of the city duly accedes to the request of the
rishis. When Cāmadevī reaches the age of 15, the king marries her to
his son and together they rule as viceroys in his kingdom. In the JKM,
Cāmadevī's husband is the provincial ruler of the city of Rāmafina, a
designation for a Mon area in the central plains of Thailand perhaps
extending into Lower Burma.25

 

          The chronicles offer a variety of reasons for requesting Cāmadevī
to become the ruler of Haripuñjaya. The MS and DL state that it was
impossible to find someone who was virtuous and pious, endowed with
the Ten Royal Precepts, and-above all—of royal descent. The CdW
offers another explanation : that the people (of Lamphun) were uncivilized
forest dwellers endowed with the characteristics of the animals in whose
footprints they were born; that they could not tell right from wrong,
good from bad; and that they were unable to govern themselves.26 Here
Cāmadevī is called to rule Haripuñjaya not only because of her reputa-
tion for piety and virtue, but also for her connection with the ruling
family of the more cultured and powerful kingdom of Lavo. The exact
nature of that connection is ambiguous because of the conflicting testi-
mony of the chronicles.

__________________________________________________________

 25) See Epochs. . ., p. 100, n. 6.

 26) CdW, p. 26

 

 

 

 

 

 

80                                              Donald K. Swearer

 

Sukkadanta and Gavaya from Haripuñjaya are received favorably
by the ruler of Muang Lavo. He does not, however, immediately acceed
to their request but leaves the decision up to Cāmadevī. She, in turn,
graciously asks for the king's advice, which is, "To be sent to govern the
land towards the sources is of considerable importance, and the request is
made by a powerful rishi."27 Cāmadevī consults her husband who is not
overly enthusiastic about the proposal even when his father says he can
have any other woman in the kingdom for his wife. Yet, in the end,
neither Cāmadevī nor her husband can obstruct the wishes of the ruler
of Lavo, so she prepares to depart. With her she takes 500 bhikkhus,
500 ascetics, 500 scribes, 500 sculptors, 500 jewellers, 500 silversmiths,
500 goldsmiths, 500 blacksmiths, 500 painters, 500 astrologers, 500
governors, and 500 of every other profession to execute every kind of
sacred and profane labor. "The bhikkhus, ascetics and scribes numbered
1500. On the lists there were 7,000 others, but there were certainly more
than 7,000 men, elephants and horses involved. No one made count,
and no one knows if the number was in the ten thousands or millions."28
The king's parting advice was, "My dear daughter, you must realize that
you are not an ordinary or common person. You are of royal blood, a
descendant of kings. Now you go and become a ruling queen. Take the
Buddhist religion and five hundred monks with you which will be the
basis for your progress and prosperity. When you are queen, always
observe the ten precepts for the happiness and prosperity of your people.
You must teach your people how to behave according to the Buddha's
precepts. The five hundred monks going with you are men of piety and
virtue who will protect and pray for you every day and night. Do not
deprecate them or be heedless of them."29

 

Cāmadevī departs with her large retinue and along the way builds

chedis and several important northern towns including Tak and Hot.

Much as Vāsudeva used his staff to test the probity of the site on which
Haripuñjaya was founded, Cāmadevī located her towns at the spot
on which her royal archer's arrow fell. One location, Ramayagāma,
receives considerable attention in the DL

____________________________________________________________

 27) DL, p. 17.

 28) Ibid., p. 19.

 29) MS, p. 153.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MYTH, LEGEND AND HISTORY IN THE NORTHERN THAICHRONICLES   81

 

erected palaces, pavillions and houses all in one day.30 After some time
Haripuñjaya is reached amid the great rejoicing of Vāsudeva and the
populace. Cāmadevī is consecrated as queen seated on a heap of gold
and "in consequence of it, up to the present day, the name Haripuñjaya
has been traditionally handed down for this city."31 After ruling the
city for seven days, Cāmadevī (who had been three months pregnant when
she left Muang Lavo) gave birth to two boys, Mahantayasa and Indavara.

Under Cāmadevī, Haripuñjaya nourished. Monasteries are built
for the five hundred monks who came from Muang Lavo and the people
piously practice Buddhism due to the encouragement and example of
Cāmadevī. She settled the town according to the regions from which
the elements of the populace came : those from Muang Lavo in the north-
east; those from Migasangara in the west; those from Ramañiya Nagara
in the south; and the interior of the town to the descendants of those
born in the footprints of the elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo.32 She
made propitiatory offerings to the town's protective devas and requested
an elephant of supernatural power so that her sons could protect Hari-
punjaya against its enemies. The devas granted her request and sent an
elephant of silvery white skin and green tusks. Cāmadevī had it duly
consecrated on an auspicious day in a ceremony lasting three days and
nights. The elephant had such power that everyone who stepped before
it was stricken with an illness which could only be cured by making
suitable offerings to the animal.

