Buddhism is a major world religion founded in the 5th century BC based on the teachings of Lord Buddha Siddhartha Gautama. There are approximately 535 million Buddhists worldwide of which more than 100 million are Theravada Buddhists. Theravada Buddhism, also known as “doctrine of the elders”, is the oldest and purest form of Buddhism which preserved and practiced the teachings and traditions as was observed during Lord Buddha’s time and thereafter recorded in the Pali canons. Today, Theravada Buddhism is strongest in South Asia but is, currently, gaining grounds throughout Southeast Asia as well as western continent.Pursuant therefrom, it is not difficult to imagine the number of Buddhist temples around the world. In our earlier article “Phra Jaktukam Ramathep: a Frenzy Culture within and beyond Thailand” we mentioned that in the Kingdom of Thailand alone there are 40, 717 Theravada temples and, perhaps, the most in the world. Out of these 40,717 temples is a historical temple that was built during the late Ayutthaya Period on the bank of Bang Pakong River, Tambon Amphoe Mueang Chachoengsao, eastern Thailand. The history of this temple and the Buddha image that it houses are both filled with mystery and suspense.
Three Large Bronze Buddha Swimming in Bang Pakong River
More than three centuries ago, during the reign of King Narai the Great or Ramathibodi Si Samphet of the Siamese Ayutthaya Kingdom, three large bronze Buddha images were unbelievably discovered floating in Bang Pakong River by a fisherman. The fisherman quickly gathered the villagers to help bring the three large bronze Buddha images out from the water. However, all attempt failed. They even tied ropes to the images but the ropes snapped and the Buddha images kept flowing down the river. The villagers were filled with disappointment and grieve as they believed the village did not have sufficient merits to invite the three Buddha images to be enshrined in their village.Suddenly, water current increased and became turbulent. Two of the three images were swiped downstream whilst the third remained in the water. One of the two Buddha travelled another 79 kilometres and took up abode in Samut Prakan and became known as Luang Phor Toh Bang Phli whilst the other travelled 152 kilometres to Samut Songkhram and became known as Luang Phor Wat Ban Laem.
A Guru Monk Used a Chanting Thread and Invited the Buddha Image out from the River
A guru monk from Wat Hong was summoned to help invite the remaining Buddha to reside in the village. Joss-sticks, flowers, and other offerings were made during the ritual and the villagers were surprised when the guru monk asked them to bring a “saisin” (Thai chanting thread) out to the Buddha image and tie it around the Buddha. Even a thick rope had snapped and what good can a “saisin” do, the villagers thought. Nonetheless, they did as they were told. The monk then sat by the river bank and began chanting. To the surprise of the villagers, the Buddha image began flowing towards the river bank as the monk chanted.The large bronze Buddha image lap-wide 1.65 meters and height 1.48 meters was lifted off the water and His features were so different from other Buddha images during or before the Ayutthaya Period. Luang Phor Sothorn’s face is a full moon with a peaceful smile. The image of Luang Phor Sothorn was invited to be enshrined in Wat Hong which was subsequently renamed Wat Sothorn Woraram Woravihan. Do not be surprised that the Buddha image you pay homage to in Wat Sothorn Woraram Woravihan today is much larger than the measurements provided herein because the original image has been concealed in a coat of stucco to prevent sinners from stealing the image during the time when the Buddha was first enshrined in Wat Hong. Since then, the original image has remained concealed hitherto.
The Mascot of Chachoengsao
After Luang Phor Sothorn was enshrined in Wat Hong, the province of Chachoengsao which was originally a sparsely populated fishing village began to prosper and develop. Traders gradually brought their transactions to the village and more businesses were also set up there. Those who pay homage to Luang Phor Sothorn saw their businesses prospered and, thus, for centuries, Luang Phor Sothorn has been Thailand’s most prominent Buddha of Wealth.During the Ayutthaya Period, medical facilities were almost primitive and people usually resort to faith healing. Diseases, sickness, and outbreak of epidemic are just too often during those days. The people of Chachoengsao, and subsequently included people from other provinces, turned to Luang Phor Sothorn for help. The incense and flowers used as offerings were used as medicines. They were either boiled and consumed or used in bath to ward away sickness. Many miracles had taken place, especially the cure of epidemic in the year 2433, have strengthened the people’s faith in Luang Phor Sothorn who not only became the guardian but also the mascot of Chachoengsao.
