Tham Khwan Nak Ritual Text
Tham Khwan Nak ritual text - the text reciting in the pre-ordination rite - is used by Mo Khwan (a ritual practitioner who reads “Bot Tham Khwan”) during the pre-ordination rite. In the Thai tradition, when a young man reaches 20 years of age, the parents would arrange for an ordination to be a Buddhist monk, preferably for three months during the Buddhist Lent. Before the ordination, the young man will visit the abbot of the temple (where he will be ordained) or the monk who will be his preceptor (spiritual teacher) for the coaching in the ordination rite to recite the Tham Khwan Nak ritual text. One day before the ordination day, the host will organize a transitional rite called, “Tham Khwan Nak.”
During the Tham Khwan Nak ceremony, the ordination candidate will have his head, beard and eyebrows shaved and his fingernails clipped. He will wear a white p l e a t e d - cloth, a goldembroidered cloak, a wrap over the left shoulder , a belt etc. Then he will sit in front of the Khrueang Bai Si (multi-tiered, pagoda-shaped receptacle made of banana leaves and used for containing ritual food offerings). Mo Khwan will then read “Bot Tham Khwan Nak” in a melodical style, starting from the “Bot Wai” (paying respect), “Bot Chumnum Thewada” (inviting the deities), “Bot Namo” (worshipping the Buddha), “Bot Wai Khru”- (respecting the teachers), “Bot Khun Manda” (recalling the benevolence of the mother), and “Bot Choen Khwan Nak” (inviting the spirit of the ordination candidate). At the auspicious time, Mo Khwan will lead the procession of the ordination candidate to the temple --wealthy hosts usually arrange a large procession with musical bands, dance and some traditional games. The ordination candidate will either walk or be carried on shoulders or ride on an animal - on an elephant’s back or on a horseback, for example.
Generally, Bot Tham Khwan Nak is divided into several parts -- “Bot Wai Khru”, “Bot Khamnoet Nak”, “Bot Khun Manda”, “Bot Khanan Nam Nak”, “Bot Son Nak”, “Bot Chom Bai Si”, and “Bot An-choen Khwan”.
The highlight part in the Bot Tham Khwan Nak is Bot Khun Manda” (a tribute to the mother) which describes how mothers suffer during pregnancy and delivery. It depicts the motherly love for her children. Mo Khwan who is proficient in his art can pull at the audience’s heartstring with his rhapsodic rendering of the text.
Although the Tham Khwan Nak rite is still performed today, the rite is done so in a much abridged version and high-caliber Mo Khwan are hard to find. Presently, the songs used to accompany the Tham Khwan Nak ceremony are replaced in almost every region of the country by Phleng Luk Thung - country songs - for the participants’ entertainment.