 

           One incident during Cāmadevī's reign receives special attention in
both the chronicles as well as the oral traditions of the Lava.33 There
was a Lava (recorded as Lua in the DL) chieftain named Vilangkha (Mil-
angkha in the CdW) who, having heard of Cāmadevī's great beauty wanted
her for his wife. He sought her hand in marriage but was refused. The
DL chronicle records the conversation between Vilangkha's envoy and
Cāmadevī as follows : "Your majesty," said the envoy, "Vilangkha, who
lives in the heights of the Lua mountains, the chief of all the Lua, has

________________________________________________________

 30) DL, p. 25.

 31) Epochs. . . , p. 100, n. 8.

 32) DL, p. 27; PY, p. 170; MS, p. 166.

 33) MS, p. 169; PY, p. 181; DL, p. 29. See Kraisri Nimmanahaeminda, "The

        Romance of Khun Luang Viranga", (mimeographed).

 

 

 

 

 

 

82                                          Donald K. Swearer

 

 

sent me with my men to tell you that he would like to have you as his
major wife." "O messenger," she replies, "I have never seen your chief.
What does he look like ?" "Like us," was the answer. "Like you" she
cried. "Don't talk of making him my husband. It doesn't seem fit to
me that he should even touch my hand!"34 Vilangkha did not take
Cāmadevī's refusal seriously and assembled an army of 80,000 men before
the gates of Haripuñjaya. Once again the queen refused the Lava chief's
hand in marriage and sent her own troops led by her two sons, Mahant-
ayasa and Indavara, mounted on the magic elephant. The Lava troops
were seized with fright, threw down their arms and headed back for the
hills.

The Lava traditions have an expanded version of the Cāmadevī/Vil-
angkha episode.35 In response to Vilangkha's pursuit of her hand in
marriage, Cāmadevī sets a trial which she considers impossible to ac-
complish successfully. She tells the Lava chieftain she will marry him
if on three tries he can throw his spear from Doi Suthep into the Lamphun
city walls. Vilangkha accepts the challenge, and with the first mighty
throw almost manages to reach the city wall. Today can be seen a small
pond marking the spot of the first throw. Cāmadevī, now fearful that
her ardent suitor will succeed, plots Vilangkha's downfall. Taking her
sarong she fashions a hat for the Lava chief and has it presented as a
gift feigning admiration for Vilangkha's great strength. He puts it on
his head and launches bis second throw only to find that it lands quite
short of the mark. His third effort is so weak that the spear is caught
by the wind and like a boomerang reverses its direction and pierces
Vilangkha's own heart. Unwittingly by wearing the defiled hat, Vilan-
gkha had broken the taboo of touching cloth profaned by menstrual blood.
This taboo still conditions spacial relationships between men and women
as well as many modes of behavior. This old taboo accounts for the
prohibition against women entering such sacred places as the precinct
of the sacred chedi at Wat Phra Dhâtu Haripuñjaya in Lamphun or Wat
Phra Dhātu Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai.

 

               The JKM devotes a small paragraph to Cāmadev herself being

more interested in Lamphun's subsequent history, in particular, wars

____________________________________________

34) DL, p. 35.

 35) Kraisri Nimmanahaeminda, "The Romance .,,"

 

 

 

 

 

MYTH, LEGEND AND HISTORY IN THE NORTHERN THAICHRONICLES  83

 

involving Lamphun, Lopburi and Cambodia. Cāmadevī's son, Mahan-
tayasa, is installed as the ruler of Haripuñjaya at the age of seven in an
elaborate Brahmanical ceremony including such regalia as a nine-tiered
umbrella, jewelled sword and scabbard and golden slippers. Indavara,
not content with the status of uparaja under his brother, asks his mother
for a kingdom of his own. With the help and advice of the rishis—
Vāsudeva, Buddhajalita and Subrahma-and a hunter, Khelānga, a grand
city was miraculously created named, Khelânga Nagara (modern day
Lampang), and "on the same day, towns were created as dependencies
of the city, a considerable population of all sorts of people was brought
into being,"36 and Indavara was made the ruler. While neither the
episodic nor the regal chronology of the subsequent history of Haripuñjaya
will concern us here, one further incident must be mentioned. During
the reign of a king named Kambala in the 10th century A.D., a cholera
epidemic broke out. The citizens fled to the city of Sudhammanagara
(modern Thaton) and, later, being harassed by the king of Pagan left for
Hamsāvatī (Pegu). When the epidemic subsided after six years, all of
them returned to Haripuñjaya. Coedès uses this incident to support his
identification of Lamphun as Mon, a presumption we hope to qualify
later in this paper.