The Two Main Effects that Touched the Hearts of Millions
The two main effects granted by Luang Phor Sothorn are wealth and good health. As news about the effects of Luang Phor Sothorn spread, many people from all over Thailand travelled by rafts through the Bang Pakong River to Wat Sothorn. Consequently, the number of people who decided to settle down in Chachoengsao also increased and the population inevitably bloomed. Perhaps, it was for that particular reason that some people today also think and speculate that, apart from the two primary effects, Luang Phor Sothorn is also “fertility” Buddha.
Reverence of Luang Phor Sothorn as the Buddha of wealth and healing has persisted to this day. Millions of businessmen and believers from all over the world have deliberately travelled to the Chacherngsao province every year to worship Luang Phor Sothorn resulting in Wat Sothorn Woraram Woravihan becoming Thailand’s richest temple. Phra Buddha Sothorn or simply Luang Phor Sothorn has become the main prosperity Buddha in the Kingdom of Thailand.
The Wish of His Majesty King Bhumibol Aduyadej
In 1966, His Majesty King Bhumibol Aduyadej has made a wish that the most revered Buddha image of Luang Phor Sothorn will one day be enshrined in a magnificent temple. The temple administrators have since set their minds in fulfilling the wish of His Majesty and, finally, in the year 1992, Wat Sothorn Woraram Woravihan underwent a 15 year-long reconstruction which was completed in the year 2006.
The new temple took on a unique architectural outlook comprising traditional Thai architectural characteristics and contemporary flavour with Italian carrara marble tiles and gold plated ceramics. The current temple occupies an area of 5496 meter square, excluding other surrounding temple facilities.
At the centre of the “Vihan”, or the assembly hall, is a square structure with four arches erected into an eight-level pyramidal roof of 85m in height with five 4.9m high golden royal umbrella weighing 77kg. It was estimated that the entire reconstruction project cost more than 2.04 billion baht in total.
In August 30, 2006, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn officiated the opening ceremony of the newly constructed Wat Sothorn Wararam Worawiharn in Chachoengsao for and on behalf of His Majesty the King Bhumibol Aduyadej. The new temple is considered the most beautiful and largest Theravada Buddhist temple in the world.
Luang Phor Sothorn Amulets are as Expensive as Phra Somdej Amulets
Because of the effects, amulets and images of Luang Phor Sothorn are highly sought after. To cater for the varying masses, some of these amulets and images are pricey while others are moderately priced. Those that were made a century or so ago are without saying exquisite and expensive for both effects and antique value and their prices easily fetch from a few hundred thousand baht to tens of millions baht. The highest recorded price of Luang Phor Sothorn amulet is 30 million baht for a 2460 medallion. Fake copies are selling over the Internet for a meagre amount of few hundred baht to as much as half-a-million baht. Other moulds commemorating special occasions or made from special materials may also be costly.
Even those amulets and images slightly above half-a-century old are placed on the high-end of the scale.
Images and amulets bearing the royal insignia are also priced higher than normal molds.
There are two batches of roof tile images and amulets released in the Buddhist calendar years 2530 and 2534. The former were made from old roof tiles dismantled from Wat Sothorn Wararam Worawiharn that was believed to contained strong energies due to years of chanting by guru monks in the temple. This batch was made available to soldiers only.
The latter were made from a mixture of old and new roof tiles. They were moderately priced and made available to the public. In the Buddhist calendar year 2534 batch include images and amulets made from shredded bank notes provided by the Bank of Thailand signifying wealth and prosperity. Simultaneously, there were also those made from Gomphrena globosa linn flowers signifying good health.
In Thailand there is a sally saying “you are not a Thai Buddhist if you do not rent a Luang Phor Sothorn image or amulet”. From the sally it can be known the importance of Luang Phor Sothorn to Thai Buddhism. Luang Phor Sothorn is not only an important Buddha but He is also one of the three main Thai Buddhas of Wealth. Thais throughout the Kingdom of Thailand revered Luang Phor Sothorn and so do many people from around the world. If you think we have exaggerated the prominence of Luang Phor Sothorn please feel free to consult any Thai about this Buddha and verify our content for yourself. Finally, if you are keen to know who are the other two Thai Buddhas of Wealth, please keep a watch out for our articles.