Religion in Thailand

The Pilgrimage to Prabat

About one hundred miles to the north-north-east of the city of Bangkok there stands an isolated hill, whose sides are greatly scored with "rays" that plainly indicate its volcanic origin. As all the surrounding land is but a wide stretch of low level plain, flooded in the rainy season, the jagged peak is a conspicuous object for many miles away from its base. The hill is known as Mount Prabat. The name "Pra-bat" is a compound of two words, meaning "the holy foot," and is given to the hill because popular superstition asserts that in a hollow in its rocky sides there is a footprint of the holy Buddha.

Thousands of people every year make their way to the spot to worship this memento of their Master's presence on this earth. From Bangkok the pilgrims ascend the Menam Chow Phya in boats, until they reach the old ruined capital of Ayuthia, from which point, the rest of the journey, some fourteen or fifteen miles, is made by land. Some people trudge the whole way on foot; some ride in the picturesque buffalo carts, or in the cumbersome bullock waggons; while others travel by means of elephants. The howdah of the elephant is no gorgeously caparisoned seat, like those so often seen in Indian pictures, but is merely a plain wooden saddle, covered over with a light canopy of basket-work which shields the head from the heat of the sun, and the thorns of the long spiny creepers that hang from the branches overhead. The Siamese elephant does not kneel in order to allow the passenger to mount, but he lifts one of his front legs, and bends it at the knee so as to form a kind of step. A sharp iron spike, stuck in the end of a long rod or pole, is the weapon used by the mahout or elephant driver to guide the beast and to urge it to greater speed. It functions both as whip and reins.

The road, in the height of the pilgrim season, is thronged throughout its whole length with crowds of people going and returning, and there are plenty of enterprising Chinese and Siamese at convenient intervals along the track, anxious to make a little honest profit by supplying the devotees with food. Rice is the chief article offered for sale, and is cooked in bamboo shoots, which here take the place of the ordinary iron pot. Sugar obtained from the palm tree, and wild honey in the comb, from the trees in the neighbouring forest, are also largely disposed of as palatable forms of light refreshment.

On the hill, and round about it, there are many temple-like buildings and houses for the attendant priests. Salas, rooms for preaching, halls filled with hundreds of idols, and huts made of bamboo for the use of the pilgrims abound at the base of the hill, and testify to the large number of worshippers who annually frequent the place. On trees and temples, on shrines and shanties, are hung innumerable bells, which when light are swung by every breeze, and when heavy are banged by the worshippers. A native band performs hour by hour, and endeavours, unsuccessfully, to drown the clear sweet melody of the bells in its harsh discord of gongs and drums. The mountain is dotted all over with the usual white spire-crowned pagodas, and, over the footprint, a particularly beautiful shrine has been erected. Its roof is built in seven stories which overlap each other, and upon the summit rests a very tall prachadee with a snow-white spire and a richly gilded base, which indicates with dazzling brilliancy, the whole day through, the exact locality of the sacred spot. The whole structure is placed on a small projecting platform in the rock, and the ascent is made by a series of about fifty or sixty steps cut in the solid rock. Up these steps all truly devout Buddhists crawl on their hands and knees, and as the result of the visits to the shrine of thousands of worshippers who year by year have come to bow before the footprint of their ancient teacher, the steps are distinctly worn and polished.

The external walls of the building are covered with brightly coloured mosaics; the outer surfaces of the heavy doors and windows are beautifully inlaid with mother-of-pearl, and the whole of the interior is decorated with a series of perspectiveless frescoes, illustrating various scenes from the life of Buddha. The platform of rock is about thirty feet square; and inside the building the floor is laid with plates of solid silver covered over with a carpet of pure silver net-work, which is polished intensely bright by the knees of the devotees. Two copies of the sacred footprint are hung on the walls. Both are made of pure gold, and one of them has all the mystic symbols inlaid with precious stones. The footprint itself is about four feet long and one foot and a half broad, and both in size and shape bears no resemblance whatever to the footprint of anything either human or divine. It is in a dark hole, and cannot be distinctly seen. The golden copies on the wall are apparently purely imaginative. Railings of solid bars of silver enclose the depression in the rock, and render minute examination perfectly impossible. A gilt canopy with flowing curtains of cloth of gold is suspended from the roof immediately above the object of the people's veneration.

The numerous worshippers enter on their knees. They carry wax candles in their hands, and crawl up to the depression, prostrate themselves devoutly at its edge, fasten a bit of gold-leaf on the sides of the hole, sprinkle holy water on their heads, and then crawl out again on hands and knees. Offerings of bottles, looking-glasses, wax and paper flowers, and other tawdry objects are heaped in piles on the floor. The more valuable gifts are carefully preserved elsewhere. Those who cannot afford to give anything at all, satisfy their consciences by carefully fanning the footprint itself.


The Siamese are not the only people in the world who have been known to reverence a supposed footprint, nor is Prabat the only place where the impress of the feet of the holy of old is pointed out. The footprint superstition is world-wide. There is the well-known footprint on Adam's Peak in Ceylon, which is claimed by the Buddhists as marking the place where Buddha once stood. It is worshipped by the Brahmins as being that of Siva, while the Mahomedans assert that it was made by Adam, and Christians have been known who have stated that they believe it to be the footprint of St. Thomas. On the Kodam Rasul Hill near Hyderabad, the Mahomedans have found a footprint of Mahomed. At Thanet, St. Augustine left the marks of his feet upon a rock upon which he pressed heavily when he landed upon our heathen shores. In a circular chapel over a foot-like depression in the rocky sides of the Mount of Olives, the footprint of Christ is pointed out to travellers. On the other side of the world the inhabitants of the island of Samoa exhibit a similar memorial of Tiitii; while the ancient Mexicans claimed to possess an equally authentic relic of Tezcatlipoa.

In a "Life of Buddha", written in Sanskrit, it is said that when Gautama was born he bore in his person a number of signs or personal peculiarities that at once foretold that his ultimate destiny was that of a powerful emperor or of a widely renowned and worshipped teacher. There are thirty-two chief and eighty minor signs given, and they mostly refer to personal characteristics consideredhandsome or beautiful in men or women according to the Oriental idea of beauty. Some of them do not appear to the mind of the European to be at all conducive to an impressive or handsome presence. For instance, the wonderful being who is born with the thirty-two major distinguishing marks of future greatness or holiness, has amongst other things, a skin of the colour of gold, arms so long that they reach far below the knees when he stands upright, and a thin butterfly kind of tongue long enough to reach round and enter his ears when fully produced. Upon his fingers and toes there should be a network of lines described with mathematical regularity.

The worship of the footprint in the Far East extends back for many years, and in many of the oldest sculptures that have been brought from India, there are to be seen distinct representations of the sole of a foot with the mark of a wheel in the centre. At first, all other marks, except this universal one of the wheel, varied considerably in character, and were few in number. But the imaginations of the Eastern worshippers gradually added further ornamentations until the sole of the foot was covered entirely by a collection of symbols. The elaboration of these signs reached its greatest height in Siam and Burmah.

There is nothing in the earliest scriptures to warrant the present widely-spread superstition, and, in fact, it is not until many years after Buddha's death that any mention of such a belief is to be found in the Sanskrit writings.

The Prabat relic in Siam was discovered in 1602 A.D., by a hunter named Boon. It is very probable that he had at some time or other been a pilgrim to Ceylon, for such pilgrimages to Adam's peak were not uncommon in those days. One day when hunting in the forest he noticed a depression in the rock, which he thought resembled the relic in Ceylon. He proclaimed his discovery to many people, and the king, hearing the report, sent a body of learned monks to the place to examine the footprint and report upon its authenticity. They examined and compared it with the copies they possessed of the one in Ceylon, and returned to the king, declaring that it was perfectly genuine. Thereupon, the sovereign, being only too willing to accept the conclusions of the monks, made no further enquiry as to the character of the discovery, but built a shrine over it, and ordered his people to worship it annually. This they gladly did, for their national pride was intensely gratified by the belief that they had in their country so unmistakable a proof that the holy Buddha had once resided amongst them.

In all the well-known Buddhist footprints the figure of a wheel or disc occupies the centre. It probably first represented speed, and was therefore symbolical of fleetness of foot, an attribute of greatness in early days. In later times it lost the form of an ordinary chariot wheel, and became the Chakkra or quoit of Vishnu and Indra. Its form is well seen in the watermark on Siamese stamps, and on the old Siamese coins. In the hands of Vishnu and Indra it was a powerful weapon of destruction, as it always annihilated all those enemies against whom, in their wrath, they hurled it. In the Buddhist mythology it has lost its material character, and taken on a new significance, as representing the pure moral teachings of Gautama, which when cast by holy men against the ignorance and sin of the world will effectually destroy them.

The other marks on the footprints in Siam and Burmah are later designs added by credulous and imaginative worshippers. They are grouped symmetrically round the central Chakkra, and represent various attributes of royal power, and holiness, or else are symbolical of different natural and supernatural ideas. The principal of them are mentioned below. There are the sixteen heavens of the formed Brahmas, and the six heavens inhabited by the inferior angels or Devas. Another sign represents Mount Meru, the centre of each system of the universe. There are also depicted on the sole of the foot, the seven mountains which form a ring round Mount Meru, and the seven belts of deep dark ocean that lie in the valleys between them, and in whose waters monstrous fishes and water-elephants gambol and amuse themselves. Then there is another ocean, the eighth, in which float four worlds inhabited by human beings. In the first of these worlds, the men have faces such as are familiar to the dwellers upon our own particular planet. In the second, the faces of the inhabitants are square in shape, while those of the third have a round moon-like visage, and those of the fourth have countenances bounded by semi-circles. Another compartment of the footprint holds Mount Chakrawan, the great mountain of crystal which encircles the world and forms a wall around it. The heavens are represented by a group of stars. The Himalaya Mountains, that appear so often in Hindoo legends, are not forgotten, nor are their seven lakes in which bloom lotuses of many different colours, ever omitted. Five rivers flow from the Himalaya Mountains, and on their banks are the great forests inhabited by fabulous beasts and birds. The Naga king, the seven-headed cobra who shielded Buddha, with his seven hoods, during a time of danger, finds a place in another compartment. But amidst all these curious and mystic symbols there is no animal of evil disposition, for upon the foot of the holy man there was nothing of bad omen. Figures representing royal authority occur in the form of a palace, a flag, a throne, a royal sword, a white seven-storied state umbrella, a spiral crown, and a golden ship.

It is rather surprising that the late king, who was very hostile to many popular superstitions, encouraged the worship at the shrine on the hill at Prabat. Perhaps he half believed in it himself, or perhaps he thought it good for his people to be reminded as often and as forcibly as possible of the life of the founder of the national faith. The reader need scarcely be told that not only is the whole footprint purely fabulous, but that also there is nothing in the authentic history of ancient times to warrant the notion that Buddha ever set foot in Siam at all.

The two following stories referring to Buddha's feet are given by Alabaster, as being translated from the Burmese "Life of Buddha" by Bishop Bigandet.

"During all the time that elapsed after the rain, Buddha travelled through the country, engaged in his usual benevolent errand, and converting many amongst men and angels. In the country of Gaurint, in a village of Pounhas, called Magoulia, the head man, one of the richest in the place, had a daughter whose beauty equalled that of a daughter of the angels. She had been in vain asked in marriage by princes, nobles, and Pounhas. The proud damsel had rejected every offer. On the day that her father saw Gautama he was struck with his manly beauty and deportment. He said within himself, 'This man shall be a proper match for my daughter.' On his return home he communicated his views to his wife. On the following day, the daughter having put on her choicest dress and richest apparel, they all three went with a large retinue to the Dzetawon monastery. Admitted to the presence of Buddha, the father asked for his daughter the favour of being allowed to attend on him. Without returning a word or reply, or giving the least sign of acceptance or refusal, Buddha rose up and withdrew to a small distance, leaving behind him on the floor the print of one of his feet. The Pounha's wife, well skilled in the science of interpreting wonderful signs, saw at a glance that the marks on the print indicated a man no longer under the control of passions, but a sage emancipated from the thraldom of concupiscence."

The story goes on to relate how the father made a further offer of his daughter to Buddha, and how the saint preached to the parents a sermon that stilled their longings to possess him for a son-in-law. They returned home with their still unmarried daughter. She never forgave the man who had refused her love, and cherished for him a lively and life-long hatred.

The other story tells of a visit paid by the saint Kathaba to the pile upon which Buddha was laid for his cremation.

"Standing opposite to the feet, he made the following prayer, 'I wish to see the feet of Buddha whereupon are imprinted the marks that formerly prognosticated his future glorious destiny. May the cloth and cotton they are wrapt with be unloosened, and the coffin as well as the pile be laid open, and the sacred feet appear out, and extend so far as to lie on my head.' He had scarcely uttered this prayer when the whole suddenly opened, and there came out the beautiful feet, like the full moon emerging from the bosom of a dark cloud."

"Lord Buddha sat the scorching summer through,The driving rains, the chilly dawns and eves;Wearing for all men's sakes the yellow robe,Eating in beggar's guise the scanty meal Chance gathered from the charitable."
"Light of Asia," Book V.—Arnold.

Among the crowd of brightly dressed people who throng the streets and alleys, the canals and rivers of Eastern Venice, there are none who so soon command the attention of the new arrival, or who appeal more strongly to the eye of the oldest inhabitant of the city, than the yellow-robed priests of the Buddhist faith. In the capital of Siam there are over ten thousand of them, while in the whole kingdom there are more than one hundred thousand. No ancient order of Grey or White Friars ever exhibited their individuality either with such frequency, persistency, or picturesqueness as these representatives of a far more ancient if less noble worship. It is scarcely necessary in these days when Oriental creeds and faiths have been so fully and widely discussed, to point out that the primal elements of that philosophy which announced the necessity of the Buddhist priesthood are entirely different to those which caused the creation of similar institutions in the West. The monk of the Western orders claims to be an intercessor between God and man. The Buddhists have no God, and therefore they do not make intercession for their brethren. The Western monk is a teacher and a preacher, the Buddhist priest may be, but is by no means necessarily so. The order rests upon a basis something like this:—The evil in the world is the result of past evil and will be productive of future evil. The only way to eradicate the general wickedness of the world is by casting it separately out of each individual in the world. This can only be accomplished by the individual himself, and as long as he remains in contact with the world he is under constant temptation to indulge in its pleasures, to gratify his passions, and to add in a thousand ways to the sum of human misery. By retirement he no longer craves for fine food and raiment, but has every opportunity for long and careful meditation upon his own evil doings and desires, and upon the way to get rid of them. The monastic institution finds its parallel in the life of a layman, when such a one, with a large amount of work to be performed, shuts himself up in his own room and denies himself friends and rest that his labours may be properly accomplished.

There is no real division between priest and layman; either may become the other at will. In Siam the monastic vow is not binding for life, but is cancelled by the superior of the monastery whenever a request to that effect is made. Every man in Siam enters the priesthood for at least three months of his life, during which time he is supported by the voluntary offerings of the people. The original purity and simplicity of the mendicant order has long been lost. The Society has often been endowed by kings and chiefs with gold and silver; idleness and worthlessness are too often the characteristics of the temporary priests. Still, there are a few who desire to live the noble life of their Founder and to follow faithfully in his paths of wisdom and virtue. For years they have been the schoolmasters and the doctors, and the copiers and makers of books. They are known in Siamese as "Pra," a word which means both "sacred" and "great."

Each monk has eight requisite and lawful possessions; namely, three robes of yellow cloth which are all worn at the same time; a bowl for the collection of the daily food; a razor with which to shave the head and eyebrows; a case of needles for the repairing of clothes; a girdle; and a filtering cloth. But the Siamese monks often have many possessions besides these. There is a rule that all other property except the above shall be given up to the common use of the monastery, but the rule is not obeyed. The three patched yellow robes are often represented by seven or more; and in the wealthier monasteries they are not of common cloth, but of rich and beautiful silk. The term "yellow" as applied to the priest's vestments is apt to convey a wrong impression to the minds of those not acquainted with Buddhist countries. In these degenerate times the monks desire that ornament in dress which their religion forbids, and they render themselves very artistic in appearance by a combination of colours not strictly yellow, but ranging from a rich chocolate through shades of saffron, gold and orange to the palest tints of the orthodox colour. The following note from Alabaster's "Wheel of the Law" is an interesting comment upon the priestly robes:

"I cannot state with any certainty the reason yellow robes were adopted by the Buddhists. There is a story that thieves wore yellow dresses, and that the poor ascetics, in the depth of their humility, imitated the thieves. It is far more probable that the people of the lowest caste, or outcasts, were compelled to wear yellow, and that the Buddhists, voluntarily making themselves outcasts, proudly adopted the colour which marked their act. We find them boasting of the yellow robe as the flag of victory of the saints. In the early days of Buddhism the monks wore whatever they could get. Some picked up and patched together the rags strewn about the cemeteries, whilst others are mentioned as magnificently attired in glittering royal vestments, and in the precious dresses procured by kings for the ladies of the harems, which the ladies piously gave away."