 

                                      The Narrative Interpreted

 

        The epic history describing the founding of Haripuñjaya or Lamphun
is a series of creation myths and legends in the genre of the Sinhalese
chronicles (e.g. Dïpavamsa, Matiâvamsa), and Indian purânic and agamic
literature which manifested itself in such Pali works as the Nidana-katha
and the commentary on the Buddhavamsa.31 Above all else, this history
narrates the creation of civilization (i.e. Muang, Nagara or town) in the
midst of a non-civilization (i.e. forest-dwelling hill tribes). The funda-
mental polarity of these mythic-legends is, therefore, one between town

____________________________________________________________

 36) DL, p. 38.

 37) See E.J. Thomas, The Life of the Buddha As Legend and History, 3rd ed.

        (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, Ltd., 1949). Thailand's contribution to

        this tradition is not even noted by Thomas. European scholars are generally

       unaware of such works as the Phra Chao Liep Lok and other northern Thai

       Buddha Damnān.

 

 

 

 

 

84                                           Donald K. Swearer

 

or city and village or tribe. This polarity is manifested primarily in the
calling of Cāmadevī to govern Haripuñjaya, but secondarily in such
episodes as Vilangkha's pursuit of Cāmadevī's hand in marriage. Câma-
devï personifies the advanced or Muang culture of Lopburi adumbrated
in the stylized lists of professionals in her retinue. She stands in stark
contrast to the rustic attributes of those whom she has come to govern
symbolized in the CdW by the children in the footprints of the forest
animals.

On a sociological level, the narrative speaks of the progressive
development of a Muang culture. The first city Vāsudeva created was
Migasangara. [Miga here should probably not be translated in its par-
ticular meaning of deer but in its generic sense of forest or untamed
animal.] Migasangara, here, is a town designating the first settlement
of different tribal peoples, yet it cannot be called a civilization or culture
at this point. Consequently, other towns emerged until the founding of
Haripuñjaya which benefited from its alliance with Lopburi. Later, it
developed a unique identity distinct from other centers of high culture,
including Lopburi, Cambodia and even the cultural influences of Nakorn
Si Thammarat.

On a mythological level, Haripuñjaya is what Mircea Eliade would
term an axis mundi or center of the sacred cosmos. It is in this sense
that Vāsudeva descends from Doi Suthep, "looks in all directions" and
then takes people from the four cardinal points which serve to populate
the cities he creates. Also, the flood destroying Pura Nagara and the
sea shell model of Haripuñjaya are intended to convey the emergence of
a new, sacred order. A similar mythic mentality informs the narrative
of the Buddha's visit and relic. It establishes Haripuñjaya as a place
guarded by the devas and the nagas, the cleverest of the birds that fly
(crow), the temporal authority of King Asoka, and the spiritual authority
of the Buddha himself. Haripuñjaya is a Buddha-desa, the center of a
sacred cosmos charged with the power of the Buddha's presence conveyed
through his personal visit and the deposit of his relic-hence, the chroni-
cler's concern for pollution as evidenced by the role of the crow and the
indigenous deva as guardians of the reliquary against all kinds of impu-
rities and Ādittarāja's near desecration of the holy spot.

 

 

 

 

 

MYTH, LEGEND AND HISTORY IN THE NORTHERN THAICHRONICLES   85

 

