Introduction of Phra Somdej Wat Rakhang
Among all the Buddha amulets, Phra Somdej Wat Rakhang made by ChaoKhun Somdej Budhhachan Toh Promrungsee is believed to be the most sought after, not only in Thailand but also elsewhere in the world. It is also the highest valued of all Buddha amulets.
Phra Somdej Wat Rakhang amulet was made from five kinds of sacred powders namely Pattamung, Itthijae, Maharaj, Buddhakhun and Trinisinghae. This five sacred ingredients were added into the substance with incantations of holy-scripture, writing of sutras and holy symbols (yantra) with chalk on a board, erased and rewrite them several hundred time over. The dust gathered thus signifies the sacred power of the ritual. This first collected powder is Pattamung.
Pattamung powder is then mixed with water and mold into pencil shape, sun-dried and then use in writing of another chapter of sutras. The process of writing down and erasing is repeated as many times as stipulated in the holy sutras. The dust gathered from the second ritual is ittijae. The same process is performed until all of the five ingredients have been collected. The ingredients are then mixed together and added to the bulk substance which consists of ground shells as main part, others includes cooked rice, talc, crushed banana with Tang Eiw oil as cementing agent. When all the ingredients are well mixed, the derived substance is taken in small parts and pressed into a mold made by a man from Ban Changlor. Each making without storing them sealed inside a brick structure. The total number of amulet made is said to be 84,000, equaling the number of the holy scriptures.
Somdej Phra Buddhacharn Toh Promrungsee was born on April 17, 2321 (1778) in Ayuddhaya province. He was ordained as a novice in 2413 (1807). At the age of 21 years, he was granted Royal Patronage and took up residency at Wat Phra Srirattana Sadsadaram in Bangkok. His clerical name is Promrungsee. In 2407 (1864) he was bestowed the title “Somdej Phrabuddhacharn", a very prominent clerical status in Rattanakosin City (the predecessor of Bangkok). His tenure in the monastery began in the reign of King Rama 1 and lasted until the reign of King Rama 5, a total 65 years until his death at midnight of June 22, 2415 (1872) at the age of 84 years.
Somdej Phra Buddhacharn Toh was highly revered for his Kantathura (Preaching ) and Vipassana (Meditation) skills from laymen to royalties alike. He was often invited to preach in the palace. It was in 2410 (1867) that he began making Somdej Wat Rakhang amulets as a mean for people to continue upholding their religious allegiance. This lasted until 2414 (1871). Somdej Wat Rakhhang is well known for it’s devine blessing powers in bring good-will, and amity form encountered people as well as warding-off harms and all maliciousness.
Phra Somdej Wat Rakhangkohsitaram
The amulets made from 5 moulds. There are
• 1. Pim Phra Prathan or Pim Yai
• 2. Pim Kes Buatoom
• 3. Pim Song Chedi
• 4. Pim Thansaem
• 5. Pim Prok Poh (Due to the limited quantity made, this variation is seldom seen and talked about)
Phra Somdej Wat Rakhang: Pim Phra Prathan or Pim Yai
Phra Prathan mould is the most popular votive tablet of all Somdej Wat Rakhang votive tablets. There are 4 model of votive tablets showing grace and magnificence of the Buddha figure as well as completeness of all components of the entire art structure. In addition, the quantity of this model of votive tablets is appropriate, leading that this model of Phra Somdej Wat Rakhang is considered the zenith of all votive tablets under the name of Phra Somdej Wat Rakhang.
Phra Somdej Wat Rakhang, Phim Phra Prathan has a variety of fixtures (many kinds of mass) : delicate (crushed of powder), rough, Tang iew oil (oily skin), limy skin and parched etc.
If we categorized by details in each part, what we should study and understand are:-
1. Head stem or Phra Kes:- There are 3 types
1.1 Kes Ta Lu Soom (= Head stem breakthrough the bell line)
1.2 Kes Jarod Soom Yao (= Long head stem touch the bell line)
1.3 Kes Jarod Soom San (= Short head stem touch the bell line)
2. Face:- There are 4 types
2.1 Face is swelling
2.2 Face is oval-shaped, long chin
2.3 Face is rounded diamond-shaped quadrangle
2.4 Face is round and short
3. Ears:- There are 2 types
3.1 Unobvious line of ears
3.2 Ear slightly be seen in some amulet pieces.
4. Neck:- There are 3 types
4.1 Big neck.
4.2 Thin neck – shorter than the first type but clearer.
4.3 Unclear but slightly be seen.
5. Shoulder: is wider than other moulds. Left armpit is higher than the right one. Left arm fold is depth and right arm fold is shallow.