Each priest also possesses a large fan. It is intended to assist him in keeping his eyes from the things of the world, and so to keep his thoughts from straying as he walks along the streets. A priest is forbidden to look more than a plough's length in front of him, and must keep his eyes fixed upon the ground; but the Siamese monk who obeys this rule must be diligently sought for in out of the way corners. The fan is generally carried by a boy attendant, who holds it so as to screen the priest's head from the sun, while his eyes roam at will, seeking for novelty and amusement.


All those who wear the yellow robe are not men. Many children can daily be seen with shaven heads and eyebrows, dressed in the priestly garments. These are novices or "nanes," not fully ordained monks. They are not admitted before they are eight years old, and, unless their parents intend them to remain in the monasteries for life, they wait until the top-knot has been shaved off before entering into the service of the temple, so that their average age is about thirteen. After a time they leave the temple, return to the world, and get married. But about the age of twenty or twenty-one they must re-enter the priesthood, for in early manhood every male, including the king himself, must seek full ordination. The "nane" during his noviciate has only about ten rules to observe, whereas the fully ordained priest has to obey over two hundred.

The ceremony of ordination if respectfully and devoutly performed would be a very impressive one, but as at present carried out, the only persons in the temple who are at all reverent are the priests themselves. The behaviour of the congregation is marked by indifference and often by extreme levity. When an applicant desires admission to the priesthood he signifies his request sometime beforehand to the president of the chapter, who then appoints a day for him to be formally received. The applicant arrives at the temple with a host of relatives and friends dressed as for a holiday. He is clothed in white, and over his ordinary garments he wears a mantle of gauze decorated with gold and silver spangles. A procession is formed, and to the sound of a band that plays in the open air, he and his male friends march three times round the outside of the temple. He next enters the building and sits down on the floor in a place reserved for him. The women of the party sit on one side of the temple and the men on the other. They all chew betel-nut, and the men smoke, while all refresh their thirst from the numerous tea-pots that circulate round and round the congregation. At the far end of the building the priests are arranged in two or more rows, facing each other, with the president at their head.

One of the friends of the candidate who has already been ordained, leads him to the superior, saying, "I present this person who wishes to become a priest." The applicant prostrates himself before the president three times, with his hands pressed against his forehead, palm to palm, and says, "Venerable president, I own you as my ordainer." The president fastens the bundle of robes round his neck, and he goes to the entrance of the temple, where two friends who are members of the chapter, fasten the begging bowl round his neck. The three men then return to the altar and bow. The candidate retires a little way, and kneels in reverential attitude while he answers several questions. A private examination has previously taken place. The president now reminds him that he is expected to give truthful replies to the questions put to him, and then puts him publicly through the following catechism.

"Are you free from consumption, fits, leprosy, or any contagious disease?"

"I am free."

"Have you ever been bewitched or in the power of the magicians?"


"Are you in the full possession of all your mental faculties?"

"I am."

"Are you of the male sex?"

"I am."

"Are you in debt?"

"I am not." (Many people endeavour to enter the priesthood in order to avoid payment of their debts.)

"Are you a slave or a fugitive?"

"I am not." (Those drawn for conscription often seek admission, as the forced military service is very unpopular.)

"Do your parents give their consent to the step you are now about to take?"

"They consent."

"Are you over twenty years of age?"

"I am."

"Have you the requisite utensils and garments?"

"I have."

"Then come forward."

The candidate goes forward on hands and knees, and with palm-joined hands salutes the president three times, saying, "O father benefactor, I pray to be admitted to the sacred dignity of the priesthood. Take pity on me and raise me from the lowly condition of the laity to the perfect condition of the priesthood."

The presiding priest next asks the monks of the chapter whether any of them know any just or lawful reason why the candidate should not have his request granted. If none of them state any objection, the president signifies his willingness to admit the candidate to full ordination. The name, age, and address of the applicant are now written down in the records of the monastery, after which he goes to one side of the temple to be robed. He takes off the clothes he has been wearing and puts on his new garments in full view of the whole congregation. This is not at all an easy matter, and he is always assisted by some friend who has previously gone through the same ordeal. If the friend gets the robes entangled, as he frequently does, the congregation laughs immoderately at the uncomfortable dilemma in which the candidate is placed. The difficulty is solved by some kindly-disposed priest, who leaves his place and comes to assist in the robing. With fan in hand and the alms-bowl slung over the shoulder, the wearer of the yellow robe kneels once more before the superior, saying:—

"I go for refuge to the Buddha."

"I go for refuge to the Law."

"I go for refuge to the Order."

He follows this by taking ten vows:—

1 "I take the vow not to destroy life."

2 "I take the vow not to steal."

3 "I take the vow to abstain from impurity."

4 "I take the vow not to lie."

5 "I take the vow to abstain from intoxicating drinks, which hinder progress and virtue."

6 "I take the vow not to eat at forbidden times."

7 "I take the vow to abstain from dancing, singing, music, and stage-plays."

8 "I take the vow not to use garlands, scents, unguents, or ornaments."

9 "I take the vow not to use a broad or high bed."

10 "I take the vow not to receive gold or silver."

Then the president says to him, "You are now received into the brotherhood. I will therefore instruct you what duties you are to perform and what sins you are to avoid. You will daily collect alms and will never put off your yellow robes. You must dwell continually in a monastery and never with the laity, and you must forsake all carnal pleasures," and so on.

The ceremony concludes with the paying of homage to the newly made priest. He sits on the floor, and then all present who are acquainted with him come, one by one, and prostrate themselves to the ground before him, at the same time giving him some present. If he has many friends, the floor of the temple round him is soon covered with about as motley an assortment of articles as it is possible to gather. There are robes, incense sticks, books, pens and ink, pencils, cigars, tobacco, betel-nut, clocks, vases of wax flowers, umbrellas, fans, flowers, fruit and cakes. When all the presents have been given and the congregation have paid their respects to the new monk, they go to their homes, and he at once takes up his residence in the cell allotted him. As long as he remains at the monastery he must obey orders and regard the superior as a second father.

The monks are not allowed to take food after noon. They may drink tea, chew betel-nut, or smoke tobacco, but they must not partake of solid food of any description. This rule is certainly far more rigidly observed than most of those that are laid down to regulate the conduct of the order. One of the commonest sights in any part of Siam is the procession of priests, soon after sunrise, seeking their daily bread. They carry a bowl, basin or bag, and go straight on from house to house, each in the district appointed him. They stand outside the houses, but make no request for alms. If anything is given to them they bless the giver; if they receive nothing they pass silently on their way. Having collected their food, they return to the monastery to eat, and to meditate meanwhile upon the perishableness of the body. On such occasions as weddings, hair-cuttings, and funerals, wealthy laymen entertain the priests at their own houses, and send them away afterwards with further gifts of food.

Buddha's early life as a mendicant was passed in the forest, and he held that the solitude and quiet of such a place was conducive to that long process of self-examination and renunciation which constitutes the distinguishing feature of the order. But as he afterwards found that he could be more useful to men by living amongst them, he permitted his disciples to live in companies in different places. The charity of the pious soon provided them with temples and monasteries, some of which were built even in his own time.

During the whole of the dry weather the monks travel from place to place, but in the rainy season, which is the Buddhist Lent, they settle down in some particular monastery. They are not allowed to sleep outside the temple they have chosen for their habitation during this period of retirement, except for some very important reason, and then only with the direct sanction of the superior. As at this time the jungle is flooded, and malaria common, there is much wisdom in the rule that forbids travelling about until the dry weather comes again. The priests, during Lent, preach to the people, who come in large numbers to listen, and to bring offerings. It is a very busy religious season as far as outward appearances are concerned, but the apparent indifference of the majority of the worshippers raises a doubt as to whether these observances possess any moral influence upon their lives.

The catalogue of the sins which the priests may not commit is a lengthy one and is religiously neglected. For instance, it is a sin to inhale flowers, to sit or sleep more than twelve inches above the ground, to break up the soil, to listen to music, to sing, to dance, to use perfumes, to sit or sleep in a higher position than the superior, to use gold or silver, to hold conversation on any but religious topics, to take gifts from or give gifts to a woman, to borrow, to ask for alms, to possess warlike weapons, to eat too much, to sleep too long, to take part in any sports or games, to judge one's neighbours, to swing the arms when walking, to bake bricks, to burn wood, to wink, to stretch out the legs when sitting, to look contemptuously at any one or anything, to buy, to sell, to slobber or make a noise when eating, to have any hair anywhere about the head or face, to keep the leavings of meals, to have many robes, to meddle with royal affairs except in so far as they concern religion, to cook rice, to ride on an elephant, to put flowers in the ears, to wear shoes, to love one man more than another, to eat seeds, to sleep after meals, to make remarks about the alms given to them, to wear any colour but yellow, to pander to popular taste when preaching sermons, to wash in the dark, to destroy either animal or vegetable life, and to whistle.

There are five sins that will certainly lead to everlasting punishment, whether committed by a priest or layman, viz., to murder one's father, to murder one's mother, to murder a priest, to treat the words or temples of Buddha with contempt, expressed as "to wound Buddha's foot so as to make it bleed," and to persuade priests to act falsely.

Members are expelled from the order on commission of the following sins:—Sexual intercourse, theft, and murder. After such expulsions they can never be re-admitted. Confessions of sin are made twice a month, at full and new moon, when the chapter meets to listen to the reading of the rules of the order. There is no inquisition; confession is purely voluntary. Slight punishments, such as sweeping the courtyard, or sprinkling dust round the holy Bo-tree follow the acknowledgment of slight breaches of duty. Serious offences are tried in the ecclesiastical courts, for the priestly body is not amenable to the ordinary laws of the land. In these courts, presided over by the chief priest, no oath is taken. An ordinary affirmation or negative answer to any question is given in silence by the raising and lowering of a fan. If the defendant is found guilty he is unfrocked, publicly flogged, and then expelled from the order.


The priest must rise before daylight, wash himself, sweep the room in which he lives, sweep round the Bo-tree, fetch the drinking water for the day, filter it to prevent killing any creatures it may contain when drinking it. These practical offices concluded, he is supposed to retire to a solitary place and there fix his mind in pious meditation upon the rules that regulate his daily life. He rises to place offerings of flowers before the sacred image, the sacred dome-shaped shrine or the Bo-tree, thinking the whole time of the great contrast between his own weaknesses and Buddha's virtues. The next portion of the daily routine is strictly and regularly followed. He takes the begging-bowl, follows his superior, collects his food, returns, eats his meal, asks a blessing for the donor, performs little duties for his superior, and washes the alms-bowls. For the next hour he should again meditate upon the kindness of Buddha, and then study the sacred books. At sunset he sweeps the holy place, lights the lamps, and listens to the teaching of the superior. As the novices do all the manual work, the superior is expected to devote himself more fully to study and meditation. Many of the chief priests of the different temples are profound Sanscrit and Pali scholars. The minute routine set forth in the ecclesiastical books is rarely followed in Siam. Priests walk about after sunset, and return late to the temples, their attendants lighting the way with torches. The time they give to meditation and worship is far short of that prescribed in the rules, and they are always ready to turn out for a chat with any visitor to their temple.

Meditation is the Buddhist substitute for prayer. There are five distinct classes of meditation.[H]

1.—Meditation on love. The priest must think of the future happiness which awaits him when he has rid himself of all evil desires. This leads him to desire the same happiness for all his friends; and finally for his foes. He meditates upon the good actions of his enemies, forgets their evil deeds, and endeavours to arouse in himself a wide-spreading, all-embracing, overshadowing love for all the world, which shall enable him to look with tenderness and affection upon all with whom he comes into contact.

2.—Meditation on Pity. He concentrates his thoughts upon the miseries and sorrows of the world, and awakens the sentiment of pity in his own breast for all the distressed ones among his fellow-men.

3.—Meditation on Joy. He is to change the attitude of his mind to one of contemplation of the joys of all men, and therein to find cause for rejoicing himself.

4.—Meditation on Impurity. He must try to realise the evils of sickness, death, and corruption, to become horrified at the endless misery entailed by the continual recurrence of birth and death, and to desire its final extinction.

5.—Meditation on Serenity. The priest contemplates the worldly opinions of men as to the badness and goodness of things; the desire for wealth and power; the hatred of injustice and oppression; he contrasts youth and disease, love and treachery, honour and disgrace, and endeavours so to rise above them all, that without haughtiness or pride he may be indifferent to all the evils and joys which accompany them, and free from all desires to partake of the same.

This is not the place to discuss the philosophy of Buddha, as we are here concerned only with the mendicant order in Siam. But in order to gain a more complete idea of the duties and character of the monastic body as contemplated by their founder, the following facts taken from Professor Rhys Davids's work on "Buddhism" are here given.

Buddha before his death told his disciples that they were to propagate his Laws, viz., (1) The four earnest meditations. (2) The four great Efforts. (3) The four roads to Iddhi. (4) The five moral Powers. (5) The seven kinds of Wisdom; and (6) The Noble Eightfold Path.

The four earnest Meditations are: (1) On the impurity of the body; (2) on the evils which arise from sensation; (3) on the impermanence of ideas; (4) on the conditions of existence.

The four great Efforts are—the exertion (1) to prevent bad qualities from arising; (2) to put away bad qualities which have arisen; (3) to produce goodness not previously existing; (4) to increase goodness where it does exist.

The four roads to Iddhi are the four bases of Saintship by which it is obtained. They are: (1) the will to acquire it; (2) the necessary exertion; (3) the necessary preparation of the heart; (4) investigation.

The five moral Powers are—Faith, Energy, Recollection, Contemplation, Intuition.

The seven kinds of Wisdom are—Energy, Recollection, Contemplation, Investigation of Scripture, Joy, Repose and Serenity.

The noble Eightfold Path which leads to Nirvana comprises: (1) Right belief; (2) Right aims; (3) Right words; (4) Right behaviour; (5) Right mode of livelihood; (6) Right exertion; (7) Right mindfulness; (8) Right meditation and tranquillity.

All these different Powers, Laws, etc., are again subdivided and re-subdivided; but the above lines will be sufficient to outline the moral philosophy of that system which not only the priests should bear out in their lives, but to which every true believer in Buddhism is expected to conform. Practically, however, these counsels are so many obsolete laws, long since dead and forgotten. Outside the permanent priests and a few students, the vast majority of the people know nothing whatever about the system, and if some of the learned writers upon Buddhism in Europe were to preach their Buddhist sermons to the subjects of the only independent Buddhist king remaining, the people would stare in wonder at their new teachers and ask one another what strange doctrines were these that were being preached unto them.

Buddha's own sermons as to the duties of the priesthood are worth a moment's notice, though the priests as a rule have never heard them, or heard them with indifferent ears. The following passages are quoted from the book mentioned above, and are translations of passages in those sermons whose authenticity is established.

"He who, himself not stainless,Would wrap the yellow-stained robe around him,He, devoid of self-control and honesty Is unworthy of the yellow robe."
"But he who, cleansed from stains,Is well grounded in the Precepts,And full of honesty and self-restraint 'Tis he who's worthy of the yellow robe."
"The restrained in hand, restrained in foot,Restrained in speech, the best of self-controlled;He whose delight is inward, who is tranquil And happy when alone—him they call mendicant."
"The mendicant who controls his tongue, speaking Wisely, and is not puffed up,Who throws light on worldly and on Heavenly things,His word is sweet."
"Let his livelihood be kindliness,His conduct righteousness,Then, in the fulness of gladness,He will make an end of grief."
"As the Vassika plant casts down its withered blossoms So cast out utterly, O mendicants, ill-will and lust."
"Do no violence to a Brahman,But neither let him  fly at his aggressor.Woe to him who strikes a Brahman;More woe to him who strikes the striker."
"What is the use of plaited hair, O fool!What of a garment of skins?Your low yearnings are within you,And the outside thou makest clean."

"A mendicant, who is fond of disputes, is walled in by ignorance, and understands neither religion nor the law of Gautama."

"A mendicant having received in right time, his meal, returning alone, should sit in private, reflecting within himself; he should not spread out his mind; his mind should be well controlled. Should he speak with a follower of the Buddha or another mendicant, he should speak of the excellent Law, and not backbite or speak ill of another. Some fortify themselves for controversy. We praise not those small-minded persons. Temptations from this source and that are made to cling to them, and they certainly send their minds very far away when they engage in controversy."

The mendicant that Gautama had in his mind when he uttered the above passages, may be as easily discovered amongst the thousands that wear the yellow robe to-day, as a needle in a mountain of hay.

After a short interval the priests put off their robes and return to the world. If they are wanted for corvée  or conscription they stay an indefinite period in their safe retreat. The yellow robes are never taken away, but are given by him who is leaving them, to one of the inmates of the same monastery. If a priest is thought to be dying the robes are taken from him, for they must not be contaminated with death. They are afterwards hung on the sacred Bo-tree, but never burned. Anyone who has once been a priest, but has returned to a secular life, may re-enter the priesthood whenever he chooses, but he must be again formally presented and ordained.

