Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Unusual signpost

Wandering around the Rattanakosin area of Bangkok I came across the fascinating signpost shown above.

Phra Mae Thorani Twisting Her Hair! What is that all about? Following the sign led me to a statue of a woman twisting her incredibly long hair. It occurred to me that I had seen many similar such representations of the same statue in my travels around Thailand but I had not paid too much attention.

Research led me to discover that Mae Thorani is a Thai and Laotian Buddhist Goddess. To paraphrase Wikipedia: She is recognized as The Goddess of the Earth who is often shown wringing the cool waters of detachment out of her hair. The water drowns the forces of temptation sent by the demon Mara to distract the Buddha as he meditated under the Bohdi tree.

Apparently this bodaciously evil dude sent his three daughters, whose Anglicized names translate into the delightfully named Thirst, Desire and Delight, to seduce the Buddha and stop him from attaining enlightenment. They failed and, rumour has it, all three are now working in the bars of Patpong.

Wikipedia goes on to say: ' A statue of Mae Thorani protecting Buddha will be found in every Thai and Lao temple, sometimes beside or in front of the main Buddha image on the altar, or outside the viharn.' I have certainly seen many such statues, but I do not recollect seeing them in every temple in Thailand and Laos and I have visited scores of them. However I am not always the most observant person when it comes to noticing the smaller details, so can anyone verify the veracity of that statement?

Thai Connoisseur


  1. Peter, interesting about the Goddess, not something I actually recall seeing and I've been in quite a few temples.

    Something to check out in future. Thanks for the info.

  2. Pete I can't verify the veracity of the statement but I can offer this.

    Quite a few years back I rented an apartment in Pattaya and when it came to settling the final bill my Thai partner at the time did this....

    She cut off a few locks of her long black (what else) hair and hid it behind the bathroom mirror...why....I don't know even to this day no why but that's what she did.

    It's a hair story but not one which is so set in Buddhism as yours, but somehow I reckon my ex girl's ritual went back many years and was rooted (excuse the pun) in Thailand's long buried past.

    Good post and one I'd attach to a category titled Strange.

  3. Mike, one thing I have come to realize is that I really must pay more attention to the smaller details of places I visit. I take pictures, read what information may be available and then go away thinking I know about the place. Your Temples of Thailand blog talks about Luk Nimit stones, Bai Sema Markers and Chofas. That is the sort of information I need and should be discovering when I visit places. Realizing I had seen images of Mae Thorani in the past and yet had not bothered to find out the story behind it brought this home to me.

  4. Great story Martyn. I must ask a Thai friend of mine (who, by extraordinary coincidence, also has long, black hair) about that. She moved apartments last year so maybe she did the same thing.

  5. Peter, if you go to you can download Chapter One of my book on Buddhism in Thailand FOR FREE. It will tell you about "Luk Nimit stones, Bai Sema Markers and Chofas" and more about temples. Hopefully you might be interested in the rest of it!

    Sorry about the plug, but it looks like you are the reader I had in mind.

  6. Lawrence, many thanks, that is very kind. No need to apologise for the 'plug', which I consider to be a helpful pointer to a useful resource, pertinent to the subject, and not in any way a plug in the negative sense of that word. Cheers. Re-visiting this post has also reminded me I never did ask my Thai friend about the hair thing!


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