The Legend of Phra Kaeo Morakot
The legend of Phra Kaeo Morakot or the legend of the Emerald Buddha image is Thai Buddhist literature. It is also known alternatively as “Tamnan Phra Kaeo” and “Tamnan Phra Phuttha Maha Manirattana Patimakon”. In the North of Thailand, it is called, for example, “Tamnan Phra Kaeo Chao”, “Tamnan Phra Kaeo Morakot”, “Tamnan Phra Kaeo Amorakot”, “Tamnan Phra Kaeo Ammorakot Chao”, and “Tamnan Phra Kaeo.”
The oldest version of the legend is “Rattana Phimphawong”, written in Pali language by the Venerable Thera Phrom Ratcha Panya during AD 1436-68. The legend also features in “Chinna Kala Mali Pakon”, which was written by the Venerable Phra Rattana Panya Thera at about 1517, and in the King Rama I’s “Royal Chronicle of Rattanakosin”.
The most numerous versions of the legend are those of Lanna. They are found in various temples and mostly contain only seven to eight pages of the Thai traditional palm-leaf manuscripts on which they were inscribed. Some manuscripts recorded only the legend of the Emerald Buddha image, while some included other texts as well. The following synopsis of the story was summarized from “Tamnan Phra Chan Chao Phra Sing Phra Kaeo” from the palm-leaf manuscript found at Wat Sai Mun, San Kamphaeng District, Chiang Mai province:
When the monk by the name of the Venerable Maha Nakkha Sen,who resided at Sen Aram in the city of Patalibut (Pataliputta), wished to create a Buddha image, Phra In (Indra, Lord of Heaven) sent Witsanukam (Vishvakarma) to bring to him the Kaeo Mani Chot from Wibula Banphot Mountain, but the Demon Kumphan gave the emerald (to Witsanukam) instead. Indra ordered a statue of the Buddha to be made, which was two Sok and one Niew in height (one Sok equals the length of the forearm; one Niew equals the length of a finger). Indra then put in the Buddha’s relics at seven spots inside the image. The Venerable Maha Nakkha Sen predicted that this Emerald Buddha Image would be venerated in Khom, Burma and Thailand. Later, King Anuruttharat of Burma sent the learned men to Sri Lanka to copy the Tipitaka (Buddhist sacred scriptures) and they also brought back the Emerald Buddha image. On the way back their junk boat was carried by the current to the city of Luang Phra Bang (in Laos). King Anuruttharat asked for the Emerald Buddha image to be returned to him, but King Phraya Nakhon Luang returned only the Tipitaka copy. Later, Phraya A-thit conquered Nakhon Luang (Phra Bang) and brought the statue to Ayo-thaya (Ayutthaya). Later, King Phra Ram of Kamphaeng Phet had the Emerald Buddha image moved to Bangkok. Later, Phraya Maha Phrommarat had the Emerald Buddha image moved to Chiang Rai. Later, when the construction of the Kudi (a shrine) for the Emerald Buddha image was completed, Phraya Tilokarat of Chiang Mai had the statue moved to Chiang Mai, where it remained thereafter.
The legend of the Emerald Buddha image stands as a testimony to the literary creativity of the Lanna monks in the past. It also serves as a historical record that expresses the Buddhist ideology and belief in this important and sacred Buddha image.