Buddha’s hair relic was enshrined on Doi Suthep
I pay the homage to the Buddha who is the refuge of the entire world, to the Navalokuttara-dhamma and the Phra Pariyattidhamma, and to the two kinds of Sangha, the noble and ordinary Sangha. I will now relate the legendary history of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep where the Buddha’s relic are enshrined.
The Omniscient Buddha attained the spiritual perfections conducive to his enlightenment over a period of twenty asankhayas plus 100,000 mahakappas. That is, he set his mind to attaining Buddhahood for seven asankhayas, after which he continually performed meritorious deeds and determined that he would become the Enlightened One for nine asankhayas, and practiced the perfections for four more asankhayas plus 100,000 kappas. Finally, under the Bo tree on the full day of the Visakha lunar month, he became the Buddha who was superior to all Brahmas, deities, humans, garudas, nagas,gandhabbas, yakshas, and animals. Subsequently, he went deliver his first sermon, the Dhammacakkappavattana-sutta, to a group of five ascetics at the Deer Park in the neighborhood of Varanasi on the full moon day of the eight lunar month, After continuously practicing the duties of a Buddha for 45 years, he passed away at the Salavanodayana Park between two sala trees in the city of Kusinara on the full moon day of the sixth lunar month. The Malla kings performed the funeral ceremony for the Buddha’s body and divided the relics into several portions to other cities for enshrinement.
While he was alive, the Buddha traveled together with 500 arahat monks headed by Sariputta Thera. He went to the Ucchapabbata Mountain (Doi Suthep) and received alms food from Ya (grandmother) Sae and her son, who were strongly attracted to him. As a consequence, Ya Sae had her son ordained as monk under the Buddha and he studied meditation practice following the Buddha’s teachings until he reached the five abhinna (levels of spiritual knowledge) and become well versed in the Buddha’s scriptures.
Afterwards, however, he realized that it was difficult to observe the disciplinary rules, and so he decided to leave the order and become an ascetic by the name of Sudeva. At that time the Buddha gave a hair relic to the mother and son in order to have it enshrined on this mountain, and prophesized that after he passed away, Phra Sumana and a king would bring a relic and enshrine it on this mountain. For the time being, the gold Indra, who had also attended to the Buddha, took the hair relic from Ya Sae, and dug a crypt on the mountain 18 sok deep from the top down to a tunnel. Then through his supernatural power Indra created a golden figure of a tortoise four sok long and three sok wide, along with caskets made of crystal, gold, and silver-one inside the other-containing the Buddha hair relic, and put them on the tortoise’s back. Then a ruby, a sapphire, an emerald, and a Lapis lazuli stone were put underneath the legs of the tortoise. Vast amounts of offerings were made and put in the tunnel. Indra had four devaputtas, each with 500 retinues headed by a vattabhatta-devaputta, attend the relics on Ucchupabbata Mountain until today.
Buddhism from Lanka to Lanna
After 1875 years had gone by following the Buddha’s passing away, corresponding to C.S. 693 (B.E. 1874) in the reign of Phaya Kue Na of Chiang Mai City, Buddhism of the Lankan school was introduced to Chiang Mai from the Mon country, which resulted in the enshrinement of the Buddha relics on Doi Suthep.
In those days there was a Mon monk named Matima, who had received ordination of the Sinhalese school in Lanka and brought the religion to establish it in the city of Martaban. Subsequently, Buddhism flourished there and the king, his ministers, and the citizens were strongly attracted to the venerable Matima’s moral virtue. Thus, they joined hands in consecrating him as Mahaswami (thegreat master) and named him “Udumbara Mahaswami.” His reputation for moral virtue and scholarship spread far and wide.
At that time there were two monks of the Sukhothai kingdom, Phra Anomadassi and Phra Sumana, who had studied the Tripitaka from several renowned teachers in Aytthaya, and returned to the residence of the Supreme Patriarch Pubbabhadra in Sukhothai. Afterwards, the two monks learned of Phra Udumbara Mahaswami’s moral virtue and asked for permission to take leave of the Supreme Patriarch in order to study in the residence of Phra Udumbara in the Mon country. There they were re-ordained under Phra Udumbarapuppha Mahaswami. After undertaking religious studies and religious practices four years, they took leave of their preceptor, and returned to Sukhothai. Phra Mahaswami allowed them to be independent.
