Phra Mae Thorani
Phra Mae Thorani
|Pwo Karen:||Soung Th' Rui|
|Thai:||Phra Mae Thorani (พระแม่ธรณี)
Mae Phra Thorani (แม่พระธรณี)
Nang Thorani (นางธรณี)
|Glossary of Buddhism|
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 and Phra, from the Pali Vara and the Thai Mae (mother).
Iconography and symbology
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.
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.||”|
Calling the earth to witness
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.
Buddhist water libation
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. While the water is poured, a confession of faith, called the hsu taung imaya dhammanu, is recited and led by the monks. 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. Afterward, the libated water is poured on soil outside, to return the water to Vasudhara.
Modern use as a symbol
Phra Mae Thorani is featured in the logo of:
- The Bangkok Metropolitan Waterworks Authority.
- The Democrat Party (Thailand) to emphasise the importance of earth and water for Thailand, together with the Pali proverb sachamwe amatta wacha (สจฺจํเว อมตา วาจา) "truth is indeed the undying word," to symbolise the values of the Party.
Mae Thorani may also appear as a decorative element of Thai folklore.
- 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).Check date values in:
- 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.
- Turner, Sir Ralph Lilley; Dorothy Rivers Turner (January 2006) . 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.
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- 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.
- 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. Check date values in:
- Spiro, Melford E. (1996). Burmese supernaturalism. Transaction Publishers. pp. 44–47. ISBN 978-1-56000-882-8.
- 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.
- Guthrie, p.175
Google Books references:
- Images of the gods : Khmer mythology in Cambodia, Thailand and Laos
- Buddhist sculpture of Northern Thailand
- Monks and magic : an analysis of religious ceremonies in central Thailand
- Making merit, making art: a Thai temple in Wimbledon
- Spirits of the place : Buddhism and Lao religious culture
- Diogenes, Issues 173-176
- Thai Goddesses : Dewi Shri, Nang Kwak, Phra Mae Thorani
- The Buddhist world of Southeast Asia
- Gods, Goddesses, and Mythology, Volume 4
- Studies in Hindu and Buddhist art
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