6. Arms:- relax arms like alphabet “U” shape. Always slightly slope to left side.
7. Hands:- There are both thick and thin but always slightly deviate to right side.
8. Lap:- wide-curved and narrow-curved.
9. The bell line:- Big and thick. Curve line is slightly deviated to left side.
10. Frame:- There are 2 types
- Narrow cutting edge
- Wide cutting edge or mirror frame
As above details, it can be classified into 3 main structures by considering the Buddha figure as follows:
1. Phra Pim A: The body figure is thick and the face is quite round and big or so called "Thick Waist and Big Face"
2. Phra Pim B: The body figure is thick and the face is long and swelling in the middle. The face is longer than Phra Pim A and it is called "Phon Matoom Yai" or called "Thick Waist and Average Face.
3. Phra Pim C: The body figure is slim and narrow at the end. The face is longer and swelling. It is smaller than every type described above, The face is called "Phon Matoom Lek" (Slim Waist and Small Face).
Actually Somdej Wat Rakhang has three-tiered base which were hints by Somdej Toh and his teacher “Somdej Sangkharaj Sook Kaai Thuan” for three ultimate truth
Tier 1: Anijjang means changing or instability
Tier 2: Dukkhang means sufferings
Tier 3: Anatta means emptiness
Since the moulds of the votive tablets are made by hand and there are many moulds, so there are many different sizes. However, the main structures remain the same as mentioned above. The differences in the figures do not affect the popularity. What make the difference in the popularity are completeness and magnificence of the Buddha figure, which are the main factors.
Somdej Wat Rakhang Pim Yai or Pim Phra Prathan can be divided into 2 sub types:- Ok Vee (V-shaped body) and Ok Krabok (cylinder-shaped body). Most of Somdej Wat Rakhang Pim Yai are Ok Vee type.
Somdej Wat Rakhang Pim Yai Ok Krabok (Cylinder-shaped body)
Somdej Wat Rakhang Pim Yai Ok Vee (V shape)
Notification points of Pim Phra Prathan
1. The image body is V-shape or Ok Vee
2. Most of them having rough mixture when comparing to Somdej Bangkhunphrom, and loosely granulated materials often be seen on the surface.
3. The image’s right ear may slightly be seen in some amulet pieces.
4. The neck is often seen.
5. The left armpit is higher than the right one.
6. The upper arms are not vertically straight but slightly curved.
7. The bell line is like curved roof and bigger than Somdej BangKhunphrom.
8. The left leg is protruded and tops over the right one.
9. The middle tier or ladder called “ Kha Singh Base” or lion’s leg. The ridge is quite sharp.
10. Some of Somdej Wat Rakhang were original brushed or dipped with black lacquer to preserve their durability.
11. Natural shallow cracks on surface due to changing of temperature from year to year can be occurred to any amulet of strong and inflexible texture which would not be found in fake Somdej. Fake cracks may be made by baking a fake Somdej with spotlight but the cracks incurred are deeper and carry sharp edges.
12. Backside of Somdej Wat Rakhang Pim Yai, showing cracks densely at the lower area caused by leveling or flattening effort using a small trowel. Most of Somdej Wat Rakhang have cracks on their back, either and the edges or other areas.
Phra Somdej Wat Rakhang: Pim Kes BuaToom
Kate BuaToom mold is the second-rank popular votive tabket, followed from Pim Phra Prathan. The popularity is close to Pim Song Chedi. But becuase of the thickness of the Buddha figure and its smaller quantity than Pim Song Chedi, so its popularity is a little popular than Pim Song Chedi.
The reason why it is called "Pim Kes Bua Toom" is because the face if this model of votive tablets is wide in the forehead and a little narrowed to the chin. There is a bun on the head. It is like an upsidedown lotus. What matters is ears which are long enough to touch the shoulders for almost every item.
