Phra Mae Thorani

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Translations of
Phra Mae Thorani
Pali: Vasudhara
Burmese: Wathondare (ဝသုန္ဒရေ)
Wathondara (ဝသုန္ဒရာ)
Khmer: Preah Thorani
Pwo Karen: Soung Th' Rui[1]
Thai: Phra Mae Thorani (พระแม่ธรณี)
Mae Phra Thorani (แม่พระธรณี)
Nang Thorani (นางธรณี)
Glossary of Buddhism
Phra Mae Thorani bronze statuette. Bangkok National Museum
Main article: Vasudhara

Phra Mae Thorani (Thai: พระแม่ธรณี), Mae Phra Thorani (Thai: แม่พระธรณี) or Nang Thorani (นางธรณี), known as Wathondara (ဝသုန္ဒရာ) or Wathondare (ဝသုန္ဒရေ) in Burmese, from Pali Vasudhara[n 1]) are Thai and Lao language names for the Khmer language Preah Thorani (Khmer: ព្រះធរណី ឬ នាងគង្ហីងព្រះធរណី), an earth goddess of the Buddhist mythology of the region. She is also known as Suvathara or Sowathara.


The word "Thorani" is the Royal Thai General System of Transcription romanization of "dharaṇī", a loanword from Pali and Sanskrit for ground, earth[2] and Phra, from the Pali Vara and the Thai Mae (mother).

Iconography and symbology[edit]

Painting in a Laotian monastery. Buddha during the Battle with Mara pointing towards the earth summoning Phra Mae Thorani to come to his assistance.
Wat Phnom mural, Phnom Penh, Cambodia Phra Mae Thorani placing herself between the demons and the Buddha

Images of Phra Mae Thorani are common in shrines and Buddhist temples of Burma, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos. According to Buddhist myths Phra Mae Thorani is personified as a young woman wringing the cool waters of detachment out of her hair, to drown Mara, the demon sent to tempt the Buddha as he meditated under the bodhi tree.[3]

In temple murals Phra Mae Thorani is often depicted with the Buddha in the posture of Calling the earth to witness. The waters flowing forth from her long hair wash away the armies of Mara and symbolize the water of the bodhisattva's perfection of generosity (dana parami).

'The Bodhisattva was sitting in meditation on his throne under the Bodhi Tree, Mara, the Evil One, was jealous and wanted to stop him from reaching enlightenment. Accompanied by his warriors, wild animals and his daughters, he tried to drive the Bodhisattva from his throne. All the gods were terrified and ran away, leaving the Bodhisattva alone to face Mara's challenge. The Bodhisattva stretched down his right hand and touched the earth, summoning her to be his witness. The earth deity in the form of a beautiful woman rose up from underneath the throne, and affirmed the Bodhisattva's right to occupy the vajriisana. She twisted her long hair, and torrents of water collected there from the innumerable donative libations of the Buddha over the ages created a flood. The flood washed away Mara and his army, and the Bodhisattva was freed to reach enlightenment.[4]
"Touching the earth"

Calling the earth to witness[edit]

In the Iconography of Gautama Buddha in Laos and Thailand, "Touching the earth" refers to the Buddha's pointing towards the earth, to summon the Earth Goddess to come to his assistance in obtaining enlightenment, by witnessing to his past good deeds.[5]

Phra Mae Thorani fountain in Bangkok

Buddhist water libation[edit]

Photograph of a libation ceremony in 1900.

In Burmese Buddhism, the water libation ceremony, called (yay zet cha), which involves the ceremonial pouring of water from a glass into a vase, drop by drop, concludes most Buddhist ceremonies including donation celebrations and feasts. This ceremonial libation is done to share the accrued merit with all other living beings in all 31 planes of existence.[6] While the water is poured, a confession of faith, called the hsu taung imaya dhammanu, is recited and led by the monks.[7] Then, the merit is distributed by the donors, called ahmya wei by saying Ahmya ahmya ahmya yu daw mu gya ba gon law three times, with the audience responding thadu, Pali for "well done." The earth goddess Vasudhara is invoked to witness these meritorious deeds.[7] Afterward, the libated water is poured on soil outside, to return the water to Vasudhara.

Modern use as a symbol[edit]

Phra Mae Thorani is featured in the logo of:

Mae Thorani may also appear as a decorative element of Thai folklore.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Guthrie, Elizabeth (6 November 2010, modified 25 August 2010). "A Study of the History and Cult of the Buddhist Earth Deity in Mainland Southeast Asia (2004)" (PDF 9.2 MB Content copying allowed). Thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of PhD in Religious Studies at the University of Canterbury. University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand. p. 2. "The earth deity's name changes in different countries, but is generally a form of a word for "earth," i.e. Pṛthivī, Kṣiti, Dharaṇī, Vasundharā, and so on. In Cambodia the earth deity is known simply by her title: nān ganhān (pronounced "neang kongheng") from nān, "lady," and gānhān, a Khmer word for "princess." In the Tai regions she is known as Nang Thoranee or Mae Thoranee: "lady earth" or "mother earth." In Burma and Arakan she is Vasundhara (transliterated variously as Wathundari, Wathundaye, Vasundari, and so on). Sometimes she is given the epithet Sundarī, "beautiful one," or Vanitā, "dear one." I use the name Vasundharā in this dissertation for consistency, but the reader should keep in mind that this particular form of the earth deity's name is unknown in Thailand or Cambodia. 3 Zepp (1997: 18)." 


  1. ^ Gravers, Mikael (2012). "Waiting for a righteous ruler: The Karen royal imaginary in Thailand and Burma". Journal of Southeast Asian Studies (National University of Singapore) 43 (2). doi:10.1017/S0022463412000094. 
  2. ^ Turner, Sir Ralph Lilley; Dorothy Rivers Turner (January 2006) [1962]. A comparative dictionary of the Indo-Aryan languages. (Accompanied by three supplementary volumes: indexes, compiled by Dorothy Rivers Turner: 1969. – Phonetic analysis: 1971. – Addenda et corrigenda: 1985. ed.). London: Oxford University Press,. p. 385 quote=dharáṇī6744 dharáṇī1 f. ' ground ' MBh. [F. of dháraṇa-- 1 sc. bhūˊmi--. -- √dhr̥] Pa. Pk. dharaṇī-- f. ' earth '. Retrieved 2011-01-19. 
  3. ^ [1] [2]
  4. ^ Guthrie, Elizabeth (2004). "A Study of the History and Cult of the Buddhist Earth Deity in Mainland Southeast Asia" (PDF 9.2 MB Content copying allowed). Thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of PhD in Religious Studies at the University of Canterbury. University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand. p. 1. "Meng Prang, Buddhist Institute, Phnom Penh, February 1996." 
  5. ^ Cooler, Dr. Richard M. (Last updated: 11/02/09). "a. The Enlightened Buddha" (Illustrated study guide). The art and culture of Burma, Chapter III The Pagan period : Burma's classic age - 11th To 14th centuries, Part 4 D. Sculpture, 2. A thematic discussion of iconography and meaning. SEAsite, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Northern Illinois University. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  6. ^ Spiro, Melford E. (1996). Burmese supernaturalism. Transaction Publishers. pp. 44–47. ISBN 978-1-56000-882-8. 
  7. ^ a b Spiro, Melford E. (1982). Buddhism and society: a great tradition and its Burmese vicissitudes. University of California Press. pp. 213–214. ISBN 978-0-520-04672-6. 
  8. ^ Guthrie, p.175

Google Books references:

External links[edit]