From the standpoint of the narrative's structure as outlined in our
description, Lamphun has two foundings, one associated with the Rishi/
Cāmadevī continuum and the other with the Buddha/ Ādittarāja conti-
nuum. The creation of a Muang culture involves the federalization of
tribal or communal loyalties by subjugating them to a higher political
authority. Cāmadevī primarily fulfills this function. She symbolizes a
new political authority associated with a powerful ruling family of a
Muang with a high culture (i.e. Lopburi). Yet, while Cāmadevī brings
with her political power invested with the authority of both Buddhism and
Brahmanism, the religious identity of tribal affiliation is not yet decisively
transformed. Buddhism as the religion of the Muang is not established
until the time of Ādittarāja. The Buddha predicts that his religion will
flourish in the land of the Mae Ping River at the time of Ādittarāja.
There are at least two possible explanations for the_chronicler's point-
either Buddhism was established in Haripuñjaya by Ādittarāja or it began
to flourish as a popular religion during his reign. In either case-and
the latter may be the most probable—Buddhism was established as the
religion of the Muang during the reign of Ādittarāja, not of Cāmadevī.
Ādittarāja, then, becomes the second founder of Haripuñjaya. No reign
matches his importance until that of Mengrai in the 13th century A.D.

 

The specific details of the narrative are, of course, liable to a variety

of interpretations. Some informants say that the black and white crows

are meant to symbolize south and north Indian influences; others have
attempted to identify the children of the animal footprints with specific
tribal groups in northern Thailand; and still others have pointed out
Vāsudeva's connection as the son of the clan progenitors of the Lava.
Such speculations may, indeed, have merit. I have tried to offer a
framework in terms of which the mythic-legendary part of the founding
of Haripuñjaya has meaning. I have suggested, by way of summary,
that the fundamental polarity in the myths and legends is between civi-
lization (town) and non-civilization (village) and that Haripuñjaya has two
foundings, one associated with a Rishi tradition38 actualized by Cāmadevī


 __________________________________________________________

38) Rishis are persons who have gained supernatural powers through the exercise
       of ascetic disciplines. They often play the role of founder or progenitor.
       See Hermann Kulke, Cidambaratnāhātmya (Wiesbaden : Otto Harrasowitz,
       1970) for a suggestion of the role of the rishis at Cidambaram a holy Saivite
       site in South India. Parallels are also found in the Romulus and Remus
       tradition appended to the founding of Rome. cf. F. Hermann Strasburger,
       Zur Sage von der Griindung Roms (Heidelberg : Universitats Verlag, 1968).

 

 

 

 

 

86                                           Donald K. Swearer

 

and another associated with a Buddhist tradition actualized by Ādittarāja.
These distinctions, as our description of the narrative points out, are not
clear cut but, nevertheless, are implicit in the texts.

 

                                           Historical Implications

The historical relevance of our study of the story of the founding
of Haripuñjaya focuses on the long-held assumption that from the 7th
or 8th century39 until Mengrai's conquest in 128140 Haripuñjaya can
be identified as Mon. This position has been generally held by scholars
since it was established by Coedès in refutation of M. Lefevre-Pontalis'
view that Cāmadevī brought Khmer influence into northern Thailand.41
Coedès' position means that for a period of approximately 500 years,
Haripuñjaya was dominated by a culturally and artistically advanced
people who had established themselves in great strength in the central
plains. There are at least three problems with this theory : (1) Hari-
puñjaya would have been an isolated outpost of a people representing a
highly developed culture for a half millenium, (2) it is probable that of
the eight Mon inscriptions discovered in Lamphun, none can be dated
before the reign of King Kyanzittha of Pagan (1084-1113),43 (3) some of
the earliest archaeological remains in the area, in particuliar a few scul-
pted Buddha heads, are identified by some Thai scholars not as Mon but
some other, as yet unidentified, Buddhist culture.43

 

            These problems are significant enough to call into question the
presumption that Haripuñjaya was Mon from the time of Cāmadevī
until the Thai conquest. By applying our study of the chronicles' account
to the historical situation, there appears to be some grounds for asserting
that Haripuñjaya was not dominated by a Mon Buddhist culture until
the 11th century, if at all, and that prior to that time it was culturally a

_________________________________________________________

 39) Coedès places Cāmadevī in Haripuîljaya in the 8th century and the beginning

        of AdittarSja's reign around the middle of the 12th century. His dating

        pushes the chronology of the chronicles up approximately 100 years.

 40) W.A.R. Wood, A History of Siam (Bangkok, 1924), p. 55.

 41) Coedès, Op. cit., p. 16.

 42) See A.B. Griswold and Prasert na Nagara, "An Inscription in Old Mon from

        Wieng Mano in Chieng Mai Province", Journal of the Siam Society, 59 : 1

        (January, 1971), p. 154.

