Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Ghosts of Camp Bang Rajan

Bang Rajan is the famous historical battleground in Singburi province where around 400 patriotic villagers held off a Burmese invading army of 100,000 for 5 months before it was completely destroyed in the year 1765 CE. The armies of King Mang Ra were repelled for 7 times by the heavily outnumbered and under-equipped village fighters. Only at the 8th attempt did they succeed in obliterating the villagers, who fought till the very end. Their destruction was inevitable because they did not receive any reinforcements from Ayuttaya despite requesting for them. Ayuttaya's failure to help eventually led to its conquest by the Burmese 2 years later, razing the entire city to the ground. Above we see the monument at Camp Bang Rajan to commemorate these patriots. And this is Wat Pho Kao Ton, the temple venerating Ajarn Thammachot, the spiritual leader of the Bang Rajan village fighters. Ever since that era, the Bang Rajan battleground had been haunted by the ghosts of the patriots, who died with anger in their minds. They were reborn as Petas, and through the power of their anger they continued to guard the land even in the afterlife. They became fierce "earth-bound spirits" and for 200 over years nobody could take anything away from that place.
The Vihara of Ajarn Thammachot.
The statue of Ajarn Thammachot inside the Vihara, covered with gold foil. Ajarn Thammachot played an important psychological role in the battle as he provided spells and amulets of "Kongkapan" or invulnerability for the protection of the fighters, who had no armour but great faith in his magic powers. He was not a native of Singburi, but was a monk from the neighbouring province of Suphanburi invited to reside at Bang Rajan. Ajarn Thammachot was skilled in Jhana meditation as well as the Wicha of protective spells and incantations. Above all he was a great spiritual leader who inspired the village fighters never to give up.As we can see on the statues of the resistance leaders, they wear vests with protective Yants drawn on them as their "armour". Roop Lor amulets of Ajarn Thammachot available at the temple counter. However even with all the protection, it was still not enough against overwhelming odds and Ajarn Thammachot was killed along with the destruction of Bang Rajan. He too became one of the angry Petas guarding the place beyond death. This tells us that no amount of magic or psychic powers can resist the Law of Karma, which must come to fruition one way or another when the time is ripe. It was like Ven Mogallana, the Buddha's chief disciple who was pummelled to death by jealous heretics despite being foremost in psychic powers. This is the well where Ajarn Thammachot used to make holy water to bless the village warriors before they went to battle. But coming back to the topic of the Petas, anybody who had stolen anything from the battleground had to return it because of the bad luck that followed. When people tried to take water from Ajarn Thammachot's well to put in their car radiator, the radiator exploded. These are Chedis built for the slain Burmese soldiers. Anyone who tried to take carved bricks from the area (to make amulets or simply for remembrance) also had to bring the bricks back to their original spot. However my Master LP Jarun of Wat Ampawan was somehow able to obtain one such brick from the provincial governor of Singburi, Mr Pook Rikkasem many years ago. Other people were not so lucky. LP related in one of his books the story of the late Sangha head of Dermbang Nangbuat district in Suphanburi, who also tried to obtain some of those bricks in the past. At that time he stayed at Wat Ampawan for one night and took a motorbike ride to the battleground the following morning. After collecting some bricks to put in his kit bag, he proceeded back to Suphanburi. But just before he could cross into the province, the motorbike skidded while making a left turn at Ta Chang market. The Sangha head got a cut on his head. But he picked up the bricks and stayed over at his sister's house at a nearby sugarcane farm. That night, there were loud mysterious cries heard throughout - the Petas of Bang Rajan were wailing for the return of their property. So the Sangha head had no choice but to return them the next morning. The story of Bang Rajan was immortalized in the Year 2000 movie "Bang Rajan" by director Thanit Jitnukun.

Important leaders of the resistance like Nai Thaen, Nai Chan and even Nai Thong Maen (the guy riding a water buffalo) were portrayed in all their bravery. LP Jarun wanted to help the Petas of Bang Rajan, so he advised the governor Mr Pook to build a fort, temple and bridge there to appease these spirits so the ferocity of the place could be reduced. Mr Pook agreed and the construction was gradually completed stage by stage. The fort became Kai (Camp) Bang Rajan (seen above) and the temple was Wat Pho Kao Ton of today. On 29 Garagadakom 2519 (29.7.1976) HM the King was invited to Kai Bang Rajan to celebrate its completion, and HRH the Crown Prince was also invited to lay the Sema stones at Wat Pho Kao Ton. The amazing thing was after HM the King made merit and transferred it to all the angry Petas of Bang Rajan, they were liberated from their state of woe and reborn. Since that day, there were no more paranormal incidents or reports of haunting. The aura of ferocity surrounding the area was gone, thanks to HM. This act of merit confirmed the saying in the Ksitigarbha Sutra that: "If there are kings or brahmins who may see the aged, the weak and women about to give birth and should they instantaneously have great compassion and show great charity to them by donating medicine, food, drink and bedding to make them comfortable, then the blissful merit they gain will be inconceivable; they will always become devas of Suddhavasa for one hundred kalpas and lords of the six heavens of desire for two hundred kalpas, and finally they will become Buddhas. They will never fall onto evil paths of existence, nor will they ever hear the sounds of suffering in their ears for hundreds of thousands of future lives." Only the great merit created by someone of exalted status out of compassion for the disadvantaged is strong enough to free all the "earth-bound spirits" of Bang Rajan. Throughout his reign HM had performed many such acts of great merit, which is very fortunate for the people of Thailand. Bang Rajan has become a peaceful park today, in contrast to the ferocious place that it used to be. The story of the ghosts of Bang Rajan is a testament to the Buddhist teaching that those who die with anger, greed or ignorance in their minds will be reborn in the woeful states either as Petas, Animals or Hell-beings. It is both a good lesson in both history as well as Dhamma that we should do well never to forget.
*This article can also be read in the 2nd issue of "Mystical Thai" magazine, out in major book stores now.*


Anonymous said...

sadhu sadhu sadhu

Falcon said...

Dear Wayne,

What is Petas?

Thnaks and regards,

Wayne said...

Petas = Ghosts