The Myth of Phra Chao Ha Phra Ong
The myth of Phra Chao Ha Phra Ong - the myth of the Five Buddhas - is a folk narrative that is widespread in all regions of Thailand. The title of the story is different in some regions. In the North of Thailand, it is called by a different name such as “Tamnan Phraya Ka Phueak”, “Anisong Phang Prathip”, “Mae Ka Phueak”, “Phra Chao Ha Ton”, “Tamnan Wiang Kalong”, and “Tamnan Doi Singkhuttara.” In the Northeast, it is called “Ka Phueak” in some areas and “Tamnan Phra That Choeng Chum” in some others. In some areas in the central region, it is called “Ka Khao”, “Ton Het Loi Kra-thong”, and “Pancha Phuttha Phayakon”, while in some areas in the South, it is called “Phra Poramat” or “Phra Chao Sam Nen”, for example.
The myth explains the origin of the five Buddhas who lived and will be born in the Phatthara Kap - the present aeon. In the past epochs of this aeon, there were three Buddhas, namely Phra Kukku Santha, Phra Kona-khom, and Phra Katsappa ; in the present epoch, the Gotama; and in the coming epoch, there will be Phra Sri Ariya Mettraiya, the last Buddha of this aeon.
The myth of the Five Buddhas traces back to the origin of the five Buddhas to the time before their reincarnation as the Buddhas -- when they were siblings, born of analbino crow. The albino crow laid five eggs in her nest on a big tree. A storm blew away the nest and the five eggs fell down from the tree and were carried away by the flood. The albino crow thought that her children died, and she wilted away and died with a broken heart. She became Thao Phaka Phrom in heaven. The five eggs were picked up by different kinds of female animals: a hen, a naga, a turtle, a cow, and a singha. When the eggs hatched, five infants emerged from them. The infants, all boys, grew up and later became rishis (sages) and lived in the forest. Indra, the Lord of Heaven, was concerned and sent Vishvakarma to build ashrams (hermitages, retreats) for the five rishis. One day the five rishis came upon one another and found out that they were siblings. They then thought of their mother - the albino crow and wished to see her again. Thao Phaka Phrom therefore descended from heaven and told them to make a cotton wick in the shape of a crow’s claw, put it in an oil lamp or Phang, and light it to pay homage to their mother, who would be blessed by their gratefulness.
The myth of the Five Buddhas was created in the Thai culture in an attempt to link the five Buddhas together as siblings. The myth played a role in the belief system of the Buddhist Thai for a long time. It justifies several rituals and festivals, such as Lai Ruea Fai festival, Yi Peng festival, Tai Pra-thip festival, and Than Tung festival. It also plays a political role since it was referred to in the Kotmai Tra Sam Duang (The Three Seals Code). It has also inspired artistic creations such as those works of art or poetry that refer to the coming epoch of Phra Sri Ariya Mettrai.