In the vicinity of several temples women with shaven heads and white dresses are sometimes seen. They are not always mourners for the dead, but belong to an order of nuns. The first nun was Buddha's foster-mother, who after the death of his father, wished to be ordained. Buddha at first refused to comply with her wishes, but on the intercession of his favourite disciple, Ananda, he granted the request. Ananda's wife, a half-sister of Buddha, was also subsequently ordained as a nun. The order of nuns does not appear to have been at any time half as flourishing as that of the monks. Nuns in Siam are very old widows. They do no teaching, sewing, or work of any description. To them the temple is a form of alms-house where they will be lodged and fed as long as they live.

[H]See "Buddhism", Rhys Davids.

Among the Temples

Every single town and village of Siam is crowded with temples, or "wats," as they are locally called. Compared with similar religious institutions in England, their number seems to be out of all proportion to the number of the population. Their variety of size and method of decoration, as well as their number, is sufficiently conspicuous to make even the most casual observer enquire why they abound to such an extent. And the reason for this superabundance of religious edifices is not to be found in the immense number of people who are popularly supposed to believe in the teachings of Buddha, but rather in a very prevalent, but degraded form of one of the tenets of an originally pure doctrine. For though it is usually stated that five hundred millions of people are believers in, and followers of "The Light of Asia," no one who has lived in a Buddhist country will venture to assert that half that number are regular attendants at the temple on the Buddhist Sunday, or that the vast majority of the people do anything more than passively accept the superstitions of their forefathers without ever enquiring or even caring whether they are the true teachings of Buddha or not. Ask any person you meet a few questions about the sage who propounded the faith that they are supposed to hold, and it will be speedily discovered that even those who are most assiduous in their attendance at the temple, and who are most charitable in the offerings they give to their priests, know little of the life and less of the teachings of him whom they apparently worship. It will be at once evident to the readers of the foregoing chapters of this book, that the people whose customs are here treated of, though nominally Buddhists, and classed en masse  as such in Western calculations of the number of those who worship the great Indian teacher of old, are guided in their daily lives, not by the principles of an old world faith, but rather by a number of powerful superstitions gathered at different times from the different nations by whom they are surrounded, or with whom they have come into close contact, which superstitions have little if anything to do with Buddhism. It is not possible to call them Buddhists at all, if the term is to be used as comparable to the term Christian as applied to the believers in Christ in Western lands. The great moral precepts of their religion are not taught to them, are unknown to them, and it is very questionable if the Sanskrit words for benevolence, gratitude, charity, and kindred virtues have any parallel in the ordinary everyday vocabulary of the people. Even if such words do exist, they are only understood by the learned few, and would be as utterlyincomprehensible to the great mass of the people as Greek and Latin.


Temples then, not being required as houses of continual or devout worship, why do they abound, not only in the capital, but in every village, and on the banks of every river and canal throughout the length and breadth of the whole kingdom? The explanation is found in the fact that the people believe that in order to make merit during this life to save themselves from misery in some future existence, they must among other things follow "the religion which teaches alms-giving." "Make merit." That is the sum and substance of their religious faith and worship. As every reader of Buddhism knows, the soul is said to pass through many stages of existence before it reaches the mysterious region of Nirvana, and that it is possible for any soul to pass even beyond the shadowy confines of this debatable territory and finally attain the perfect condition of Buddhahood. At death, the merit and demerit of the soul are balanced, and the next condition of the wandering soul determined according to a system of debit and credit. The wicked king may be re-born as a slave or even pass into the body of a toad. The soul of a slave may be re-born in one of royal degree or may even ascend to an habitation in the celestial spheres. Hence it behoves every living being during this life upon earth to make as much merit as it possibly can, and as the custom of alms-giving is held to be a very profitable method of investment for the future, it is widely practised by king and peasant alike, each giving to the priests or to those of his fellow-men who may be in distress, according to the abundance of his possession of this world's goods. That portion of Buddha's teaching which deals with the law of cause and effect in its relation to the progression or retrogression of migrating souls, has been lost to all except the few, and a mere superstition reigns in its stead.

An English resident in Siam had a servant who frequently absented himself from his duties. On each occasion, when questioned by his master as to the cause of his absence, he replied, "Please, sir, I went to make merit." Said the Englishman, perhaps a little too irreverently, "At the rate you are making merit, I should think you would be an archangel when you die."—"Ah no," replied the servant, "I don't want to be an angel. I don't want to get to Nirvana. I shouldn't like to make enough merit to get to Nirvana; I only want to make just enough merit to be born back again into this world as a royal prince, with lots of money, plenty of wives and heaps of fun."

"Merit" is made in many other ways besides alms-giving and feeding the priests. A woman who was robbed devoted the lost money to merit-making, and gave it charitably away. Even the scattering of limes containing lottery tickets at important cremations and public ceremonies is considered merit-making. Tradition relates that when Buddha was being sorely tempted by the evil Mara, he appealed to the fiend to answer whether or not, he, the tempted one, had not in his lifetime on earth been conspicuous for generous alms-giving, and the world made affirmative answer for him by a gigantic earthquake. And so the modern Buddhist believes that his merit-making and his alms-giving will cry out on his behalf when he passes from this earthly life into some other condition at present unrevealed to him.

Even their reluctance to kill any living thing is merely another form of the same belief. That it is wrong to destroy the life of anything, be it that of a seed or that of a snake, for the reasons taught by Buddha, they do not seem to know. But they have it firmly established amongst their current superstitions that to take life would be an act of demerit that would be reckoned against them in the future, and so they abstain from killing, though they will readily eat what others have destroyed. They justify their fishing operations by saying that they do not kill the fish, but that they only pull them out of the water, after which they die a natural death.


Now one of the most ostentatious ways of purchasing future happiness is the building of a "wat." There the priests will find a home; there the people may adorn the images, make frequent offerings to Buddha, and engage in other meritorious works; there the children may be taught to read and write; and there all men may see a lasting evidence of the wealth and devotion of the builders. And so temples were built year by year without ceasing, until there are hundreds more than would be wanted even if every man, woman, and child in the land were regular worshippers. Time lays its heavy hand upon these perishable structures and works their ruin. Seeds sprout in nooks and crevices and their growing roots burst open the walls and roofs. The torrent rains lend their powerful aid in the work of destruction, and in the course of the builder's lifetime the sacred building may become a ruin. But until quite lately, these "wats" were never repaired; they were built and left to crumble. The continued erection of temples has been suspended during late years, partly owing to the influence of the king, who has wisely urged that the repairing of an old and falling "wat" is a more useful and equally effective way of making merit than the building of a new one.

The word "wat," or temple, includes many structures. They frequently stand in extensive grounds, shaded by giant banyans, and surrounded by strong, well-built walls or fences. They are refuges for destitute animals as well as for men seeking retirement. The litter of pariah puppies that must not be destroyed, although not wanted, is deposited inside the temple grounds, there to be fed on the scraps that remain when the monks have finished their midday meal. The central building or church where the idols are kept, the prayers recited, and the priests ordained, is called the "bote." Round about it are the houses or cells inhabited by the monks. These may be of wood or stone, of an orthodox cell-like pattern, or they may be ordinary native houses specially erected in the precincts of the "bote" for the accommodation of the priests. They should possess no furniture, and rarely do so.

All temples may be divided into two classes, called respectively Wat Luang and Wat Ratsadon. The first are endowed and dedicated by royalty, while the second class comprises all others. The land on which these buildings are erected becomes for ever the property of the chapter, and cannot be taken away by law, or sold, or in any way disposed of for secular purposes. The central buildings are chiefly of a uniform oblong shape, and are built of wood, brick, or stone, the outer walls being washed or painted white. A colonnade runs round the outside, supported by strong, square pillars of teak-wood, that lean inwards from the base to the roof. The roof may be built in one, two or three tiers, but is always covered with differently coloured tiles arranged in symmetrical patterns. Gold-leaf is lavishly used in the ornamentation of the gabled ends of the roof, and a new temple, with the mid-day sun shining full upon it, presents a very brilliant appearance, especially when seen through the bright green foliage around it. The walls are pierced by a number of windows which are closed by strong teak shutters. The doors of the poorer temples are of plain, unvarnished, undecorated teak, and though solid, are not handsome. In the wealthier "wats" the decoration of doors and windows is often very beautiful. The doors are either ornamented with very intricate designs worked in gold upon a black background, or with scenes in the life of Buddha worked in mother-of-pearl upon a foundation of shining black lacquer. The interiors of the numerous "botes" are variously adorned. There may be only dirty walls, or brilliant mosaics, elaborate designs or painted pictures. Some of the pictures are extremely funny. In one of the temples in the capital, the artist who has been entrusted with the internal decorations has mixed together in ludicrous confusion, scenes from the life of Buddha, events in Hindoo mythology, and rough reproductions of old European drawings. He has placed a number of European ladies and gentlemen of the time of Louis XIV, on the side of a hill, where they are enjoying themselves with dance and song. It is a rural picnic. Under the hill is a railway tunnel with a train about to enter, and on the summit is Buddha in a contemplative attitude brooding over the whole, but owing to the faulty perspective of the drawing, it is impossible to state whether Buddha is contemplating the scene of merriment, or brooding over the curious handiwork of the designer.

One image of Buddha in a sitting posture occupies the place of honour at the far end of the temple, facing the door. The number of smaller images varies considerably from half a dozen to several hundreds. In one of the temples in the old capital of Ayuthia there are over twenty thousand. They are covered all over with gold-leaf, and the eyes of the larger ones are made of mother-of-pearl. Some of the most barbarous laws in the Siamese civil code relate to the profanation of idols. They are never enforced now, and any need for them must at any time have been very small.

Section 48 of the above code is: "If a thief steal an image of Buddha, and use various devices for removing its ornaments, such as washing or smelting, let him be put into a furnace and be treated in exactly the same way as he treated the image, and thus pay for his wickedness."

Section 49 says, "If any thief strip a Buddha image of its gold or gilding, let him be taken to a public square and a red-hot iron rubbed over him till he is stripped of his skin, as he stripped the image of its gold, and thus pay for his crime. If a thief scratch the gold from a Buddha image, pagoda, or temple, or sacred tree, let his fingers be cut off."

Heaped round the altar are the offerings of the merit-makers,—old bottles, Birmingham-made vases, clocks, china, saucers, joss-sticks, looking-glasses, bits of coloured glass, and many other articles of equally trivial value. In addition to these things for the adornment of the altar or the use of the temple, the priests also receive food, clothes, money, mosquito netting, boats and small pieces of native furniture. After a big alms-giving day the interior of the sacred pile looks something like an auction room awaiting the commencement of a sale.

The "Prachadee" is a conspicuous feature of all ecclesiastical architecture. It is a brick or stone monument, round at the base, but tapering to a long thin spire at the top, as shown in several of the illustrations in this book. It represents the primitive tope or relic mound, and covers either a relic or an image of Buddha. When a genuine relic cannot be obtained, an imitation of one answers the same purpose. Around the "bote", the most holy of all the buildings, are placed eight stones, one at each of the eight chief points of the compass. They are called "bai sema," and are cut in the shape of the leaf of the ficus religiosa  or Bo-tree. They mark out the boundaries of the consecrated part of the "wat." They are erected when the temple is first consecrated. Eight round smooth stones are first buried a little way below the ground, together with the relic or image. Holy water is sprinkled over them, and across the boundary thus formed the spirits of evil intent have not the courage to intrude. Small, solid, cubical platforms of brick are built over the stones, and on the platforms are placed the gilded or painted stone representations of the sacred leaf. These again are covered with a canopy of stone cut in a similar shape, and often elaborately carved or inlaid with mosaics.

Every monastery has its bell-tower, whose chimes call the priests to prayers, tell when the sun has crossed its mid-day path, and "toll the knell of parting day". The towers are of wood and have three stories, in each of which is placed one bell. The bells are painted pale blue, and ornamented with broad plain bands of gold-leaf, which run round the rim, and also divide the surface into four equal segments. They are remarkable for their purity of tone, and are not to be equalled by the bells usually found in Western churches. The tone is soft and sweet, and at the same time so penetrating that it can be heard for long distances. The bells are not rung, but are beaten. The first few strokes are given slowly and gently, then they gradually increase in rapidity and force, till the bell resounds under a torrent of blows, the tone becoming louder and louder, but never jarring or discordant.

Not only at every temple, but in many secluded spots at the entrances to lonely canals, and on the edges of the distant jungle, rest-houses are built for the use of wanderers. They are called "salas", and to build a "sala" is a work of merit. As the erection of one of these rest-houses involves less expense than the building of a temple, they are therefore even more abundant than the temples. They consist simply of a wooden platform raised a few feet above the ground by strong posts. Several pillars round the sides of the platform support a thatched or tiled roof. There are no walls and no rooms. Here the traveller, be he native or foreigner, may hold a picnic, may eat, rest, and sleep without expense or interruption. Madmen and lunatics choose the rest-houses near the temples as places where they can live quietly without fear of molestation.

The description given above would apply to the majority of Siamese temples. But it is worth our while to look in detail at a few of the more noted temples in the capital.

The royal temple, Wat Prakow, stands within the circumference of the outer wall that surrounds the palace and the government offices, and on account of the part it plays in important State ceremonies, and because it is the king's own place of worship, it is far more elaborate than any of the other temples of the country. At this temple the water of allegiance is taken and the oath of allegiance is sworn, and in the same building was held the requiem service for the late Crown Prince. A central "prachadee" stands in the courtyard of the temple, surrounded by many similar structures of lesser height and beauty. The large one in the centre towers high above all the surrounding buildings, and is said to be covered with plates of gold. It certainly looks like a solid mass of that precious metal, and at sunrise and sunset when it catches the roseate hues of the rising or the setting sun, its golden surface can be seen from afar, shining and glittering like a second sun itself, above the coloured roofs of the temples and the white or many-tinted spires that are associated with it. The smaller relic mounds are covered with mosaics of glass and enamel roughly set in plaster. The bits of glass and enamel are not laid in the plaster so as to form a level surface, but here and there they stand out in tiny rosettes, branches and flowers, and fruit and animals. At a distance the rude character of the workmanship is totally hidden, the tawdry appearance of the material is completely lost, and as the uneven surfaces reflect the brilliant light of the sun, the spire-capped shrines form a series of glittering satellites around the central spire of gold.

From the temple courtyard the roof of the large and imposing modern palace can be seen. In the centre, and at either end of the triple-coloured roof, is one of those crown-shaped spires so common in all state and ecclesiastical buildings in Siam. It has been stated that "upon a nearer approach to the magnificent spectacle of Wat Prakow, so dazzling is the effect that it is hard to convince yourself that you are not actually standing before buildings set with precious stones." Now this is not by any means true. The temples of Buddha in Siam are like Buddhism itself, seen to the greatest advantage when distance has lent its proverbial enchantment. Even as the moral teaching of the great philosopher when viewed through the spectacles of Western professors, is a very different creed to that followed by the people, so the temples when seen through the golden mist of early morning from a distant point of view, are brilliant and beautiful beyond description, though on a nearer view, the perishable and paltry character of the material of which they are constructed destroys the appearance of magnificence, leaving, however, in the place of earlier impressions, a feeling of wonder at the marvellous skill of the people who can produce such striking effects from such tawdry material. Near to the gilded "prachadee" is the actual "bote" used by the king, surmounted by a similar spire, which is overlaid with sapphire-coloured plates of glass and porcelain; while a little distance away stands the larger temple, set in parts with mosaics of emerald green upon a gilt background. There are several smaller spires of ruby red, bright yellow, or snowy white, standing amongst this mass, whose tapering summits are exceedingly slender and graceful in form, though the raised flowers and decorations that surround their bases are made of nothing but common porcelain and glass. One really valuable "prachadee" is constructed of pure white marble, and stands upon a heavy base supported by seven elephants cast in bronze. In various places near the doors of the temple, or the gates in the walls surrounding the courtyard, there are a number of enormous, grotesque figures, some in helmets, and some in old-fashioned chimney-pot hats. They are evidently of foreign origin, and the sculptor has produced an extremely comical effect by so cutting the eyes as to give them an unmistakable leer or wink. They represent demons, and are supposed to guard the entrance to the sacred edifice. Each figure leans upon a gigantic staff, and gazes into the faces of all those who enter the courtyard or buildings. There are also griffins in stone, the representations of powerful kings who keep the world from being entirely captured by the spirits of evil. The stone lions are the emblems of Shakyamuni in his character as king of men and beasts. A large, bronze figure of the sitting Buddha rests opposite a row of these quaintly carved images of men and animals. It is seated upon a pedestal of marble under a canopy fashioned in imitation of a lotus leaf. The lotus leaf is the Buddhist lily, even as the Bo-tree is the Buddhist cross, and the forms of both these plant structures appear again and again in temple decorations. The lotus is especially noticeable in the lotus-shaped capitals of the huge teak pillars that support the roofs and colonnades of the holy "bote."