Upon returning to Chiang Mai the monks completed ten years of ordination and took eight others who wanted to be re-ordained under Ven. Udumbara Mahaswami. Then Ven. Mahaswami said to the two Theras, “Buddhism will not flourish here any longer. In the future it will flourish in the Thai city (Chiang Mai) throughout 5,000 years of Buddhism. Both of you should take Buddhism to there.” Therefore, Phra Mahaswami sent the newly ordained monks headed by the two theras to the Thai city. Upon their arrival, Phra Anomadassi Thera went to stay in die city of Chaliang, that is Muang Satchanalai, which is currently called Sawankhalok, while Phra Sumana Thera went to stay in Sukhothai. The two Theras continuously held religious ceremonies such as ordination and sema boundary marking, etc.
Sumana Thera found Buddha’s relic in Bangcha
One night Phra Sumana Thera had a dream in which a deity gave him the following message: “King Sri Dharmasokaraj brought relics of the Buddha and enshrined them in a pagoda in the city of Bangcha. The pagoda had now collapsed, and a dok khem bush in the shape of a horse grew over the place where the relics were enshrined. The relics will later be taken to Chiang Mai for both humans and deities to worship. So you must excavate the site and take the relics to be enshrined in the city of Chiang Mai for its prosperity.” When he awoke, Ven. Sumana was filled with delight. The next day he went to take leave of Phaya Dhammaraja, the king of Sukhothai, in order to proceed to Satchanalai.
Upon arriving in Satchanalai, Ven. Sumana reports his dreram to Phaya Lithai, the king of Satchanalai, in order to obtain permission to dig for the relics. The Satchanalai king was delighted and accordingly provided a labor force to Phra Sumana Thera who headed for the city of Bangcha. When he arrived there, he had a scaffolding built and he made offerings of puffed rice, flowers, and various perfumes to worship the relics. At night Phra Sumana climbed the scaffolding and made a vow inviting the relics to perform miracles. Immediately after making the vow, he saw rays glittering from the relics above the Khem flower bush.
The venerable monk put up a tiny flag there and the relics performed more miracles throughout the night. In the morning Phra Sumana Thera told all those who were going to dig for the relics to observe the five and the eight precepts, and then excavation for the relics began. Bricks and stones were found first and as the digging got deeper, the casket containing the relics was discovered. He had it brought up, and when it was opened a brass casket was found, inside of which were silver, gold and coral caskets, one inside the other; the inner one was the size was of a pomegranate seed. The crowd was skeptical as to whether it was really a relic because no opening was seen [in the coral casket]. So Phra Sumana Thera made an offering and vowed once again, and eventually saw the opening. After opening the coral casket, the thera saw a relic the size of a mung bean, shining like gold. He bathed the relic with fragrant water and then took it to Satchanalai.
Having heard the news. King Lithai had a gold pavilion built and sent an emissary to bring the relic. When the royal mission arrived, Phra Sumana Thera was making an offering to the relic and saw it perform miracles. The thera then brought the relic to Satchanalai and presented it to King Lithai. The king enshrined it in the pavilion and respectfully made offerings, for he saw the relic perform amazing miracles. Phra Sumana Thera sent a royal delegation with a message to Phaya Dhammaraja, the king of Sukhothai. The king was filled with delight and thought that if the relic performed miracles for him, he would build a gold pagoda to enshrine it for worship. When the royal emissaries went to invite the relic and Phra Sumana Thera to Sukhothai, the king made a magnificent offering to the relic. But it performed no miracles because the city of Sukhothai was not the proper place for it to be enshrined. So when King Dhammaraja did not see the miracles as reported by the riyal emissaries, he did not believe, and he told Phra Sumana Thera to take the relic for worship. As a result, the relic came to be in the Thera’s possession since that day. In the meantime, Phra Sumana Thera continued to teach Buddhism in the cities of Sukhothai and Satchanalai.
