Mae Nak Phra Khanong

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Mae Nak Phra Khanong
(Mae Nak, Nang Nak)
MNPK-portraits76.JPG
Mae Nak shrine offerings in the inner sanctum:
Portraits of the spirit and folded dresses.
Grouping Legendary creature
Sub grouping Undead
Mythology Thai folk mythology
Country Thailand
Region Southeast Asia
Habitat Phra Khanong area, Bangkok
Outer perimeter of the shrine to Mae Nak Phra Khanong at Wat Mahabut.
Inside the Mae Nak Phra Khanong shrine compound, part facing the canal side.
Mae Nak Phra Khanong shrine, offerings of lotus buds and releasing of live fishes at the Phra Khanong canal.

Mae Nak Phra Khanong (Thai: แม่นากพระโขนง, meaning "Lady Nak of Phra Khanong"), or simply Mae Nak (Thai: แม่นาก, "Lady Nak") or Nang Nak (Thai: นางนาก, "Miss Nak"), is a well-known and popular Thai ghost. Local folklore insists the story is based on actual events that took place during the early 19th century.

Legend[edit]

According to tradition, the events occurred during the reign of King Mongkut. The story is about a beautiful young woman named Nak, who lived by Phra Khanong canal in Bangkok, and her undying love for her husband, Mak.

With Nak pregnant, Mak is conscripted and sent to war (in some versions of the story the war is against the Shan tribe, while others are not specific), where he is seriously wounded. While he is being nursed back to health in central Bangkok, Nak and their child both die during a difficult childbirth. When Mak returns home, however, he finds his loving wife and child waiting for him. Neighbors who try to warn him that he is living with a ghost are all killed.

One day, as Nak is preparing nam phrik, she drops a lime off of the porch. In her haste, she stretches her arm to pick it up from the ground below. Mak sees it and at last realizes his wife is a ghost. Terrified, he tries to find a way to flee without alarming her.

That night, Mak says he has to go downstairs to urinate. He then runs away into the night.

Discovering her husband has fled, Nak pursues him. Mak sees her and conceals himself behind a Blumea balsamifera (Thai: หนาด; pronounced Nat) bush.[1] According to folklore, ghosts are afraid of the sticky Blumea leaves. Mak then runs to Wat Mahabut temple, which a ghost cannot enter, as it is holy ground.

In her grief, Nak terrorizes the people of Phra Khanong, furious at them for causing Mak to leave her. However, Nak's ghost is captured by a powerful exorcist. Confining her in an earthen jar, he throws it into the canal.

There are differing versions of the rest of the story. In one, an old couple new to Phra Khanong finds the jar while fishing; in another two fishermen dredge up the jar. Nak is freed when they opened it.

Nak is conquered again by the venerable monk Somdet Phra Phutthachan (To Phrommarangsi). The learned monk confines her spirit in the bone of her forehead and binds it in his waistband. Legend says the waistband is currently in the possession of the royal family. Admiral Aphakonkiattiwong, the Prince of Chumphon, also claimed to have had the relic.[2] In alternative version, the monk assured Nak that in a future life she would be reunited with her beloved husband, and thus she voluntarily departed for the afterlife.

Mae Nak's story is still very popular because her undying devotion to her husband inspires people of all ages.

A shrine dedicated to Mae Nak is at Wat Mahabut. In 1997, the shrine relocated to nearby Suan Luang District of modern Bangkok.

An alternative account[edit]

Anek Nawikamul, a Thai historian, researched the story and found a newspaper article from Siam Praphet newspaper written by K.S.R. Kularb, dated March 10, 1899. It claimed the story of Mae Nak was based on the life of Amdaeng Nak (อำแดงนาก, "Miss Nak"), daughter of a Tambon Phra Khanong leader named Khun Si. Nak died when she was pregnant. Her older children, worried that their father would remarry and their inheritance would be shared with a step-mother, invented the ghost story and threw rocks at passing boats to make people believe Nak's ghost had done it. It also suggested Nak's husband was named "Chum", not Mak.

The Shrine of Mae Nak[edit]

The shrine of Mae Nak stands next to Klong Phra Khanong, at Wat Mahabut, a large temple down Soi 77 off of Sukhumvit Road.

To get there to take the Sukhumvit line of the BTS Skytrain to On Nut, then walk back to On Nut Road Soi 77), on the north side of Sukhumwit.

About 1 km down On Nut, there is a small lane known as Soi 7. Wat Mahabut and the Mae Nak shrine are at the end of Soi 7. You can also reach the temple by boat on Klong Pra Khanong.

The shrine is a low building under large trees with a roof that encompasses the tree trunks. The main shrine has several minor shrines around it.

Offerings[edit]

A statue of Mae Nak and her infant form the centerpiece of the shrine. Devotees often make offerings, accompanied by a request for help, generally by women seeking an easy childbirth or for their husband to be exempt from military conscription.

These are usually lengths of colored cloth, wrapped around the trunk of the Bo tree. Other offerings include fruit, lotuses, and incense sticks left in different locations.

Toys for her child and portraits of the ghost are displayed in the shrine's inner sanctum. A collection of fine dresses offered to her are displayed behind her statue.

Offerings are also made at Phra Khanong canal, where fish purchased live at markets are brought in buckets to the edge of the canal and freed. Stalls at the shrine sell toys, fish, lotus buds, incense sticks and garlands for those who wish to make an offering.

In popular culture[edit]

The story of Mae Nak Pra Kanong is the subject of many films, television series and printed media.[3] Among these are:

Representations of Mae Nak, sometimes humorous,[23][24] are very common in Thai comic books[25] and animated cartoons.[26]

See also[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Chutima Pragatwutisarn (ชุติมา ประกาศวุฒิสาร), Evil Woman in a Beautiful Body: Femininity and the Crisis of Modernity in Thai Society, Chulalongkorn University, 2010

Notes[edit]

External links[edit]