The courtyard which contains all these vari-coloured and fantastic shrines and images, is paved with slabs of white stone and marble, which reflect the heat and light of the sun with oppressive intensity. Other creations in marble, bronze, stone, and wood, set with the same mosaics of cheap china and common glass, and representing Europeans, fishes, dolphins, and fabulous monsters are scattered profusely but irregularly amongst the larger and more conspicuous monuments. The roofs are covered with coloured tiles. There is a central rectangle in orange, yellow or red, with its edges set parallel to the roof, while round it run several borders in red, blue, and green. Owing to the height of the buildings these coloured roofs are always so far removed from the eye of the spectator that they never lose their artistic appearance. The gables are of wood or metal, and curve upwards at the ends into a peculiar ornament, which is so common in civil as well as religious architecture as to cause much speculation as to its meaning. It has been described as being symbolical of many things, but it most probably represents the head of the Naga or king of snakes. Round the edges of the roofs of several of the constituent buildings of this royal "wat," are hung many small sweetly toned bells, whose silvery voices may be heard in the farthest corners of the enclosure as they swing to and fro with every gentle breeze. The windows and doors are deeply sunk in the extremely thick walls. They are covered with black lacquer and look as though they were made of ebony. Designs in mother-of-pearl have been worked into the lacquer, while the hinges and fastenings of the separate shutters have been richly gilt.


The floor of the chief building is covered with matting made entirely of woven silver wire. The roof is lofty, and is made of teak. The room is of the usual oblong shape, but at the further end a magnificent altar-like shrine stretches from side to side. The sides of this valuable altar are covered with gold-leaf and gilded glass, which lose a little of their dazzling brilliancy, though they gain in depth of colour, in the subdued light of the interior. Small prachadees in clusters stand at the same end of the temple, all heavily gilt. This Buddhist temple is unique amongst Siamese temples in containing objects of real value. Inside there is nothing tawdry and cheap. Everything is genuine as becomes the gift of a king. On a square table at the back, supported on the tall conical hats of twelve large figures, are seated seven figures of Buddha, in pure solid gold. One hand of each of the figures is raised and pointing upwards. On every finger and thumb of the uplifted hand glitters a king's ransom in rings of emeralds, sapphires, and rubies, while in the centre of each palm shines and flashes a rosette of diamonds. Away up in a dim recess towards which the seven hands are pointing, there is an image of Buddha, often said to be cut out of one enormous emerald. In reality, it is made of jade. This stone is reported to be of priceless value. It cannot easily be examined by visitors as it is partly hidden in shadow, but with a pair of opera-glasses the features are easily distinguishable. The idol is said to have fallen from heaven into one of the Laos states. It was captured from these Northern people by its present owners. It possesses three diamond eyes of great value, the third of which is set in the centre of the forehead. It has several times been lost or stolen, but has always been recovered.

There are many rare and precious vessels for the temple services, such as cups, incense burners, and candlesticks made of gold and studded with jewels, but unfortunately the workmanship is in some cases very defective, and the stones have lost a great deal of their value by being badly set and cut. One or two museum cases are to be seen, containing offerings made by royalty or wealthy noblemen. Round the base of the altar are a number of ebony tables holding the usual vases, wax flowers, and clocks, but in this temple they are all of real value.

The walls and ceiling are painted in native style and colour, with scenes from the life of Buddha, and from the Hindoo myth of Ramayana. They are executed with that curious absence of perspective common to Oriental pictures, but nevertheless many of the figures are full of life and action. In particular, the elephants are usually accurately drawn, though strangely coloured.

We may fitly close this chapter with an account of one of the country temples given by H. Warington Smyth in his "Notes of a Journey on the Upper Mekong."

"At Wieng Chan, on the north bank (of the Mekong), the remains of the great Wat Prakaon are very fine; the latter rises from a series of terraces, up which broad flights of steps lead, and is of large proportions. The effect of height is increased by the perpendicular lines of the tall columns which support the great east and west porticos, and which line the walls along the north and south; the windows between the latter being small, and narrower at the top than at the bottom, also lead the eye up. A second row of columns once existed, and the effect must have been very fine. Now the roof is gone, and the whole structure crowned by a dense mass of foliage, as is the case with all the remains of smaller buildings not yet destroyed. One very beautiful little pagoda at the west end is now encased in a magnificent peepul tree which has grown in and around it, and has preserved it in its embrace. There are remains of several deep water-tanks; and the grounds, which were surrounded by a brick wall, must once have been beautiful. But the best thing at Wieng Chan, or the old city, as they call it, is the gem of a monastery known as Wat Susaket. It is a small building, the Wat itself, of the usual style, with a small lantern rising from the central roof. The walls are very massive, and, with the height inside, the place was delightfully cool; all round the interior, from floor to roof, the walls are honeycombed with small niches in rows, in which stand the little gilt images, looking out imperturbably, generally about eight inches in height.

"Round this building, outside, runs a rectangular cloister which faces inwards, and here, at one time, the monks were living amongst the statues which stand round the walls, many of these three and more feet high, while the walls too are ornamented with niches similar to those inside the main building. In the centre of each side there is a gateway surmounted by a gable, there being also similar ornaments at each corner. The beauty and retired air of the court inside could not be surpassed, and the effect of the green grass, the white walls, the low-reaching, red-tiled roofs, and the deep shadows is charming; there is nothing flat, nothing vulgarly gaudy, and very little that is out of repair. And here, as is most noticeable in the remains of the other buildings about, the proportions are perfect. In this the ruined remains of Wieng Chan surpass all other buildings I have seen in Siam, and bear witness to a true artistic sense in the builders."

Several of the larger "wats" in the capital are deserving of further notice. The largest temple in the country is Wat Poh. It has often been said that "he who has seen Wat Poh has seen every Buddhist temple in Siam." It covers an immense extent of ground in the very heart of the great city, and inside its high brick walls are gathered together examples in wood and stone, in bronze and porcelain, of everything connected with ecclesiastical architecture in the country. Its chief attraction is an immense idol. In one of the lofty buildings lies a sleeping Buddha of gigantic proportions. It is probably the largest image of its kind in the world. The room containing it is over two hundred feet long. The idol itself is one hundred and seventy-five feet long, so that it practically occupies the whole of the building, with the exception of a narrow passage all round the base of the rectangular brick platform on which it reclines. The heavy shutters and ponderous doors are always locked, except when some inquisitive foreigner desires to view. His wish can be gratified by the payment to the man in charge of a fee varying from eighteen-pence to two shillings. After payment has been made, the gigantic doors are flung open and the visitor enters, only to find himself in almost total darkness. One by one a few of the heavy shutters are slowly opened and a little daylight gradually admitted. The light falls upon the dull red walls or elaborate frescoes, and upon the sides of the sleeping figure, but loses itself at last in the dim recesses of the lofty roof. When the eye has become accustomed to the gloom, the peculiar wonder of the spectacle begins to be appreciated. The whole of the building or the image cannot be seen from any one point of view. The gigantic idol is made of brick, which has been covered over with cement. Upon the cement a smooth layer of lacquer has been deposited, and then the whole coated with gold-leaf. The figure measures eighteen feet across the chest; the feet are fifteen feet in length; and the toes are each three feet long. The soles of the feet are inlaid with symbols in mother-of-pearl, according to the legend which states that Buddha had upon his feet at birth a number of signs that proclaimed his true character. The head is covered with a conical cluster of spiral curls, the apex of the cone being far away from human eye in the shadows of the rafted roof.


The sketch of the figure given in this book is the only drawing of the idol in existence, and no photo has ever been taken by any of the local photographers owing to the darkness of the interior. It was only on payment of a heavy bribe that the caretaker allowed the artist to put up his easel. After further debate, followed by a fee, he condescended to open a few more windows so as to admit sufficient light to render any sketching possible. While the sketch was being made, a small piece of the gilded lacquer fell from the chest of the recumbent idol. In less time almost than it takes to write of the occurrence, the windows were closed, the place veiled in utter darkness, and the artist unceremoniously requested to leave the building. The man evidently expected the whole structure to fall upon his unlucky head as a punishment for allowing the sacred place to be so desecrated by the white man. Doubtless by this time the caretaker has worked off the demerit he earned that day, by devoting some of the money he then received to purchasing merit in one of the many ways known to him.

In the grounds of Wat Poh there are several ponds, shaded by magnificent trees, and surrounded by grotesque figures in stone. These ponds are the homes of a few alligators, which are kept and fed by the priests and servants of the temple.

Almost opposite to Wat Poh, on the other bank of the river, is Wat Chang, a marvel to every one who has ever seen it. The actual "bote," the priests' houses, and the relic mounds are in no respect extraordinary, but on the bank of the river is a huge monument consisting of a series of pagodas resting on a square base. It is this collection of pinnacles that attracts and charms the eye. Their form is not that of the slender-spired "prachadee," but that of a bluntly pointed pyramid, and they are known as "praprang." Viewed from a little distance, they look, as any photo shows, like a collection of beautifully carved stone pinnacles, but a closer view reveals the fact that they are only made of brick and plaster and covered with divers figures made of broken plates and saucers. Thousands upon thousands of pieces of cheap china must have been smashed to bits in order to furnish sufficient material to decorate this curious structure. It must be admitted that though the material is tawdry, the effect is indescribably wonderful. It is not until one stands close to the work itself that it is possible to realise that the elaborate designs and the quaint figures are merely so many pieces of common china. The tallest of the pagodas, the one in the centre, can be seen from many points in the city, and by ascending the steps that lead half way up to the summit, a magnificent view of the capital itself is gained. The winding river and the broad canals shine like ribbons of burnished silver; the houses are hidden beneath masses of foliage, from amongst whose leafy crowns the prettily coloured roofs and the graceful white spires of many temples stand out in bold and picturesque relief. At sunset the details of the structure of the pagodas of Wat Chang are lost, but the mass of spires and pinnacles takes on a purple tint which changes to one of dusky hue as the light fades slowly from the sky. The whole edifice is in its way a triumph of decorative skill of which the people are reasonably proud.

The Golden Hill is the name given to an artificial mound about two hundred feet high, which faces the public crematorium where the vultures congregate. At first it is difficult to believe that it is not a genuine hillock, for though later investigation shows it to be constructed of bricks and mortar, trees have been planted on it and creepers trained over it, till it looks as though Nature in some sportive mood had raised an isolated hill amidst the broad extent of low-lying plain by which it is surrounded. On the summit of this leaf-clad brick and plaster mound is a snow-white prachadee with a very large base. The interior of the round basal portion is an open room, in the middle of which, guarded by iron railings, stands a gilded shrine containing an imitation in glass of the famous tooth of Buddha which is preserved in Ceylon. From the size of the original it is evidently spurious, for it is impossible to conceive that the ancient philosopher and teacher possessed the benign and dignified aspect that is attributed to him, if the tooth shown is really genuine. The scoffing sceptic has even hinted that it is of equine origin. The Bangkok relic is not shown to the worshippers. It is hidden in its gilt case, and many of the natives who bow before the shrine really believe that the object it contains is not an imitation, but an actual tooth of Buddha. Steep stone staircases lead from the smooth lawn at the base to the shrine upon the summit. In clear weather the view extends far away to the jungle-clad interior in one direction, and in the other, to the distant blue hills upon the eastern shores of the gulf. At one time foreigners frequently ascended The Golden Hill for the sake of the view, but since the time of the Franco-Siamese trouble it has been guarded by soldiers, and no one is allowed to pass the sentries on duty without a special permit signed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

On three days of the year, however, when a special holiday occurs in connection with the worship of the relic, the hill is open to every one. Around the base are set up numerous stalls, booths, and side-shows, and a native fair with all its varied attractions draws thousands of people to the spot. Side by side are the booths where the missionaries sell their school books and their translations of certain portions of the Bible, and the stalls where the wonderful wicker-work made by the prisoners in the jails is offered for sale. Gambling tents, shadow pantomimes, and Chinese theatres are in full swing. There is but very little direct purchasing. Nearly every booth has a lottery. You may pay sixpence for the privilege of rolling three wooden balls along a bagatelle table. You will then be allowed to choose an article whose value varies according to the numbers in the holes into which the little spheres have rolled. At another place a man stands behind a board in which a square hole has been cut on a level with his face. He moves his head quickly backwards and forwards in front of the hole, poking out his tongue and rolling his eyes with marvellous rapidity. At the quickly appearing and disappearing countenance you are permitted to throw three tennis balls, and if you are successful in hitting the distorted features, you receive a prize of little value. It is an Oriental form of Aunt Sally, with a living Aunt of male extraction, willing to be a target at the rate of three shots for sixpence. On another stall every article has a thread fastened to it. The loose ends of the cotton strands are collected and passed through a bit of hollow bamboo about six inches long. You pay your money and you choose your thread. Then the proprietor traces it out, and you get what is fastened to the other end of it. The prizes range from a common piece of slate pencil, to a penny exercise book, and a German concertina.

All the merit-makers before indulging in the fun of the fair, first buy a bit of gold-leaf, a few wax flowers, or a tiny candle, then mount the steep and broken steps, kneel in front of the shrine, stick their gold-leaf on the iron railings, light their candles and fix them on iron spikes, and throw their waxen blossoms into a blazing bonfire. The visitor to the summit looks down upon a ring of twinkling lights, beyond which lies the deep darkness. The air is full of many sounds. A native band discourses native airs with customary vigour in front of the shrine itself; a military band plays operatic selections in a band-stand half way up the hill; and the devotees bang the big deep-toned bells with more force than is demanded by purely religious feeling. Up from the crowd below comes the roar of hundreds of human voices, the cries of the cheap jacks and lottery owners, and the shouts of the men with the shows, all telling of the animation and excitement that exists amongst the dark-looking figures that ever move, but never leave a vacant spot in the brilliant torch-lit avenues and passages. The priests sit in long pavilions, their yellow robes and shaven heads set off by the red and white draperies of their temporary resting-places. They drink tea and chew betel-nut incessantly, chatter and laugh with animation, and evidently enjoy the fun quite as much as any of their lay brethren who have come to the place for the double purpose of making merry and making merit.

Another temple, Wat Samplum, boasts a copy of Buddha's famous footprint, which is also worshipped amidst much jollity for three days each year. This footprint is sunk in the centre of the floor of a small spire-crowned room on the top of a low artificial hillock. It has no toes and also no heel. It is shaped like an infant's bath, and is about three feet long, two feet wide, and eighteen inches deep, and has been cut or moulded with strict mathematical regularity. It passes the wit of any European to imagine by what process of logical or illogical reasoning any person could bring himself to look upon this curious object as having the slightest resemblance to a human footprint. The usual fair accompanies the worship, and the believers have no sooner plastered their bit of gold-leaf on the sides or sole of the footprint than they descend the little elevation to take their part in the fun that rages fast and furiously at the bottom.

There are in several of the northern mountain ranges or isolated hills large limestone or granite caves which have been utilised at various times for religious purposes. Near to the walled city of Karnbooree on the River Meklong, there is one large cave which was used as a store-house for idols and offerings during the last war between the Siamese and Burmese. Here the discoloured images and the withered offerings remain to this day, rarely visited by any one; the entrances to the cavern being nearly blocked up by the jungle growth which has flourished undisturbed for many years.

In the town of Petchabooree there are several caves occupying the whole interior of a hill which is open at the summit and bears all the appearances of an extinct volcano. These caves are still distinctly used as temples. Steps have been cut in the solid rock to form an easy means of descent to their open mouths. One of them receives its light through a crater-like opening in the hill-side; some of them are too dark to be visited without the aid of torches or lanterns. The floors have in all cases been nicely levelled and sanded, while one has been neatly tiled. Idols are arranged in rows round the sides, and Buddhas in standing, sleeping, or sitting postures occupy every jutting crag and hollow corner. Tiny holes, often hidden behind a gigantic image, lead into little, dark, dirty, damp recesses with plank beds and torch smoked altars, where hermits live, or years ago have lived, in retirement. There is something almost grotesque in these cavern interiors. Huge stalactites and stalagmites shine in the light of the entering sun, or look gloomy and solemn in the fitful spluttering of the smoky torches There is a grandeur of natural power and strength in the great pillars and deep recesses, all tending to make the gilded figures of the benevolent Gautama and his chief disciples look more tawdry and worthless than when seen in their more suitable surroundings in the brick and wooden temples of his living followers.

One very noticeable feature in the interiors of many temple buildings is the management of the light to increase their solemnity and their impressiveness. For instance, in the case of the sleeping Buddha in Wat Poh, even when many of the windows round it have been opened, the head is still partly hidden in darkness, so that the effect of the height is increased and the wonder of the spectator intensified. And again, Mr. Smyth mentions in the book quoted above, a small "wat" called Wat Boria, where "there is a very fine Buddha, on whose head and shoulders the light is thrown from a small window in the roof. The effect is quite impressive, and does great credit to the architect who designed it. This is by no means the only place in Siam where the light is dexterously managed." He also mentions that at Wat Chinareth, "one enters a monk's doorway at the south-eastern corner from a cloister, and is at first lost in the gloom. At last the great black columns with their elaborate gilt ornamentation (the one decoration they understand in Siam) grow out in the feeble light from the little narrow windows in the low side walls. The lofty peaked roof rises far into blackness."