Buddha’s relic was enshrined at Wat Suandok
Having learned of virtues of Phra Udumbarapuppha Mahaswami, who lived in the city of Martaban, Phaya Kue Na and Phra Mahaswami sent a royal delegation to invite him to Chiang Mai. But Phra Udumbarapuppha Mahaswami could not accept the invitation. So he sent ten other monks, his disciples, headed by Phra Ananda to Chiang Mai, instead. Phaya Kue Na and Phra Mahaswami had those monks stay at Wat Lok Luai. Afterwards, they asked the newcomers to perform monastic ceremonies, such as ordination. Those venerable monks said that Udumbarapuppha Mahaswami, their preceptor, had not allowed them to perform such ceremonies. Then they sent messengers to invite Phra Mahasumana Thera to come and perform monastic ceremonies since Phra Mahasumana Thera was also the disciple of Phra Udumbarapuppha Mahaswami, and, for the time being, he was teaching Buddhism in Sukhothai. Phaya Kue Na and Phra Mahaswami sent a minister named Muen Ngoen Kong along with Pha Khao Yod and Pha Khao Sai to invite Phra Mahasumana Thera to Sukhothai. After accepting the invitation, Phra Mahasumana Thera had a disciple named Ananda stay at Wat Pa Kaeo in Sukhothai in his place. Phra Sumana took a twenty-year old novice named Kumarakassapa, who was his nephew, to come along. When they learned that Phra Mahasumana Thera had come, Phaya Kue Na and Phra Mahaswami were extremely delighted and brought a grand procession to welcome him at TambonSaen Khao Ho, Chiang Loei. Phra Mahasumana Thera, who was then 60 years old, stayed at Wat Phra Yuen, east of the city of Lamphun in C.S. 731 (BE. 1912). Phaya Kue Na and Phra Mahaswami asked him to ordain the novice Kumarakassapa as a monk on a raft floating on the Mae Raming River (the Ping River) in front of Wat Chanthaphano with ten senior monks sent there by Phra Udumbarapuppha Mahaswami. Phaya Kue Na and Phra Mahaswami were moved by Phra Sumana Thera’s virtuous conduct. So they consecrated him to be Phra Mahasumanapuppharatana Mahaswami.
One day Phra Sumanapuppharatana Mahaswami brought the relic and presented it to Phaya Kue Na and Phra Mahaswami to see and related the dream about the deity to him. Having learned of this situation, Phaya Kue Na and Phra Mahaswami were attracted to the relic and so they bathed it with fragrant water from a golden bowl. Then the relic performed miracles for Phaya Kue Na and Phra Mahaswami and their ministers and followers could see, encircling the surface of the water on a rainy day.
Phra Mahaswami stayed at Wat Phra Yuen in Lamphun for two years. Towards the end of C.S. 732 (B.E. 1913) Phaya Kue Na dedicated the Phayom forest, the royal pleasure garden, converting it into a monastery called Wat Buppharam Suan Dok Mai Luang, Upon its completion in C.S. 733 (B.E. 1914), the king invited Phra Mahaswami to be its abbot.
After that, Phaya Kue Na and Phra Mahaswami built a great Chedi at Wat Buppharam to enshrine the relic. On the day of enshrinement Phaya Kue Na and Phra Mahaswami bathed it with fragrant water and lavish offerings. The relic performed miracles for Phaya Kue Na and Phra Mahaswami as well as ministers, commoners, monks, and Brahmins. Phra Mahaswami took the relic from the golden basin and saw that these were two relics. They were equally beautiful (some chronicles say that both Phaya Kue Na and Phra Mahaswami made a wish. and by the power of their wishes the relic split in two). Then one relic was put into coral, gold, silver, and brass caskets, respectively, and enshrined at Wat Suan Dok for deities and humans to worship where it remains now.
The original relic was enshrined on Doi Suthep
In C.S. 733 (B.E. 1914) Phaya Kue Na and Phra Mahaswami wanted to enshrined the second relic in a suitable place, but they were unable to find such a site. Therefore, the relic casket was put on the back of an auspicious white elephant in order to find a suitable place to construct a stupa. After they made a wish, they released the elephant, accompanied by music and followed by retinues. The elephant, after trumpeting loudly three times, left for the northern gate of the city (Chang Phuak Gate) and, heading for Doi Suthep, paused briefly on a mountaintop. Phaya Kue Na and Phra Mahaswami thought that the elephant would stop there but it kept going further; the mountain where the elephant paused for a while was later called by many names, such as “Doi Chang Non,” “Doi Chang Noon,” and “Doi Mak Khanun.” When the elephant rested on top of another mountain, Phaya Kue Na and Phra Mahaswami saw that this site was level and beautiful, and wanted to establish the relic there. So they graciously took the relic from the elephant’s back, but the wise animal went farther-to the top of the mountain that has been called “a beautiful level surface on the mountain” until today.