The Phra Somdej Kate Bua Toom can be classified into 2 types by considering the structure of the Buddha figure as follows:
1. Pim Kate Bua Toom Yai: The body figure is thick. Some of body figures look almost like a cylinder shape. The face is big and quite round. The arms are strong and thick.
2. Pim Kate Bua Toom Lek: The body figure is longer and thinner than the first type. The waist is narrow and the face shape is trapezoid. The arms are small and thin. The distinctive point is there is the obvious line of the winter-rope passing on the body. It is the votive tablet made from a good and extremely-detailed mould.
The popularity of this model depends on its completeness and clearness of the details complied in the Buddha figure in total.
Phra Somdej Wat Rakhang: Pim Song Chedi
Song Chedi mold has the thick body of the Buddha figure, compared to every model of the votive tablets. The entire figure from the head to the lowest floor of the base looks like a pagoda. This model of votive tablets can be classified into 2 main types as follows:
1. Phra Pim Song Chedi Yai: It is found that the face is swelling and almost round. The sides of the face have unobvious lines of the ears, not so clear as Pim Kate Bua Toom. For a complete Buddha figure, it is pressed in the mould in the beginning before the mould starts being partly defaced. It is thick at the body figure as well as the waist. Besides, the arm rounds are narrow.
2. Phra Pim Song Chedi Lek: The figure of this type is thinner than the first one in total. The face is longer. The end of the line top of the head is short. And many Buddha cannot be seen that it is touched the line of the above arch. The body shape looks almost cylinder (but the waist is a little bit narrowed). The upper arms look strong and thick and the arm rounds are the narrowest than every model of Phra Somdej votive tablets. For some complete votive tablets, the line of winter-rope can be seen obviously.
The popularity of Phra Somdej Pim Song Chedi Yai is higher than Phra Pim Song Chedi Lek. But both types are equally elegant. However, Phra Pim Song Chedi Lek may be more popular if its beauty can be seen more clearly and more completely than Phra Pim Song Chedi Yai.
Notification points of Pim Song Chedi
1. Head stem is bloated.
2. The thickness of both side of shoulders are equal.
3. Broken line looks sharp at the right chest.
4. Right arm from the elbow to the wrist are tapering.
5. The right side of first base is slightly lifted up like a bow.
6. If mould was pressed clearly, we would see overlapping line of foot at lap apparently.
7. Broken line from end of last base diagonal toward corner of the bell line.
Phra Somdej Wat Rakhang: Pim Than Saem
Thansaem mold is the least popular of all model describe above. The reason why it is call "Phim Thansaem" is because there is an inserting line between the highest-floor base and the middle-floor base.
Phra Somdej Wat Rakhang; Pim Than Saem can be classified into 3 types by considering the structure of the Buddha figure as follows:
1. Pim 1 : The face is swelling, long and big. The body shape is almost cylinder and some Buddha figures do not almost have curves beside the body.
2. Pim 2 ; The face is longer and less swelling than the Pim 1. The body is smaller than the first type with more obvious line of the waist. The votive tablet looks clear. The line of the throat can be seen too.
3. Pim 3 : The face is longer than the above two types. The line of the ears can be seen clearly. The body is thin with narrow waist. For the complete votive tablets, the line of winter-rope can be seen very obviously.
For the differences in the popularity of these 3 types. it can be said that there are no impacts at all. The popularity of this model depends on its beauty, completness and clearness.
Notification point of Pim Than Saem
1. End of head stem:- through the bell line and touch the bell line.
2. Head stem:- like pagoda and sharp line.
3. Ears:- The right side of ear is curved (Hoo-Bai-Sri)
4. The left side of ear is straight.
5. Upper right arm is slightly outstretched.
6. Upper left arm is left vertically.
7. The end of middle tier is slightly lifted up like bow.
8. Lap is concaved which look like number “8” in horizontal.
9. There are 2 inserted lines which locate between lap and the first tier another one is between first and second tier.
10. The top of left edge is slight deviated, resulting to the top of left area is wider than below.
11. The left mirror frame dragged from the top until below edge.
Phra Somdej Wat Rakhang: Pim Prokpoh
Due to the limited quantity made, this mould is seldom seen.