 43) M.C. Chand Chirayu Rajani, Thai Monumental Bronzes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MYTH, LEGEND AND HISTORY IN THE NORTHERN THAICHRONICLES  87

 

Lava-Mon area dominated by the Lava. This position is not a direct
refutation of the traditionally held view but a qualification of it. Basi-
cally, it reduces the gap between the Lava and Mon who, after all, are
ethnically and linguistically related. It sees the Lava not as "primitive
and savage" (to use Coedès' terms) but as relatively less advanced than
the Mon. And it affirms that Haripuñjaya cannot be seen as Mon in the
same terms as the Mons of central Thailand. In short, it broadens the
Mon/Khom debate by suggesting that the Lava transformed the culture
of Lopburi Mons into something unique. Mom Chao Chand makes a
similar suggestion in his Thai Monumental Bronzes but it has not been
seriously followed by historical scholarship.

The identification of Cāmadevī as Mon. (or Meng) is not, in fact,
corroborated by any direct references in the northern chronicles including
the CdW which makes pointed reference to the Mons. The section of
the CdW dealing with her qualifications to rule Haripuñjaya simply
identifies her as the daughter of the King of Lavo. The only particular
support in the chronicles for such an identification comes from the mention
of Rāmañña Nagara, a Mon designation, to which Cāmadevī is related
through her husband who ruled there as viceroy. The DL and a version
of the CdW as yet untranslated from northern Thai even suggests that
Cāmadevī was only the adopted daughter of the King of Lavo and had,
in fact, been born in northern Thailand. An association of Cāmadevī
with the Lava is made possible by her connection with Vāsudeva who,
as mentioned earlier, is the son of the guardian spirits of the Lava, Pu
Sae, Ya Sae. It might be noted that the Lava have their own independent
tradition of being converted to Buddhism during the Buddha's visit to
northern Thailand.44 It should at least be queried whether this tradition
points to an early Indian Buddhist contact with the Lava.45

Given the following : that we know very little about the nature of

Mon influence in Lopburi in the 7th and 8th centuries; that there is an

allusion to Cāmadevī's origin being in the north; and that no source
directly identifies her as Mon, it is questionable at best to assume that
Cāmadevī initiated the Mon period of Haripuñjaya. In fact, it seems just

___________________________________________________________

 44) Kraisri Nimmanahaeminda, "The Lawa Guardian Spirits .. .".

 45) There are two badly weathered Buddha heads in the Wat Phra Dhātu Hari-

         punjaya museum which appear to be close to a pure Gupta style.

 

 

 

 

 

88                                           Donald K. Swearer

 

as reasonable to picture Cāmadevī as a pawn in alliances between cousins
in tier marriage to the Mon prince of Lavo and then later in her reign in
Haripuñjaya. She brought with her not only enhanced political authority
but many of the Mon traditions and customs she had imbibed while in
Muang Lavo or Rāmañña Nagara. These, in turn, were transformed into
unique tradition properly designated as Lava-Mon or simply as Haripuñ-
jaya.

It is probable that Mon Buddhist influence became dominant in the
11th or 12th century. Historically, Mon strongholds in central Thailand
and lower Burma were being disrupted during this period by the Khmers
and the Burmese respectively. It would be natural to assume a movement
of Mons into areas which seemed to offer greater security. Haripuñjaya,
an up-country station with Mon connections, offered one of those places.
For this reason, the earliest Mon inscriptions discovered in Lamphun
dating from the 11th and 12th centuries are similar to the language and
epigraphy of the Mon inscriptions in Thaton and Pegu of approximately
the same time. It might even be that the Thais further to the north
came under the influence of the Buddhist Mons during roughly the same
period. Could this influence of Mon Buddhism have brought about such
a decisive change that it should be looked upon as the second major
turning point in the cultural and religious development of Haripuñjaya ?
In which case the period from Cāmadevī to Ādittarāja might be thought
of as the Lava-Mon period and from Ādittarāja to Mengrai as the Mon-
Lava period. Such a distinction may seem to be nit-picking, yet it reveals
a new dimension of northern Thai cultural and religious development
that has been largely neglected.

One final note-what about the cholera epidemic at Haripuñjaya
and the forced migration to Thaton and Pegu ? Frankly, I see no reason
to become literalistic in interpreting the chronicles on this point. Per-
haps, as the chronicles suggest, the incident is primarily an explanation
of the meaning of Loi Krathong. Or, as Coédes argues, it points to old
Mon traditions at Haripuñjaya. Might it not, however, be a sign point-
ing to the future influence of Mon Buddhism from lower Burma into
northern Thailand ? My position would support such an interpretation.




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