When the elephant arrived at the top of Doi Suthep, it trumpeted loudly three times and, after circumambulating three times, knelt down. Phaya Kue Na and Phra Mahaswami were thoroughly delighted. They had the ministers utter loudly, “Sadhu, Sadhu …,” accompanied by traditional music as a gesture of worship. As soon as the relic was brought down from the elephant’s back, the elephant died.
Phaya Kue Na and Phra Mahaswami had a pit dug on the top of the mountain three sok deep (one sok is equivalent to 50 cm.) and put six large stone planks together forming something resembling a big stone case inside the pit [one stone on top and one below; one each side of the pit, as seen inside the pagoda of Wat Umong – translator], After that the relic, along with its casket, was put in the stone case and the pit was filled with a large number of crushed stones. In that year when the site was well leveled, a pagoda about five wa high (five fathoms) was built over the relic chamber for the venerations of deities and humans. Consequently, Phra That Doi Suthep has appeared on top of the mountain behind the city of Chiang Mai up until now.
Some chronicles say that these two relics had been given to Phaya Kue Na and Phra Mahaswami for veneration earlier. The relics were in their possession until C.S. 746 (B.E. 1927), when on the full moon day of Visakha month corresponding to a Friday in November, they had them established on Doi Suthep.
Doi Suthep pagoda was restored during Mangrai dynasty’s reign
From the time Phaya Mangrai founded the city of Chiang Mai in C.S. 658 (B.E. 1839 until the time when Phaya Kue Na and Phra Sumanapuppharatana Mahaswami enshrined the relic on Doi Suthep in C.S. 733 (B.E. 1914), about 75 years had elapsed and there were five ruling monarchs as follows: Phaya Mangrai, the first monarch of Mangrai dynasty, ruled 28 years; Phaya Saenphu, the grandson of Phaya Mangrai, 29 years; Phaya Khamfu, the son of Phaya Saenphu, 30 years; and Phaya Phayu, the son of Phaya Khamfu, 22 years. Then in C.S. 721 (B.E. 1893) Phaya Kue Na, the son of Phaya Khamfu, ascended the throne and established the Buddha relic on Vasudeva Mountain in C.S. 733 (B.E. 1914). He passed away in C.S. 749 (B.E. 1930)
Afterwards, Phaya Saen Muang Ma, the son of Phaya Kue Na ruled for 15 years. Subsequently, his son, Phaya Sam Praya or Phaya Sam Fang Kaen, enjoyed kingship for 42 years. Afterwards, Phaya Tilok, the son of Phaya Sam Fang Kaen ruled for 26 years and Phaya Yod Chiang Rai, the grandson of Phaya Tilok ruled for 9 years. The last was Phaya Kaeo who ruled for 31 years. The kings who ruled the city of Chiang Mai were all devoted to Buddhism and accordingly donated magnificent offerings.
Subsequently, Thao Ai, the son of Phaya Kaeo, began ruling Chiang Mai in C.S. 887 (B.E. 2068). He had tremendous faith in the relic, and he invited consequently Phra Mahananamangalabodhi at Wat Asokaram, Haripunchai to come coordinate the enlargement of the pagoda in C.S. 900 (B.E. 2081), on the 13th day, Thursday, of the eighth lunar month. After its restoration, this grand pagoda measured 12 sok wide and 44 sok high with four comers, each of which was lavishly decorated with lotus jar motifs and sophisticated traditional arts. Thao Ai offered his own gold to make a golden lotus flower inlaid with diamonds. On an auspicious day the flower was put atop the Mahachedi, which has been known to deities and humans as “Phra Borom That Doi Suthep” even until now.