Mention has frequently been made of the extensive use of gold-leaf in the decoration of shrines and images. The import of this commodity is of the annual value of about one hundred and sixty to two hundred thousand Mexican dollars. And in addition to what is imported, a large quantity is manufactured in Bangkok by Chinese goldsmiths. Near to one of the temples inside the city walls there is a small settlement whose chief employment is the beating of gold-leaf. They get thin pieces of gold about a quarter of an inch square, and put them between thick pieces of white oily paper. Sheets of gold-leaf and sheets of paper are arranged alternately in a pile about two inches thick. This packet of paper and gold is put inside a stout leathern covering which is left open at two sides, and is then placed on a hard stone slab some three or four inches thick. The gold-beater takes a large, heavy hammer with an iron head, and pounds the little parcel in front of him with all his strength. He continues his hammering until the bits of gold have been considerably flattened out. He next takes the thin gold sheets and puts them between finer pieces of white Chinese paper, and then continues his pounding until the sheets have become sufficiently attenuated to be used for the gilding of images and ornaments. Gold-leaf is sold in sheets about three inches square at the rate of fifteen to eighteen shillings per thousand sheets.

Not only is gold-leaf used for covering idols and shrines, but it is also used by native artists in the decorations of the walls. Earth colours are used for painting figures and scenery; but whenever a figure requires a golden crown or ornament, or the representation of a shrine or temple requires a golden decoration, then gold-leaf is always used, and the contrast between the bright reflecting surface of the metal and the dull appearance of the washes of the earth colours is very striking.

A favourite subject for religious pictures is the representation of the different hells, of which there are eight. Though the account of the infernal regions as given below may seem very gruesome, there is nothing repulsive in their pictorial presentation by the native artist, owing to utter lack of any effect of realism. In fact, most Europeans require an interpreter in order to understand their meaning. The eight major hells are all places of fearful torment. In the first of the series the condemned creature is cut into infinitesimal pieces, every cut producing its own agonies, as the sense of feeling is never destroyed. When the body has thus been mutilated, a wind possessing life-restoring properties, blows over the torn remains and renovates them once more into a perfect human being, which is again mutilated by the attendants. The torment is repeated indefinitely; but a time arrives at last when the restored body is cast into another portion of the same hell to be the sport of cruel monsters. In this first hell one day is equal in length to nine hundred thousand years.

In the second hell the floor is of molten iron, and as the lost ones tread the liquid metal they sink into it and die in frightful pain. A new life follows the recent death, and again and again is the terrible punishment inflicted through long periods of time, where one day is measured by thirty-six million years upon earth.

The inhabitants of the third hell have lost a portion of their human form. Either they have human heads, and animals' bodies, or their human bodies possess animals' heads. They are the playthings of innumerable fiends who drive them with thongs from one mountain to another, and ever as they run, great masses of rock fall upon them, wounding and killing them. But as in all the other regions inhabited by the guilty, a new life springs from the dead bodies, that the cruel torment may be re-inflicted.

The fourth hell is beautiful to look upon. Its floor is covered with the sacred lotus, but hidden amongst its rosy petals are sharp-pointed iron spikes. And as the damned come to the edges of hell, they are seized by the powerful arms of diabolical monsters, who fling them with Titanic force upon the treacherous flowers below. They are flung times without number, their wailing and moaning echoing and re-echoing through the corridors of hell for a space of four thousand years whose every day is equal to seventy-six million years upon earth.

The fifth of the series resembles the fourth inasmuch as its floor is covered with iron-spiked blossoms. But the erring souls continually attempt to escape. With much anxiety of mind and weariness of body, they raise themselves from their spiny bed only to be met by fiends armed with gigantic sledge-hammers. Fierce blows of their ponderous weapons send them reeling back to their torment, amidst the horrible laughter of their fierce captors.

The sixth hell is that of everlasting fire, but of even a more revolting character than that preached by so many Christian teachers. For amidst the roaring flames of the blazing pit scamper the giant dogs of hell, whose teeth are of sharpened iron. They seize their prey, and devour it with insatiable appetite. After being eaten the wicked are re-born, again roasted in the infernal fire, again devoured by iron fangs and so on and on for sixteen thousand weary years.

In the seventh hell the sides are steep hills, but they apparently present a means of escape. Up the precipitous incline the lost ones toil and clamber, but terrific gusts of wind ever hurl them headlong to the bottom on to a floor of iron spikes.

The last of the series is another of unquenchable fire. Here the lost are so crowded together that they have no room to move. This is the deepest and widest hell of all, and here the throng of sufferers must endure their torments until that day when a great cloud shall appear in the heavens, announcing the end of the world.

As if these eight diabolical creations of some fiendish mortal's brain did not contain sufficient terrors to frighten the wicked, all the eight major hells have each been subdivided into sixteen minor ones equally revolting. They are all of cubical shape, and measure thirty leagues each way; but not wishing to weary the reader by detailing their several characters, only one is here mentioned in illustration of their general nature. In one of these minor hells every one suffers from intolerable thirst. Through its gloomy confines flows a river whose waters are saturated with salt. The wretches, maddened by the thirst which none may relieve, fling themselves into the briny flood. Along the banks stand devils with long iron poles with burning hooks, who fish them out again, mutilate their bodies with the red-hot iron, and when they cry aloud in their madness for water, pour molten iron down their scorching throats.

Religious Ceremonies

Religious ceremonies follow one another with incredible rapidity in the "Kingdom of the Yellow Robe." They are observed by every one, not on account of their religious value, but because they afford excellent reasons for indulging in general holidays. A few of the more important ones will be dealt with in this and the two succeeding chapters.

Thet maha chat. The first one to be noticed here is the "Thet maha chat" or "The Preaching of the Story of the Great Birth." It does not, like the other ceremonies we shall describe, occur on definitely stated days, and in many instances, does not give rise to a general national holiday. It often occurs as a semi-private or domestic religious observance, performed by those and for those whom it immediately concerns. Before describing the manner in which the public and private celebrations of this ceremony are held, it will be advisable to relate the story of the Great Birth according to the account given in the Siamese text, for it is said that this account of the Great Birth does not exist in the Buddhist literature of the surrounding countries.

Buddhist legends, now rejected by many Oriental scholars themselves, relate that the Hindoo philosopher once taught and enlightened his friends and disciples by relating to them at considerable length, five hundred and fifty stories, called "jatakas", about himself. These narratives give a complete account of the various transmigrations of his soul, which he, having attained to Buddhahood, was enabled to vividly recall. Of these five hundred and fifty Birth Stories, the Vessantara Jataka relates how he lived upon earth as a noble and virtuous prince called Vessantara. As this was his last existence previous to his re-birth upon earth as Buddha, it is held in high estimation by those who believe in its authenticity. In previous existences he had traversed the whole social scale from king to slave. He had been monarch, courtier, Brahmin ascetic, teacher, prince, nobleman, merchant, slave, potter, and outcast. He had inhabited the bodies of the elephant, tiger, monkey, snake, fish, and frog. In the supernatural worlds he had been a tree-god and a fairy.

The last ten of the Birth Stories are of the greatest interest, as they relate how he successfully attained absolute perfection in all things essential to Buddhahood; and the first nine of them may be fitly summarised as a preface to the story of the tenth or Great Birth.

The first story tells how he was born as a prince, the heir to a throne and a crown. Now, whenever, in previous existences, he had reigned as a king, he had invariably suffered and fallen in the succeeding life. He was therefore very anxious to escape the cares and perils of sovereignty, and so he feigned dumbness. His relatives doubted the reality of his affliction and tried in many ways to make him speak, but all in vain. At last they proposed to bury him alive, and the prospect of this cruel death caused him at last to speak, that he might save his life.

In the second story he is again represented as being the son of a great monarch. His father's younger brother turned traitor, usurped the throne, and put to death him whose crown he had taken. The prince was born in exile, but when he arrived at man's estate he was informed of his real rank and title, and he determined to attempt to regain them. He set sail for his native land, but during the voyage a great storm arose, the vessel was wrecked, and he only managed to save his life by swimming to the distant shore.

The next Birth Story relates that he was the son of blind, ascetic parents, to whom he acted as a faithful servant. He trained a pet deer to carry his bowl for him, and wherever he went the timid creature accompanied him. He was killed in the forest by a stray arrow that a king had shot while hunting.

He was re-born as a king of wonderful power. His dominions included both heaven and hell, and during the period of his sovereignty he managed to visit both these distant portions of his wide domain. History, however, does not relate what he saw or what he did in either of these regions.


He next became the servant of a warrior king, for whom he acted in the capacity of counsellor and judge, winning for himself great renown for his wisdom and strength of character. On one occasion he is credited with engineering a tunnel through a mighty mountain, that his royal master might fall unawares upon a powerful enemy. The tunnel was constructed, and the attack made with complete success.

The sixth of this set of Birth Stories narrates his career as the Naga king, the monarch of the snake world. His two chief relatives were a human brother, and a sister who inhabited the body of a frog. He himself was a cobra, and one day a skilful snake-charmer captured him, and took him about from place to place on exhibition. He was freed from this humiliating condition by his brother and sister, who ingeniously tricked the wandering showman.

Then again he becomes the son of a king, and holds the position of a judge. Owing to his severity in putting down bribery and corruption, he incurred the displeasure of the Lord Chief Justice, who resented the loss of his valuable perquisites. One night the king dreamt that he had paid a visit to the heavenly regions. When he awoke he sent for the chief judge, and asked him if he could suggest any way of realising the journey, as he would very much like to visit those realms at his leisure. The judge suggested that the trip might be accomplished if the favour of the deities was first obtained by making them an offering commensurate with his desires. He suggested the sacrifice of the prince and all the members of his household. The king accepted the idea, and the sacrifice was planned. But several courtiers who had reasons for disliking the chief judge of the kingdom, revealed to their sovereign the enmity that existed between judge and prince. The king, furious at the trick that had been played upon him, instantly ordered the death of the wicked official, but the son, acting with his usual gentleness and mercy, pleaded for his enemy and obtained the remission of his sentence.

In the eighth story he is again a king; but this time devotes his life entirely to the noble practice of alms-giving. So great was his generosity that he soon beggared himself, and was forced to become a hermit. Having nothing left to distribute to those who sought to profit by his benevolence, he conceived the idea of finally giving his own body away in pieces. But the Devas, wishing to save him from the results of such a noble deed, brought him presents of nuggets of gold with which to satisfy the demands of those who daily asked him for alms.

The ninth story presents him to us as a wise man teaching and counselling a king. His fame was noised abroad even unto the uttermost ends of the earth. Amongst those who heard of his wisdom and purity was the Queen of the Nagas. She was so deeply impressed by the stories that reached her, that she fell madly in love with the famous counsellor, and wished, not figuratively, but literally, to possess his heart. From amongst her numerous attendants she chose one who was noted for his cunning, and sent him as her ambassador to the far-off land, with orders to bring back that which she so much desired. He met with a certain amount of success, for he won the body of the sage by gambling with the king, but all his efforts to put to death the wise old man were ineffectual. And when he was meditating as to the reason of the failure of his murderous attempts, the old man came to him, and spoke to him with words of such tenderness and truth that the emissary returned to the Naga Queen without his prize, but a better and a wiser man.

The tenth Birth Story is the last and the greatest, and bears the distinctive title of "The Great Birth." It is the story of his last existence upon earth as an ordinary human being, and marks the summit of his upward career, the final stage of his successive earthly transmigrations. This story, which we shall presently relate at length, was told by him, after he had become a Buddha, to a great gathering of his friends and relatives, in the famous banyan grove of his native city. Showers of rain fell from heaven, miraculously bathing his holy body, but leaving untouched the throng of people around him. Seven times he appealed to heaven and earth to bear him witness as to the truth of his narrative, and seven times was an answer given in the voice of the thunder and the quaking of the earth.

Siamese tradition goes on to say that after Buddha's death, a holy ascetic ascended to one of the heavens, where he met the Buddha who is next to descend and bless this earth with his teachings. The future Buddha held a long conversation with the earthly visitor in which he told him, that if the people wished for happiness and prosperity, they must unceasingly perform all the prescribed ceremonies according to the orthodox ritual, and, above all, they must not forget to annually recite the story of "The Great Birth."

At one time, in Siam, Pegu, and Cambodia, it was the universal custom at the end of the rainy season, to gather in private dwellings or temple halls to listen to the reading or recital of the thousand stanzas of the poem which tells the story. The annual celebration is now chiefly a state ceremony performed in special places. In the olden days, offerings were made for the decoration of the halls in which the recital was to be held, and this custom still continues in a smaller degree. The general celebration that formerly took place degenerated at last into a kind of theatrical performance, and was accompanied by pantomime and song. New versions were given; the rhythm of the original poem was altered; and temple vied with temple, and house with house, in the introduction of novelties that would attract large audiences. The late king was a profound scholar and a devout believer in the pure truths and ritual of his religion, and not a nominal Buddhist like the majority of his subjects, and he looked upon these theatrical recitals with their accompanying buffoonery and merriment as being nothing less than a desecration of the famous story, and a burlesque of the life of him whose career they were intended to honour. When he left the cloister for the throne he sternly denounced the exhibition in a decree that is remarkable for its reasonableness and its forceful expressions. He even went so far as to tell a story, evidently of his own composition, the moral of which was that, as far as any religious merit was concerned, the money spent in preparing for the recitals would be better spent in burning dead dogs' carcasses. His strong expressions of disfavour and disgust have had the desired effect, and the story is now recited in a decent and becoming manner.

The poem, as now recited, contains thirteen cantos and one thousand stanzas, and was written by one of the Siamese kings. It had been prophesied that the holy Buddhist scriptures would ultimately all be lost, and that the Vessantara Jataka, being the most valuable, would be the first to disappear. When the scriptures have all been lost, and man has forgotten the meaning of righteousness, a new Buddha will be born upon earth to teach once more the principles of morality and truth. The "Pious" king who reigned in Siam from 1602 to 1628, is known as a priest celebrated alike for his piety and his learning, and as a king famous for his justice and mercy. He left the temple for the throne, but resigned in favour of his nephew and again returned to the seclusion of the hermit's cell. The prophecy as to the loss of the Jataka deeply affected him, and in order to prevent so great a calamity befalling his people he decided to write it in the form of a poem that it might be handed down from generation to generation. This poem is the gem of Siamese classics, a model of literary style and treatment. King "Pious" was the first of the royal poets of Siam, but since his day it has been the fashion for the sovereign to write poetical compositions. Both the present king and his father are well known in the country as poets and scholars. The late king was probably the greatest scholar Siam ever had, so that he enjoyed a double distinction never possessed by any of the monarchs of more civilised lands.

And now for the old king's rendering of the Vessantara Jataka.

In ages long since past, the god Indra called into his presence the beautiful daughter of one of the Devas. He asked her to consent to be re-born into the world of wicked, warring men that she might enjoy the supreme honour and happiness of becoming the mother of the future Buddha. The beautiful spirit maiden was not altogether unwilling to become the recipient of the honour offered her, but before finally consenting, she knelt before the throne of Indra to beg of him ten boons, of such a character that they should preserve her from unhappiness or trouble when she left the regions of heavenly bliss to descend to the realms of earthly woe. She requested that she should be born as one of the highest caste, and that when she was old enough she should be wedded to the powerful monarch Sivi. Not forgetting the personal attractions so desirable in an Oriental queen who wishes for long to retain her husband's affections, she asked for eyes that should be soft and mild like those of the gazelle, and for lashes whose graceful velvety fringe should be the envy of her rivals and the delight of her husband. Her name was not to be changed from that she had borne, in the gardens of heaven where her graceful figure and handsome face had earned for her the name of "blossom." She also stipulated that she should not experience any of the pains of child-birth, nor at any time suffer any deformation of her slender form. Her youthful appearance was to be preserved for ever from the ruthless hand of time, her complexion and skin to be soft and delicate beyond comparison with those of any earthly rival, and while her beauty enchained the minds of men, she was to win the hearts of all by being allowed to liberate all the prisoners in the land. Her final request included all she had already asked for, and many more besides; for, in a spirit that is delightfully feminine, she asked that when on earth, all her wishes should ever be promptly and completely satisfied. Indra with god-like benevolence granted all her boons, even the last.

