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Nakhon Si Thammarat

Phra Baromatat Chedi, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand


    Nakhon Si Thammarat is an ancient city in Southern Thailand with evidences of civilization in religion, arts and culture. Archaeological objects include stone weapons, indigenous grotto wall painting and one-faced bronze drum confirm the belief that human settlements in this land date back in thousands of years.
    According to Indian history Nakhon Si Thammarat was once called Tarmporn ling, Tamalingkharm or Tarmpornlingaesnan whereas in Ceylonese legend it was called Chawaka, Siritharm Nakhon or Sitharmarat. Ancient Chinese used to name this town Tangmaling, Holing or Tanmaling connoting its location which used to be a famous seaport where foreign traders came for bartering and trading their products. Through intermarriage with indigenous dwellers, Indian people had settled there a long time ago and brought with them progress in literature, religion and ceremonial practices which still linger till today.
    The influences of Bhramin religion was brought into this area along the coastland and extended inland to Amphoe Tungsong following the settlement of Indians around B.E. 8th.
    During B.E. 14th - 16th, the power of Sriwichai Empire had extended to cover this area with the inception of the Mahayana Buddhism at Muang Chiya then expanded to Tarmpornling and further to the edge of the Malayan peninsular. Around B.E. 17th - 18th Tarmpornling became more powerful and its leader Phra Chao Sridharmasokaraj was crowned King and graciously established Pathumwong or Patamawong Dynasty with its empire covered all southern towns up to Malayan peninsular. At that time Nakhon Si Thammarat had a close relationship with Lanka or Ceylon and the Lankawong Sect of Buddhism was brought in to the extent that it bore great influence upon the local dwellers. Buddhism was so flourished right there that at one time there were as many as 12,000 Buddhist monks.
    The monks from Nakhon Si Thammarat were invited to preach sermons in many other cities including the Sukhothai Empire. Hence Nakhon Si Thammarat was known as "Muang Phra" or "City of Monks".
    Phra Baromatat Chedi or Pagoda of Sacred Relics has been highly revered by the citizens of Nakhon Si Thammarat and nearby provinces. The Pagoda itself is the symbol of religious glory and the faith of local people which never dies down till today.
    Based on historical account, Phra Baromatat Chedi was erected in B.E. 854th but archaeologists held that it was built around B.E. 18th and had been restored many times since then.
    Phra Baromatat Chedi is situated in Phra Baromatat Voraviharn Temple. Within the temple compound there are other roofed galleries encircling the Chedi e.g. Viharn Thapkaset or Phra Rabiang Teentat (the pedestal on which Phra Baromatat Chedi), Viharn Mah, Viharn Khien, Viharn Polang, (Viharn Polang or Viharn Khot where there are 173 Buddha images inside the cloister), Viharn Phrapanya, Viharn Luang where religious ceremonies are performed, etc.
    Nakhon Si Thammarat was ruled by Siam during the golden Reign of King Rama the Fifth who thereafter changed its administration by appointing "Chao Muang" or Lord of the Province to be in charge of overall administration. After 1932 (B.E. 2475) Nakhon Si Thammarat become a province under the central administration but local merchants kept on having their trade relationsmostly with Singapore, Malaysia and Penang.


Nakhon Nielloware
There is historical evidence that nielloware has been used for household appliances since the reign of King Boramatriloknat of the Ayutthaya Period; and during the reign of King Narai, it is recorded that he ordered the governor of Nakhon Si Thammarat to send a highly-skilled niello silversmith to Ayutthaya to make nielloware gifts to send to King Louis XIV of France and to His Holiness, the Pope, in Rome.
Although fairly well known, Thai nielloware did not become famous until the early Rattanakosin Period when Chao Phraya Nakhon (Noi) presented a niello carriage and throne to King Rama III. The throne was used for official audiences.
Later, Chao Phraya Nakhon (Noi Klang) presented King Rama IV with a royal barge with niello planks and furniture embellished with niello and, since then, nielloware has been popular as a presentation gif.
The beautiful effect of Nakhon Nielloware stems from the skill of the smith and the quality of the back compound holding the silver and gold.
Gold and black are the two kinds of Nakhon Nielloware which are produced: the black normally bears silver designs and gold neillo is covered with gold designs. The nielloware smith will apply real gold, mixed with mercury which is painted on a piece of silver that has a design on it. This is placed over a fire so that the mercury evaporates leaving the gold clinging firmly to the silver. Later the finished product is polished until it shines.
Nakhon Nielloware has its own identity and is difficult to copy. All items are made by highly-skilled craftsmen producing a very fine finish. Nielloware items make perfect gifts and are useful as personal accessories. They also demonstrate the cultural heritage handed down by past generations.

"Bowl with cover", Image set in Gold niello

The height of the Pagoda is 370 wa (1 wa = 2 meters) above the ground. The tip was heavily gold plated with around 216 k.g. of solid gold and richly decorated with golden ornaments like ring, bangle, earring and Buddha idols hanging around with golden wire. Phra Baromatat Chedi at Nakhon Si Thammarat is the most important place in southern peninsular where sacred Buddha relics were enshrined.
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Information : Nakhon Si Thammarat Province.
: Nakhon Si Thammarat, Chamlong Fungcholjitr, Holiday Time in Thailand, Thailand's Official Tourism Magazine, September 1997, P. 33-34.
: Nakhon Nielloware, Makot Vesalee, P.48-50.
: Tourism Authority of Thailand, Tel. (02) 694-1222, E-mail : tat@cs.ait.ac.th