Thao Chai, the son of Thao Ai, became ruler in C.S. 898 (B.E. 2079). He had deep reverence for the relic and sacrificed gold 1,700 baht in weight to gild the pagoda and silver weighing 6,000 baht for the cost of the wood to construct a vihara (assembly hall). In C.S. 904 (B.E. 2085) Phra Mahayanamangalabodhi had two assembly halls built, one is the front and the other in the back so that the pagoda was encircled by verandas and its walls were elaborately decorated with beautiful paintings. And in C.S. 909 (B.E. 2090) Phra Mahayanamangalabidhi led construction of the stairways leading up to pagoda, and the pagoda balustrades were made in shape of the great naga as seen today.
Doi Suthep pagoda, was developed into tourist destination
The pagoda enshrining the Buddha relic measures 6 wa each side and altogether 24 wa; the east fence has 120 iron bars; the west, 133; the south, 132; and the north, 120, totaling 505 bars. In addition, there are four pavilions (prasat) at the four coners; a candle stand on each side measures 9 wa and 3 sok, totaling 39 wa, in the east there are 28 brass lamps; the west, 27; the south, 27; the north, 27; coners, 4, totaling 105. The assembly halls (vihara) both in front and behind have seven purlins and two eaves; a one-room portico in front and another one-room portico behind, totaling 5 rooms; two buildings, 8 rooms. The eastern veranda has 7 rooms on two sides; the western veranda also has 7 rooms on two sides; the southern veranda has 12 rooms, totaling 37 rooms on the four corners. Altogether there is a total of 47 rooms in all the viharas. The space from the southern to the northern walls is 19 wa long; from the eastern to the western walls, 22 wa totaling 32 wa on four sides. The space from the gate to the two deities (currently moved out to the outside) is 9 wa. The great nagas are each 60 wa long and the stairway which originally had 173 steps currently has 306 steps. The wooden fences below, stretching from west to east, are 50 wa long, as are those from north to south.
At that time, there was an upasaka (male lay devotee) named Mangalasilapanya who came to build an Uposatha (ordination hall) there. One night he had a dream about a deity who made him pleased to learn that this newly built uposatha was not the only one on this very site, but that many others had been built on the same spot during the timkes of the previous Buddhas. When he awoke, Mangalasilapanya reported the matter to Phra Mahayanamangalabodhi who was exceedingly delighted to hear the news. So he sent the monks to invite Ven. Phra Maharaja at Buppharam Suan Mai Luang to come to preside over the sima demarcation ceremony at this uposatha.
During his reign, Thao Ai sent the Chiang Mai monks to study Buddhism in Ava along with a royal gelegation. While in audience with the king of Ava, the Ava monarch asked them if they had ever worshipped the relic on Doi Suthep. The royal emissaries replied that they had never been there. Then the king said that they were unfortunate because all the Buddha relics, wherever enshrined, would first come to assemble together at the Mahachedi on Doi Suthep if they were not protected by deities, and later would assemble at the Mahabidhi tree (in India) in the year 5000 of the Buddhist Era.
Moreover, there was a Supreme Patriarch who lived in the city of Hamsavati. Whenever the Chiang Mai or Hamsavati monks came to Chiang Mai and returned to visit him, he would ask if they had gone to worship the relic. He was delighted when the monks replied that they had gone to worship and he would give them sanghati and civara (yellow monastic robes), saying: “Now all the Buddha relics will go to assemble together in that great pagoda. Therefore, deities and humans who have worshipped the relic on Doi Suthep and made offerings to it truly have worshipped and made offerings to a living Buddha. At that time, there was a man named Muen La who did not have the opportunity to go and worship the relic. Having heard words of the Supreme Patriarch of Hamsavati, he was delighted and took off his gold bracelet, giving it to a goldsmith to make a gold plate cover for Ohra That Doi Suthep.
Therefore, those who worshipped the relics on Doi Suthep mountain with offerings such as puffed rice, perfumes and fragrant, foods and drinks, money, jewelry, rings, clothing etc. or worshipped with their hands recalling the Buddha virtues with the following recitations, “so bhagave itipi araham sammasambuddho…” repeatedly, are believed to have performed Buddhanussati-kammatthana, and will be endowed with all achievements.