In due time she was born on earth, and afterwards wedded to King Sivi. She gave birth to an infant son, the future Buddha in earthly form, who was named by his parents Vessantara. The child gave evidences of his wonderful character by speaking immediately after he was born, and later by his indifference to all earthly pleasures. Neither toys nor jewels were valued by him, and he lived the life of a retired ascetic until he was twenty years old. His father then desired him to marry, and persuaded him to seek for his wife, a princess called Maddi, who was famed for her great beauty. An embassy was sent to the maiden's father to ask for her hand, and as he willingly assented to the alliance, the princess returned with the ambassadors to be married without any delay to the hermit-like prince, Vessantara.

His married life was one of great happiness. He was sincerely attached to his wife and to his son and daughter, but he never forsook his ascetic manner of living. His benevolence was a household word, and gained for him troops of friends, until he made a gift of more than ordinary value to a neighbouring state, and caused thereby a great popular uproar. His father possessed an elephant whose chief value lay in its miraculous power of calling down rain from the skies in times of drought. Now, the people of a province near to his father's country, were suffering from want of water, and they sent to Vessantara to ask if he would lend them the rain-producing elephant, knowing quite well that he never refused to give to anyone what was asked of him. He granted their request without any hesitation, and told them that they might keep the animal as a present from himself. The ambassadors returned, taking home the beast in triumph; but when the inhabitants of Vijaya knew what had happened they burst into angry accusations against their benevolent prince. They complained also that the animal was not his to give, but was the property of the nation. The king was not less angry than his subjects, and ordered his son to leave the capital at once, and live for the rest of his life in exile. The prince, in defending his action, said that the elephant was his and had been given to him by its mother at the time of his birth, as a birthday present. To the father, who was unacquainted with his son's destiny and character, this seemed the most intolerable rubbish, and made him exceedingly angry.

Maddi, like a faithful wife, sought to mollify the anger of her father-in-law, and implored forgiveness for her husband, but the king's wrath was too great to be appeased by her tearful entreaties. Then Vessantara gave away the greater part of his property, preparatory to his departing into banishment. He distributed one hundred elephants, one hundred ponies, one hundred vehicles of different kinds, one hundred male slaves, one hundred female slaves, one hundred catties[I] of gold and one hundred catties of silver. He entreated his wife to remain behind and take care of his two children, but she resolutely refused to leave him in his trouble, and taking the children with them, they departed in his chariot. As they drove out of the city they scattered all the money they had, amongst the crowds of people who had collected to see the banished prince leaving his native city.

On their journey they met two Brahmins, who recognised the prince and asked for his horses. He at once granted their request, and prepared to proceed on foot; but two Devas descended from heaven in the form of golden stags and harnessed themselves to the chariot. A little later they were met by another Brahmin, who asked for both chariot and steeds. Vessantara and Maddi dismounted and left the carriage to the stranger. The stags immediately disappeared, to the great astonishment of him who had begged for them. The wedded pair, carrying their children with them, pursued their way on foot, going in the direction of a distant and lonely mountain, where they proposed living the life of the hermits.

The road to the mountain passed through the country where Maddi's father reigned. He heard of their arrival in his territory and at once set out to meet them. He besought them to stay in his kingdom, offered them a residence near his own palace, and did all he could to persuade them to change their purpose. But they refused all his offers, saying that they were fully determined to live as hermits in the lonely jungle. At his earnest request they stayed with him seven days, but left him at the end of that time to continue their journey to the far-off mountain.

They had to pass through perilous places, and were exposed to many dangers from men and beasts. A hunter was sent to guard them during this part of the journey. Indra, ever watchful, saw all that was happening, and commissioned one of his celestial architects to go at once to the mountain and prepare two bowers for the reception of the wandering exiles.

At this time there was living in another part of the country, an aged Brahmin who was wedded to a young but ambitious wife. She had heard of Vessantara's gifts, the story of the elephants and the chariot, and of his numerous acts of benevolence, and felt that it would be an easy matter to trade upon his good nature and obtain some valuable gift for herself. So she asked her aged husband to go and ask Vessantara for his two children. He refused for a long time, but finally yielded to her entreaties, and set off to find the whereabouts of the generous prince that he might make known his wife's request. The guardian hunter saw him approaching, and levelled his bow at him, but the Brahmin said that he was a favourite of the prince, and had often received wise counsel from him, and that he only sought the exile in order to befriend him, and carry to him the messages of old friends. The hunter was deceived, and allowed the Brahmin to pass on his way.

Then the Brahmin arrived at a hut where lived a holy ascetic, to whom he addressed himself, enquiring for the way to Vessantara's residence. The hermit believing the man to be some greedy creature about to prefer a vexatious request, expressed his disgust and anger in very strong language. But the Brahmin, unaffected by the scornful denunciations he had listened to, again professed a desire to befriend the exiled prince. So sincere did his protestations appear, that the hermit gave him the required directions.

Following the path pointed out to him, he at length reached Vessantara's bower, and presenting himself in the disguise of a mendicant, asked the prince to give him his two children. Their mother was absent at the time, as she had not returned from gathering fruit and herbs in the jungle. The prince was grieved when he heard the request, but he was fully aware that it was only by acts of great self-sacrifice that he could perfect his nature and attain the goal for which he was striving, so without much hesitation, he handed over his little son and daughter to the care of the beggar. His temper was sorely tried when he saw the mendicant tie their tiny hands fast behind their backs as though they were common slaves, and drag them roughly over the rough and thorny pathway. The tender-hearted parent suffered agonies of pain as he witnessed this cruel treatment of his loved ones, but by keeping his mind fixed on his future he managed to control any outward expressions of grief and anger. At some little distance from the bower, the Brahmin stumbled and fell to the ground. The children seeing an opportunity to escape from their brutal master, promptly fled and hid themselves in a lotus pond. The Brahmin returned to Vessantara, and angrily complained of the behaviour of the runaways, and upbraided the father with having deceived and tricked him. The prince, making no answer to the false rebukes, silently went out to look for his little ones. He saw their footprints in the ground, followed the direction they indicated, and soon discovered his son. In answer to his voice, the daughter also came out of her hiding-place, and there, by the side of the pond, the two children knelt down and embraced the feet of their father. Tears that sparkled like gems in the sunlight, fell from the eyes of the sorrowful three. The father spoke tenderly to his weeping children and told them of his great grief for their suffering, but that it was necessary for his and their future happiness. He tried to show them that if their love for him was sincere, they would go away with the mendicant cheerfully and willingly, for by so doing they would ultimately help in his attainment of perfect bliss. The boy acquiesced, but the little girl's heart was full of anger, and the burning tears ran heavily down her sorrow-stricken face. Once more they were delivered to the beggar, and again was their father's temper sorely tried, for their new master at once gave them both a sound thrashing before his eyes, as a punishment for what he termed their bad behaviour.

While all this was happening, an event had occurred in the forest to prevent the return of Maddi before the children had gone away. For Indra foresaw that she might possibly by her tears and entreaties, hinder her husband's progress towards that goal of perfect benevolence which was to crown and complete his earthly career. So he arranged that on her homeward way, she should meet three animals, a lion, a tiger, and a leopard. They did her no harm, but simply prevented her from going forward. After many attempts to escape, she fell upon her knees and implored them to allow her to pass. Her husband's great act of renunciation having by this time been fully accomplished, the three beasts, who were three Devas in disguise, no longer hindered her progress, but departed into the jungle. It was long after midnight when she returned to her home, and the first thing her motherly eyes detected was the absence of her little ones. She turned to her husband, in whose face shone a heavenly glow of happiness not unmixed with sadness, and enquired of him what had become of the children. But to all her questions he answered nothing. Then, knowing the generous nature of his heart, and seeing the sadly kind expression on his face, she guessed what had happened, and, overcome with the weight of her great misfortune, she burst into tears and fell in a swoon upon the ground. Her husband tended her gently, and when she had recovered consciousness, he told her all that had happened, and besought her with pleading and argument to agree to the act in which she had as yet had no part. Deeply impressed with his earnestness and dimly conscious that there was more in the matter than she could realise, she acquiesced in what he had done.

Now Indra saw that there was but one thing left to Vessantara which he could give away, and that was his wife Maddi. And the god remembered that if the prince should give away his wife, there would be no one left to tend and care for him in that solitary place. To prevent Vessantara being left absolutely alone, Indra himself descended to earth in the form of an old Brahmin and stood before the bower. The prince saw him there, and at once realised that he had now an opportunity of completing his many acts of self-sacrifice by bestowing his wife upon the stranger. He asked the Brahmin again and again if there was anything he desired, and the Brahmin at length asked for the princess Maddi. With mingled joy and grief he parted with his long-loved and faithful help-meet, who had suffered much for his sake. The sorrow he felt at parting with the last earthly possession he dearly loved, was almost drowned in the thought that this was the last act in the long drama he had played through many generations. Great was his surprise and delight when the disguised Indra returned his wife to him, telling him to keep her in trust. The apparent Brahmin promised to return for her at some future time, and departed, leaving the loving pair to wonder as to his identity.

The old mendicant who had obtained possession of the children, intended to take them home to become the slaves of his greedy wife. But he lost his way in the trackless forests, and by mistake wandered into the city of Vessantara's father. The king was seated in a pavilion on the palace wall, and as the mendicant slowly wended his way past the royal residence, the observant monarch saw and recognised his two grandchildren. He sent for them, and from the boy's lips learned their story. The boy also told him the amounts that had been fixed by their father as the price of their redemption, and these amounts the king at once paid over to the Brahmin, and so liberated his grandchildren. The money that the Brahmin received was of little use to him, for he died shortly afterwards, leaving no heirs to inherit his wealth. When the children had told their grandfather the story of their father's life and his lonely wanderings in the dangerous jungle, some feeling of pity and remorse took possession of the king, and he determined to have his son back again. He went to the distant forest, accompanied by the queen, his two newly found grandchildren and many soldiers.

Great rejoicing attended the meeting of the father and son who had been so long separated. Vessantara in answer to the queen's entreaties promised to return home. On his return to his native city a great festival was held, the people thronged to see their long-lost prince once more, alms were distributed in great quantities, and the period of self denial and renunciation was brought to a close. All those to whom Vessantara had previously given his valuable property returned it to him, asking for his blessing and forgiveness.

Those who are interested in the after histories of these people may care to know that Vessantara appeared upon earth as Gautama Buddha, that Maddi was re-born as his wife Yashodra, and that his son was given to him again as Rahula. His daughter, however, did not become a member of his family in the next life upon earth, for when she was forced to follow the cruel old Brahmin, she swore in her heart that she would never again be re-born as the daughter of such an unjust and unloving father.

Thus ends the story of "The Great Birth" according to the version of the "pious" king of Siam. With the exception of the public state recital of the poem, it is now only recited in connection with the novitiate of the eldest sons of rich parents. The poor no longer ask their friends to visit their houses to listen to the thousand stanzas. The rich endeavour to reproduce as far as possible the circumstances of the original recital. The novice who has retired to the temple and resigned for the time being all his earthly possessions, represents Vessantara. And as Buddha told the tale to a multitude of friends and relations in his native city, so the novice returns from the temple to his own home to chant the numerous stanzas in the midst of his acquaintances. The honour of thus repeating the old story belongs now to the eldest son, except in the case of children of royal birth, for each of whom a public recital is held. As the novice has not had time to learn the whole poem, he only delivers the first few lines, the rest being repeated by monks of longer standing, who have it all by heart. At the conclusion of the ceremony, offerings of food and robes are ostentatiously distributed to those priests who have given their services.

The preaching of the story of the Great Birth during the novitiate of the late Crown Prince of Siam, was the occasion of great public rejoicing. The offerings were more numerous and varied than usual, and were arranged in a novel manner in front of the palace. A huge junk was erected on the grass, and its sides were totally covered with boxes of cigars, boxes of sardines, and tinned provisions. The cabins and hold were filled with eatables, and when the "preaching" festivities were ended, the whole vessel was broken up, and its contents distributed amongst the poor and the hospitals.

The Thot Katin. The Thot Katin ceremonies are not nearly so old as those described in the preceding chapter. They are said to have been first established as purely state ceremonies by one of the Siamese kings, called Somdet Pra Luang, who reigned over Northern Siam about seven hundred years ago. He was a very popular monarch, and as powerful as he was popular. Whatever he ordered to be done in his own provinces in the north of the country, was always carried out to the letter, and the ceremonies he instituted have extended and developed till they are now universally celebrated all over the kingdom.

In the days when the Buddhist priesthood lived a purely ascetic life, according to the ideal of their great teacher, long before the days even of Pra Luang himself, there was one branch of the monastic order which was far more given to practising self-denial and mortification than any of the rest of the brotherhood. And this sect of holy monks vowed a solemn vow that they would never wear any clothes that were directly or indirectly presented to them. They vowed that their robes should only be made of cloth that had no owners, such as the winding-sheets that had enshrouded the bodies of the dead, the clothes that had been cast away because they had been worn by persons suffering from infectious diseases, or the garments that had been discarded by their owners as being too ragged or filthy to be used any longer. Garments of this description were the only ones they would wear, and all presents were steadily refused. At the end of the rainy season, when the period of the forced retirement in the monasteries was finished, they went in little parties of three and four to the cemeteries, to the places where the bodies of the dead were burned, and to all the spots where dust, dirt, refuse, and rubbish had been deposited. There they gathered up every scrap and remnant of cloth, to patch them carefully together to make their garments for the coming year. Many people saw them frequently groping about in these unhealthy, unfrequented localities, and asked them wonderingly, "What are you doing there? What are you looking for?" And to all enquiries the priests made none other answer save "We seek for ownerless clothes." Then the people, partly out of a feeling of pity and partly out of a desire to make merit, went to their homes and brought all the pieces of cotton, linen, or woollen cloth they could spare, and generously offered them as gifts to the ragged priests. But the gifts were always firmly refused, and the people returned to their homes, wondering why this one particular order of mendicant brethren would not accept their voluntary offerings.

Some of the more inquisitive of those whose gifts had been refused, stealthily followed the priests from place to place, and, unseen themselves, observed all they did. And they saw the worthy monks groping in heaps of refuse and gathering fragments of cloth, taking soiled torn rags from the branches of trees, and collecting the scraps of linen that were blown hither and thither by the wind in the grave-yards, where were buried the uncremated, those who had died of small-pox, cholera, and other dangerous and infectious diseases. When they had seen all this, they returned home and told their brethren, and all wondered greatly, but no one understood. Then those people who reverenced the priests, but whose minds held many superstitious notions, invented a theory which seemed to explain all the facts that had been observed, and which afterwards found wide acceptation amongst the people. They said that these wandering, self-denying, rag-hunting monks were of the holiest of the holy, that they had power to see into the realms of heaven and of hell, and that their chief aim and purpose in this life was to promote the future happiness of men and animals. When these priests clad themselves in the garments of one who had died, the deceased ascended into heaven. Therefore, the monks, ever living according to the faith they held, and in pursuance of their great desire to give future bliss to those who had departed, wore not the valuable gifts of the living, but the cast-off garments of the dead.

When this theory had been heard and accepted by devout or superstitious people, the custom arose of wrapping many extra cloths round the body of a dead person, and requesting the priests to remove them from the corpse and carry them away to the temples. This custom still prevails in many parts of the country amongst people who hope in this way to secure the safe and speedy entrance of their deceased friends and relatives into the realms of indescribable felicity. The late king, in his sincere desire to purify the religious beliefs of his credulous subjects, endeavoured to point out to them that there was nothing whatever in the original scriptural texts to warrant this wide-spread faith, and that it was purely a superstition invented and taught by the laity. He also pointed out the true interpretation of the priests' actions—namely, their desire to live a thoroughly ascetic life that they might purify their minds and be worthy of their master. But the people have refused to accept this simple explanation either from their ruler or from their more enlightened ecclesiastical teachers, and even accuse those priests who exhibit any reluctance to comply with their requests, of being wanting in pity and gentleness. So they continue to wrap unnecessary cloths round the bodies of the dead, that the priests may remove them and wear them, and so ensure the happiness of the dead. There have been also many priests of worldly disposition who have secretly encouraged the custom, as it is a source of considerable worldly profit to themselves.

A more reasonable but still unorthodox creed has found many followers. According to some, the priests sought for the clothes that had shrouded people who had died of infectious diseases, not out of pity for the dead, but out of consideration for the living. For by removing these cloths they effectually prevented them from being blown amongst the homes of men, and so spreading the disease. They thus removed a possible disaster. This idea degenerated into the belief that by presenting the priests with robes, impending dangers would be rendered ineffectual to the giver, and led to the custom of throwing garments for the use of the priests in front of the temples. This was usually done at the end of the rainy season, which, according to the old custom of counting time, was the end of the year. The donors thought they would in this way certainly secure prosperity for themselves and families during the ensuing months.

As a result of this latter belief it became the custom to present robes to the priests in October and November, when the wet months were drawing to a close. King Pra Luang in his palace at Ayuthia, considered the custom, pronounced it good, and established it as part of the ordinary worship of the devout. When the proper season arrived, he set out himself to distribute robes to the inmates of the royal temple. Each temple provided a quantity of fireworks, and appointed responsible officers to superintend their pyrotechnical displays. In front of the landing of the king's palace, were gathered together numerous boats laden with baskets of food and yellow cloth. In the centre of each basket a stout branch was fixed, and from the branches lighted lanterns were suspended. At the bottom of every lantern trailed a strip of yellow silk, symbolical of the scraps that the old monks sought in desolate places. The boats also contained presents of many descriptions given by the king, the government officials, and the common people according to their wealth or their faith.

In the evening, as soon as it was dark, the king came down to the bank of the river to examine the boats and their contents. He descended into his state barge, attended by his chief officers, and headed a long procession, accompanied by the chief ladies of the palace, and by crowds of people who had been drawn to the place by the prospect of seeing the fireworks. The boats, crowded by natives, drew after them the other boats containing the baskets of food and the piles of robes. Wherever the king stopped, presents of eatables and priestly garments were distributed to the brethren who resided in the temple, and fireworks were let off in honour of the sovereign's arrival, and as a mark of gratitude for his benevolence. At a later date, when temples became multiplied to such an extent that the king was unable to personally visit them all, he entrusted the distribution of the presents to his relatives, and officials of high rank.

The custom of presenting robes at the end of the rainy season is now universally observed throughout the whole kingdom, and is looked upon as an excellent way of making merit, though, in common with all the other religious observances of the country, its primary meaning and origin are unknown to most of the worshippers.

The festival is known as the "Thot Katin", and is celebrated with great rejoicing and merriment. "Katin", or "Kratin", is derived from the Pali word, "Katina", and means "severe" or "difficult". The term is applied to three separate things. It means a pattern of a priest's robe made of patchwork; it is the name of the robe itself, which must be made of raw cotton and completed in a single day and night—a difficult task; and it also denotes the merit which the maker will receive as a reward for his meritorious exertions. The other word, "Thot", means "to lay down", so that the whole expression used as the name of the ceremony of the presentation of the priestly vestments, means "Laying down robes made after the Katina pattern", on the floor or on a table, for the priests to take up.

The holidays last during the month of October, and are celebrated with processions on land and water. The water processions in Bangkok are singularly attractive on account of the number of people who take part in them, and the variety of costume, and display of oarmanship which they then exhibit. All day long, lines of canoes, gondolas, and gilded barges carry the worshippers and their offerings to the many temples in the city. The holiday attire is unusually brilliant, and as the numerous colours flash by in the swiftly gliding boats, one begins to wonder if there are any tints or shades of colour that may not be seen on the Menam. After prostrating themselves before the idol, and presenting their gifts to the priests, the people hold a great aquatic carnival.


The following account of this ancient ceremony is quoted from "The Bangkok Directory" and is presumably a translation of a native composition.

"All the temples in Bangkok and its suburbs, which have been made by or dedicated to the king, expect a splendid visit from him annually, between the middle of the eleventh and twelfth moons. This is the season appointed by the most ancient and sacred custom for the priests to seek their apparel for the year ensuing. In conformity with this custom, the King, taking a princely offering of priests' robes with him, visits these temples.

"The ceremony is called 'Thot Katin', which means to lay down the robes sewed up in patches according to a given pattern, for the priests to take up. The pattern is the 'Katin', which in ancient times the priests of Buddha used in cutting their cloth into patches to be sewed together to make their outer and inner robes. The cloth was cut with a knife because it would be wicked to tear it. In olden time, in Buddha's day, the custom was for the priests to go out themselves to seek old cast-off clothing, and the best of these they would patch together to form the three kinds of priestly robes required. This was one conspicuous mode of self-mortification. But that mendicant custom has gradually given place to the present one of making the garments of new cloth dyed yellow; and prepared by the princely donations of thousands of the affluent, and the more humble contributions of the multitudes of the poor. They begin to make preparations for this season months before the time, until in Bangkok alone, there are many thousands of priests' suits in readiness by the middle of October for distribution at the temples. The cloth is dyed yellow for the purpose, as tradition says, of imitating somewhat the custom of Buddha and his early followers, who preferred a dingy yellow colour for their robes, for the express purpose of making themselves odious in the eyes of the world, that there might be no door of temptation open to them to be conformed to the world. In those days it was the custom of robbers and murderers in Hindustan, where Buddhism began its course, to wear red and yellow clothing as an appropriate badge of their profession. The better classes of the world regarded them with horror, and fled from them. Now, Gautama Buddha, when a prince, had a host of ardent friends who urged him not to abdicate his throne. But he was full set to do it; and this was the mode he took to cut himself off from their sympathy. By assuming the robber's garb, he would rid himself of such ruinous tempters, and yet secure another class of admirers, who would delight to walk with him in the road to Nirvana, to which his whole heart and soul was devoted.

"Although there are so many hundreds of Buddhist temples in Siam, none are omitted from this annual visitation. The royal temples are visited by the king, or by some prince or nobleman of high rank, who goes in the king's name. Outside the capital, these royal temples are always visited by deputies of His Majesty, bearing priests' robes and other things provided by the king.

"When His Majesty goes in person, he does so with great pomp and splendour, whether by land or water. If by water the finest state barges are displayed. There are some ten or more of these splendid boats, each with some august name attached, to distinguish it from the others. These barges are called 'royal throne boats'. Only one appears in the royal procession at a time. They are from one hundred and fifty to one hundred and eighty feet in length, and from six to eight feet wide. They gradually become narrower fore and aft, and taper upwards. Hanging from the stem and stern are two large white tassels made of the hair of the Cashmere goat, and between them floats a royal banner. A little abaft of midships there is a splendid canopy about twelve feet long, having the ridge curving downward at each end, and covered with cloth of gold, and the sides tastefully hung with curtains of the same costly material. Within is a throne, suited to this little floating palace. The bows of the barges to convey the priestly robes and other gifts, are formed into heads of hideous dragons, or imaginary sea-monsters, with glaring eyes and horrid teeth and horns. The whole boat is richly carved and gilded to represent scales, often inlaid with pearl and other precious things, while the stern forms an immense tail, curving upwards to the height of twelve or fifteen feet. It is in this kind of barge that the king always rides. When he would appear in his greatest glory, he is seen seated on this, his floating throne, wearing a gold-embroidered coat, and golden shoes. He has generally the Crown Prince with him, and sometimes other royal children follow him in a barge of second rank, being all beautifully attired. We must not forget to mention the huge jewelled fan, the royal umbrellas, white and yellow, which have their appropriate places in the dragon barge, and help to distinguish it from all there in the imposing pageant. The dragon barges are propelled by sixty or seventy paddlers, who have been trained daily for a full month for that express service. They have been taught to paddle in unison, all striking the water at the same moment, and all raising the blades of their paddles above their heads, at an equal height. These royal boatmen, by their public training on the river, become a pattern for all others in the procession.

"Preceding the King's personal barge, there are usually from forty to sixty royal guard-boats, over one hundred feet long, and from five to six feet wide, going in pairs. They are modelled after the King's own boat, but smaller, and the canopy is made of whitish leaves resembling the palm leaf, sewed together, and ornamented with crimson cloth bordered with yellow. Under the bow and stern of these boats, float a pair of long grey tassels, made of the fibres of pine-apple leaves, and between each of these hangs a golden banner. They have fifty or more paddlers, and two men in each boat beat time with a long pole decorated with white tassels, which they lift up and strike down end-wise on the deck of the boat.

"In the rear of the King's barge come princes, nobles, officers, and multitudes of still lower grades, who all follow the King to the temple in boats of various fashions, down to the simple one-oared skiff with its single half-naked occupant. Each prince and nobleman sits proudly under his own canopy, attired in his best court robes, having duly arranged about him gold or silver water-pot and tea-pot, and betel and cigar boxes, all of which have been given to him by the King, as insignia of his rank and office.

"The boatmen have various coloured liveries. Those of the King's dragon barge and its mate usually wear red jackets and caps. On the guard-boats we see many colours; some have red jackets and leather caps of ancient style; in others the men have only short pants, and narrow fillets of palm-leaf about their heads. Brass bands follow in the procession, and companies of native men-o'-war's men, who close up the moving panorama.

"The floating and other houses along the line of the King's advance have each prepared a little table or altar, upon which they display the choicest fruits and flowers, wax candles, pictures, and other ornaments, as marks of respect to their sovereign. The native and foreign shipping display their colours. The small craft on the river and canals where he is to come, clear out for the time, to make a wide and open passage for him. Formerly none were allowed to watch the royal procession, except from behind closed doors or windows, but now all such restrictions are withdrawn, and the people enjoy the sight of their beloved King, and take part in the general rejoicings.

"The priests' garments being neatly folded and put up into bundles of a suit each, are borne with the King in the royal throne barge. When he arrives at the landing of a temple, he remains seated until several suits of the yellow robes have been carried up to the door and put in care of an official, to await the approach of His Majesty, and until other officers of state and a company of infantry, together with the musicians, have had time to leave their boats and place themselves in position for receiving him. The handrails of the steps which the King ascends are wound with white cotton cloth, and the flagged path from the landing to the temple is covered with grass matting exclusively for him to walk upon. When the King is in the act of ascending the steps of the landing, 'Old Siam' blows her pipes and conch shells, and beats her drums; the military form in double line and present arms, and the brass band plays the national anthem.

"Having reached the door of the 'bote', the King takes one suit of the priests' robes, and bearing it in both hands, walks in and lays it on a table prepared for that purpose. On this table are five golden vases of flowers, five golden dishes of parched rice, tastefully arranged in the form of bouquets, five golden candlesticks with their candles, and five incense sticks. His Majesty first lights the candles and incense sticks. He then worships before the sacred shrine of Buddha, the sacred books, and theassembled priests. He next makes a request to the chief priest to renew his covenant to observe the five rules of the Buddhist religion. These are, first, that he will not take the life of any man or other sentient creature; second, that he will not oppress any man; third, that he will not take to wife any woman belonging to another, while there is the least unwillingness on the part of the woman, or of her parents or of her guardians, to the transaction; fourth, that he will not lie, nor deal falsely with mankind, nor use abusive language; fifth, that he will not use intoxicating liquors as a beverage. When the King visits the temple, if it happens to be one of their four sacred days, their custom makes it necessary for him to promise to observe three other rules in addition to the above five; first, that he will not partake of any food after midday on any sacred day until the next morning after light has appeared; second, that he will not on sacred days indulge in any theatrical or musical performances, nor in any way allow or cause his person to be perfumed; third, that he will not on such days sleep on a bed that is more than ten and a half inches high, nor use any mattress, and that he will deny himself as becometh a devout Buddhist. If the King is conscious of having transgressed any of these rules since he last renewed his obligations, he is supposed to confess his sins mentally before Buddha, and promise solemnly that he will earnestly endeavour to avoid such sins in the future.

"His Majesty having renewed his obligations, then proceeds to make a formal presentation of his offerings to the priests of that temple, whereupon they respond in the Pali tongue, 'sâdhu, sâdhu' ('well, well'). The chief priest then addresses the fraternity as follows: 'This "Katin" robe has been given to us by his most illustrious majesty, the King, who, being endued with exceedingly great goodness and righteousness, has condescended to come hither himself and present these garments to us, a company of Buddhist priests, without designating any particular person by whom they shall be worn.' They then distribute the gifts amongst themselves, after which they bow down and worship Buddha, reciting a few Pali sentences. This distribution of garments is not always done in the presence of the King, but sometimes after he has left the temple. The late King Maha Mongkut made an innovation on this old custom, by bringing with him extra suits of yellow robes and giving them to certain priests who had distinguished themselves as Pali scholars. It is also usual to make a few other gifts to the priests, of such things as they are apt to need, as bedding, boats, and table furniture, but these are not considered any part of the real 'Katin.'

"As the King is about to leave the temple, the priests pronounce a Pali blessing upon him, and he again worships Buddha, the sacred books, and the priests. Then rising, he walks out of the 'bote,' and descends to the royal barge, with the same ceremonies as when he ascended. He visits several temples during each day, and spends some time in each one. The value of each priest's suit which the King offers, is supposed to be about ten Mexican dollars, and the aggregate value of the offerings he makes on these successive days is probably not less than ten thousand Mexican dollars."

Song Kran. Song Kran is an angel who rises with the sun when he enters the sign Aries. The date of the holidays held and ceremonies performed under this title is ruled by the sun, and is not definitely fixed. But each successive year the court astrologers announce the event, and then for four days the celebrations take place. The King takes a state shower-bath, and invites the priests to assemble at the palace for prayers and breakfast. The laity have their own special religious services and their own amusements. They gamble and pray, go to the theatres and temples, feed the priests and feed themselves as they do at New Year. Buddha's image is bathed by the old women, who also sprinkle water over the elderly people and priests present, with the idea of calling down blessings on those who are bathed, as well as on themselves. As a general rule the ceremonies begin about the eleventh or twelfth day of April.

Kan Wisakha Bucha. This is the name of the holidays connected with a very important day in the Buddhist calendar—namely, the day on which Buddha was born. According to the tradition, it is also the day on which he died, and the day on which he attained Nirvana. This anniversary day has developed into a three days' celebration, of which the most noticeable feature is the extensive alms-giving that is then practised in imitation of Buddha's benevolent deeds. At night, illuminations on a small scale take place, but there is no great state function.

Khauwasa  is derived from the Sanskrit "Varasha", meaning "rain" or "year." The Wasa season lasts from July 8th to October 4th, and has already been mentioned as the period of Buddhist Lent or confinement. The priests only, fast and do penance, and even for them there are no fixed rules, except that which forbids them to remain outside the temple enclosure between midnight and dawn. Several forms of self-mortification have been invented, such as spending the night in a cemetery, thinking of death; sleeping in uncomfortable postures, and only eating once in twenty-four hours. But if the penitent gets tired of doing penance, he may give it up. He will still retain all the merit he has made by what he has already done, though of course the quantity to his credit is less than it would have been had he persevered to the end.

The general ceremonies for the people begin at the end of the period of confinement. The food given to the priests at this time is a first-class investment, as it purchases one hundredfold its value in heavenly entertainments in the very next existence. Everyone therefore is very anxious to secure a hungry priest for his guest.

Kaw Prasai. The ground surrounding the different monasteries is always covered with sand, so that in wet weather the feet of the priests may not get covered with mud as they walk from their cells to the temple. Once each year fresh sand is brought and built up into little hills in the temple grounds; hence the above name, "Kaw" meaning "to build," "pra" meaning "holy" and "sai" "sand." The building of these holy sand-hills is a substitute, amongst the poorer classes, for the more laborious and expensive way of making merit, involved in the erection of a prachadee. The sand is moulded as nearly as possible in the form of the spiral relic mounds, and is ornamented with small flags. The sand is bought from the monastery, which thus obtains money for building purposes, or for the purchase of more sand for the courtyard. Small coins are placed in the holy hillocks, and these become the property of those who find them when the hillocks are demolished.

Loy Krathong. The Loy Krathong festivals were established by King Pra Luang, the founder of the Thot Katin ceremonies, and they originally occurred in connection with them; but they have gradually become separated from them, and have now an independent existence of their own. Whereas the Katin ceremonies owe their origin to a superstition propagated by worshippers of the Buddhist faith, the Loy Krathong festivities are an outgrowth of Brahminical worship. The old "wat" visitations, with the presentation of robes to the priests, originated, as we have seen, in a peculiar belief as to the actions of an ascetic priesthood, and were afterwards definitely established as annual occurrences by the king. Their connection with the ceremony about to be described, was due to accidental circumstances that did not arise for several years after the initiation of the older festival. The later ceremonies which were connected primarily with the Katin, and which have now become a separate function, originated, according to the late king's account, in the following manner.

In the reign of Somdet Pra Luang there lived a famous Brahmin who was noted in the capital, and in all the surrounding country, for his great wisdom. There was no branch of knowledge whose depths he had not fathomed. He could read the stars, cast horoscopes, foretell eclipses, and fulfil the duties of a weather prophet. He was well versed in the mysteries of the theory and practice of medicine, and knew the names, habitats, and virtuous properties of all plants that grew. As a theologian he could explain the origin of all things, and discourse upon the subtle doctrines of all the religions then known. He was an authority upon law, could tell what had been the customs of many people, and devise plans for firm and wise government. As a scholar of ancient practices he was unrivalled, and knew all the details of the growth and development of all religious and social usages. Such a man found great favour in the eyes of the sovereign, who made use of the Brahmin's great wisdom in the management of his subjects. He gave him many honours and appointed him to fill many important positions. Amongst many offices that he held, two were given him on account of his unrivalled knowledge, namely, those of chief physician, and chief judge.

This encyclopædic philosopher had a young and graceful daughter whom he called Nobamas. And as became the child of so wise a father, she also was well skilled in many arts and sciences. Her beauty was the subject of every song, and her name was in everyone's mouth. The whole nation were enthusiastic in their praise of her, and so great were her charms and abilities that even her own sex regarded her not with envy, but were proud that one of their number should be distinguished. She was almost as learned as her father and was wont to discourse upon all subjects with great intelligence. She was a clever poetess, a skilful musician, and an artist of great power. And when the poets of the country had exhausted all their vocabulary in describing her beauty and her talents, they began to sing of the honours she ought to receive, and greatest of all these was the honour of becoming the wife of the king. One day the king listened to a group of musicians who were merrily singing, and the subject of their song was the wondrous Nobamas, fit only for the wife of the sovereign. The song scorned the idea of her wedding any one of less degree, and eulogised her to such an extent that the listening monarch's curiosity became very great. He returned to his palace, and sought for the ladies of his household. He told them all he had heard, and enquired if any of them knew anything of this peerless creature. To the king's eager enquiries they returned answer that the song was true, but that no words could adequately describe the charms of the Brahmin maiden. The king could no longer restrain his desire to possess so fair a creature, and he sent the most elderly ladies of his retinue, according to the custom of the country, to ask her father for her hand.

The ladies went, and their mission was entirely successful. The old counsellor who had received so many favours from his sovereign was glad to have an opportunity of showing his gratitude in this way, so he willingly presented his renowned daughter to his royal master. He sent her to the king, who ever afterwards treated her with great tenderness and affection, and soon made her chief of the ladies in the palace. They both of them enjoyed the greatest happiness when in each other's company, and whenever Nobamas was not engaged in fulfilling her duties in her department of the palace, she held converse with the king, delighting him with her great wisdom and knowledge, and charming him with her compositions in music and poetry.

Soon after their marriage there occurred a celebration of the Katin ceremonies, and the king desired the fair Nobamas to accompany him on his water procession. Now, although this beautiful wife had married a Buddhist king, she still remained true to her Brahmin faith, and worshipped her own idols and spirits according to the precepts her father had taught her in her early childhood. It was a Brahminical custom that, at the end of the year, all people should prepare suitable offerings to present to the genii of the river, in order to obtain pardon and the absolution of their sins. Towards the end of the year, when the people were getting ready to celebrate the Katin, Nobamas secretly prepared to perform her own religious rites, and for this purpose she made a small boat-like structure, called a "Krathong." This she formed out of plantain leaves, and loaded it with paddy husks to make it float in stable equilibrium. She stitched strips of plantain leaves together, and pinned them round the edge of the little boat by way of ornament. Over the ballast she spread smooth clean plantain leaves, and on this green leafy deck she placed a little cargo of betel-nut, sirih leaf, parched rice, and sweet-scented flowers. She took several fresh fruits of a fleshy character, such as the papaya and the pumpkin, and deftly carved them into representations of fruits, flowers, and animals, and piled them up in a conical arrangement in the centre. The artificial flowers she stained with the juices of other plants to make them resemble real blossoms. Here and there she fastened one of her own sketches or paintings, and finally finished the work by adorning it with storied umbrellas of paper, tiny flags, toy implements, tapers, and scented incense sticks.

On the first evening of the Katin ceremony the boats were arranged in front of the palace landing, as usual, and the state barge with the glass throne was moored there, pending the arrival of the king. Suddenly everyone's attention was attracted by a strange-looking object that was being floated to the royal landing. It was the Krathong that Nobamas had made. She intended to light the tapers and the incense sticks, and send the float adrift to bear her message to the spirits, at the same time that the royal party should set out to visit the temples. But as soon as the Krathong was come to the landing, all the ladies, and the members of the royal family, who were assembled there to wait for the coming of the king, crowded round it, and begged to be allowed to examine it, so Nobamas had to explain the design and the meaning of this, her handiwork. So great was the interest exhibited by everyone in thepretty toy, that no one noticed the arrival of the king, and he seeing the crowd so noisy and so attracted, enquired what was the cause of their merriment and amusement. Someone told him that everyone was busily admiring a float that his beautiful consort had made. He then ordered the object to be brought to him that he might also see and hear about it. When he saw it he could not find sufficient words to express his admiration of the skill that had designed and constructed it. He requested to be allowed to keep it, and Nobamas knelt before him and presented him with the decorated krathong. He again praised the work, but more still did he praise her who had made it. But when he had examined it a little longer, he discovered its purpose, and said, "This is the offering of a lady of the Brahmin faith." And Nobamas answered him, saying, "That is so, for I am a Brahmin, and hitherto Your Majesty has not interfered with my religious belief, so at this season of the year, I have made this little krathong with the intention of floating it down the river as an offering to the spirits of the water, as is right and proper for a maiden of the Brahmin faith to do."

Pra Luang was a good Buddhist and a devout believer in the teachings of his own religion. Still, the krathong looked very pretty, and he had a great desire to light the incense sticks and the tapers and send it adrift as Nobamas had intended. But he was afraid of the opinions of the people. For if he should make this offering to the spirits and not to Buddha, he was afraid the people might upbraidhim and accuse him of having abandoned his religion for that of his wife. But he could not resist the temptation to see what the krathong would look like when it was illuminated, so, not without some little misgiving, he lit the lights upon the leafy boat. And still he was not satisfied, for he wanted to see it drifting away into the darkness, with the tapers reflecting their glittering light in the flowing waters. Therefore he cast about in his mind for some excuse to explain his actions, and presently he spoke in a loud voice that all around him, whether upon the landing-stage, the banks of the river, or in the boats before him, might hear, and said, "To all the property, such as temples, pagodas, and spires that are dedicated to Buddha on the banks of this river; to all his sacred relics, such as his bones and hair, wherever they may be in the subterranean regions concealed from the eye, under the river, or in places which Buddha has pressed with his feet, when moving in his might or in his natural state; to his footprints in this river, or in the ocean which receives the stream of this river,—to them I offer this krathong and its contents as worthy of the great Buddha. To him and to the relics and to his property I reverently dedicate this krathong. And whatever merit I may obtain by this deed, that merit I do not appropriate for myself, but give to the genii, in whose honour the krathong was first made by Nobamas, for I too reverence the spirits she intended to honour." Having finished this speech in defence of his actions, and having satisfied his own conscience, he placed the brilliantly illuminated little float in the water, for the stream to carry away to the sea.

But all these proceedings, though very complimentary to Nobamas herself, did not in any way realise her idea as to what was due to the water-spirits from one who was a Brahmin. As she had now no offering, she at once set to work to make one. She hastily gathered fresh leaves and bound them together into a square, shallow box. She cut bits of banana stem to fasten to it, and in the middle she quickly stuck a few tapers and joss sticks, borrowed from the people round about her. Into the boat she cast anything she could find, lit the tapers, made her vows and resolves mentally, and cast the toy adrift to follow the one the king had already launched. The monarch saw it, and knew who had made it so quickly, for there was but one woman in the land who had the knowledge and the skill to construct a new krathong so easily. He was loud in his praise, and the people stirred by the example thus set them, took everything that they could find that would float, stuck lighted tapers and incense sticks in them, and put them in the water, till presently the river was all ablaze with twinkling lights, and the air was full of the joyful sound of merry laughter.

The king was highly delighted with the sight, and ordered that it should occur annually in honour of the wise and beautiful Nobamas. And he entreated the genii of the river to take possession of the hearts and minds of all his subjects at this season of the year, for ever and ever, and compel them to hold a great festival, which he named "Khan Loi Phra Prathip Krathong." "Krathong," as previously explained, means "a little basket-like boat containing small flowers and other offerings suitable for the water-spirits;" "loi" means "to send adrift" or "to float," and "prathip" is derived from the Pali word "padipo", meaning "a lamp" or "taper." There are those in the country who say that all the descendants of those who witnessed the first ceremony, are slaves of Pra Luang, and that at the proper season their minds are forced to obey his wishes, and send adrift the taper-bearing floats.

For seven hundred years the ceremony has existed, but its details have changed with each succeeding generation. A few years after its initiation, the king ceased his visitation to all temples that were not near at hand, and all the fireworks that used to be let off on his arrival were brought together to make a gorgeous display at the palace landing. The king sat on a throne to watch the general amusement, and then sent adrift one or more krathongs.

Since the foundation of Bangkok the ceremonies of Thot Katin and Loy Krathong have branched off from each other. The late king introduced several changes; for, whereas previously, all the floats were provided by his own officials at their private expense, those sent off by the king himself were made at his expense, and greatly reduced in number. The common people, of course, please themselves as to the number and value of the krathongs they send adrift.

At present the festival occurs twice each year; first on the third, fourth, and fifth day of October, and again on the first, second and third of November. The people have various theories as to why they make offerings to the spirits of the water by means of illuminated krathongs and floating fireworks, though they all agree that it is a good way of making merit. About midnight or early morning the king comes down to the royal landing in front of the palace, and pushes off a big krathong, whose tapers he has lit with his own hand. The royal children and princes follow suit. As they float away into the darkness, they give the signal to the thousands of people who are waiting to do the same thing. Night is soon turned into day. Fireworks are thrown into the water, the bright little lights sail over the dancing waves, and the river is soon dotted all over as far as the eye can reach, with lights of many colours, that twinkle, fizz, or splutter for a long, long time. The krathongs take many shapes, and illuminated palaces, ships, rafts, lotuses, and boats ride on the river, carrying their little offerings of food and tobacco as a gracious gift to the "mother of the waters", amidst the blare of trumpets and the shouts of many voices. Away by the sea shore, the crested billows bear the same offerings out to sea, to be soon lost and drowned in the deep dark ocean.

Eclipses. Whenever an eclipse occurs, the natives turn out of their houses and indulge in a very noisy demonstration. Though their actions on these occasions cannot be described as strictly of a religious character, yet as most of the so-called religious ceremonies have been developed from superstitions, the superstition that forms the basis of the popular theory of eclipses may here be fitly given. The native astrologers are able to calculate the time of these astronomical phenomena, with considerable accuracy; but as they do not understand the use of logarithms, their methods are tedious and lengthy. When an eclipse occurs, the people beat drums and gongs, shout their loudest, let off fire-arms, and in fact make any and every noise they can think of. Some people say that a demon is eating up the moon, or the sun, as the case may be, and that only in this way can they frighten the monster away, and so prevent the loss of these brilliant luminaries. But there is another story quite as fantastic, which also attempts to account for a lunar eclipse.

In times long ago, so long ago that no man knows any one who can remember them, it was the custom of the Sun to descend to earth and hold daily conversation with his younger brothers, the Emperor of China and the King of Siam. These two potentates held long and weighty consultations with the renowned and brilliant king Sol, taking his advice on all matters of importance, discussing with him all the details of state management and intrigue, and seeking his aid when foreign powers attacked their thrones. The stars and planets formed the retinue of the solar monarch, and were employed as ambassadors both in times or war and of peace.

At that time the King of Siam dwelt at Ayuthia, then the capital of all the kingdom. Owing to the constant visits of the sun, life was longer and less liable to disease. Such was the vitality imparted by the warmth and cheerfulness of his rays, that no man began to talk of growing old until he had lived for about two thousand years.

The King having reigned peacefully and with great success for over two hundred years, decided to abdicate in favour of his son, who was a mere youth of not more than one hundred and sixty or seventy years of age. Now after this young boy had ascended the throne, old King Sol made up his mind to do his best to assist the youthful sovereign in the difficult art of right government. To this end he kept his watchful eye ever fixed upon the young king and his doings. He never slept, or took a holiday, but hour by hour, and day by day, poured forth his shining light in loving guardianship of his royal nephew. The services of the stars were no longer required. When they found themselves of no importance in the administration of government, they became suspicious and angry. They met together and formed a league, vowed to revolt against their liege lord, and to proclaim a republic at the earliest opportunity. Like all true conspirators they hid their deep designs, and while pretending sleep, they only blinked and snoozed, ever on the alert for anything which they might use for the disadvantage of their powerful monarch. As they lay in wait, they said one to another, "Why does our king never go to sleep now? Aforetime he took his nightly rest as all respectable monarchs should. Why these sleepless hours?"

It happened that the old King, who had abdicated the throne, had a daughter of the most lovable disposition, who was also exceedingly fair to look upon. She was called Rosy Morn. Whenever she came to her father, he lost any lingering desires for regal pomp and splendour, for her presence was refreshing to him above all things on earth. No one except his own family had ever looked upon her. Beautiful and good, chaste and simple, she was beloved by all her relatives, with a love that was half worship.

Her days were spent in rural pursuits of charming simplicity. She gathered flowers and made wreaths of them to deck her own fair head; she talked to the birds who never hid their gorgeous plumage when she approached them; and she listened to the voices of the spirits that frolic in the rain-drops and the dew, as they chattered and laughed in every floral cup. One day, having sung her father to rest, she wandered forth to stroll in the still green woods around her home.

In these woods there was a cavern, whose entrance, hidden by a mass of tropical foliage, had never been discovered by any one except Rosy Morn, who, keen lover of nature as she was, knew every secret nook and corner of the whole forest. Through this secluded cavern there ran a brook, clear as crystal and pure beyond description. Whenever the maiden was tired of wandering through the woods, she made her way to this safe retreat and bathed her tiny feet in the clear cool water. Thus happiness and peace attended her day by day, and her mind, pure and tender, knew no other excitements except those of simple wonder and delight.

But one day a butterfly of unusually brilliant appearance flittered across her path. It was larger than any she had ever seen before, and the colours of its wings were of the most resplendent tints. She chased this wonderful little creature, and tried to catch it, but without success. It flew from palm to palm, and from fern to fern, now hiding itself behind some radiant blossom, now poising itself high out of reach upon some feathery branch. Suddenly a light appeared, in whose brilliancy the hues of the butterfly were lost, and the eyes of the maiden dazzled so that she could not see. It was the chariot of old Sol coming over a neighbouring hill. She turned and fled, and retiring to the cave, quite unconscious that she had been observed by anyone, she sought to cool her heated body and refresh her weary limbs by bathing in the sparkling waters that ran through her retreat.

But old Sol had seen her, and being struck by her wondrous beauty, the like of which in all his rambles he had never beheld before, he drove after her with furious speed, and discovered the place where she had concealed herself. He entered into the cavern, but as she was lying down asleep after her bath, he did not disturb her, but sat down quietly by her side, and waited patiently for her to open her eyes. When she awoke, she was startled by his dazzling presence. He calmed her fears, revealed to her all his majesty and power, and then cast himself before her in the humble suppliant attitude of a devout lover. The maiden, unable to resist either the glory of his station, or the sincerity of his submission to herself, accepted him as her lover, with great shyness and trembling. They plighted their troth, and wandered arm in arm about the cavern. They agreed to keep their engagement secret, and to meet regularly at noon every day in that place, until such time as it should be convenient to disclose their intention to their friends. For about two thousand years they kept their betrothal a secret, but at last, through some mischance, the stars, eager for revolt, got an inkling of their monarch's misconduct. They set a watch, and one day when he was paying his accustomed day visit to his sweetheart, they seized his chariot, and driving with furious speed, they rushed home to spread the news. Elated with their discovery they proclaimed aloud all they knew of Sol's behaviour, and declared a republic.

When the glorious monarch had said farewell to Rosy Morn for that day, he found that his carriage had been stolen, and that his conduct was known. He wept bitterly, shedding tears of pure gold. The mountains, on whose majestic forms he had so often cast his cheery, warming rays, now took pity on the distressed king, and opened a passage in the earth by means of which he could return to his home in safety. Every day he came to visit his sweetheart, driving in a new chariot through the mountaincaverns. Ever as he drove along he cried aloud in sorrow for his misfortunes, and ever as he wept his tears fell down to earth in streams of purest gold. These precious tears hidden away in the ground are now the gold mines of Siam. It took him twelve hours to get home. Then he turned, and rode back during the night, taking another twelve hours' journey just to get a momentary glimpse at the faithful maiden. All this time Rosy Morn wandered about in caverns and mountains also. Her heart was heavy with her grief, and she wept bitterly. Her tears fell wherever she walked, in streams of purest silver, giving rise to the silver mines of the country.

After a long time the revolted stars made a compact with their lawful king. For two weeks each month the maiden was to live with King Sol in some distant home, but during the other half of the month the stars were to be permitted to gaze upon her lovely face and call her moon. One other stipulation was made—namely, that Sol should never kiss Rosy Morn whenever there was any one looking on. But this latter part of the agreement he occasionally breaks, for during the eclipse of the moon he is seen by many thousands of people, impudently kissing her silver face before the public gaze. Then the dwellers upon earth make a great noise to remind him of his promise, and to let him know how very shocked they are.

Though this story exists in the native legends, it is not generally accepted as giving the true theory of the eclipse; the idea of sun- or moon-eating demons being far more popular. But this latter story also gives an account of the origin of the gold and silver mines of Siam. The cave in which Rosy Morn and Old Sol held their daily meetings, is said to be near Ayuthia. Until a few years ago, pilgrimages were made to this cave, and into a bottomless pit, every one according to his rank, cast in gold and silver as a memorial of the day when silver and precious metals were first discovered in the kingdom of Siam.

[I]A Siamese "chang" or "catty" is equal to about 2-2/3 lbs. avoirdupois.