Over a hundred years ago during the era of Ratanakosin, Wat Bangkhunprom was situated on a vast piece of land. It was a well respected monastery in Thailand. The Bangkhunprom area used to be a busy town where the streets were crowded with community living there. There were commercial shops and stalls and at night there were fruits and flower vendors conducting daily business nearby. It was always busy day and night.
Later, due to some reasons, the social and commercial activities gradually moved away to other areas. The previlusly busy Bangkhunprom area gradually became deserted, leaving behind only the solemn monastery and the faithful Buddhist followers. In the attempt by the government to fulfill the people’s welfare and meet the demands of transportation, the vast land on which Wat Bangkhunprom stood was divided in the middle to make way for a northbound road to facilitate the flow of traffic and bring welfare to the people.
Shrine front entrance to pay respect to Phra Somdej Puttajarn Toh Promarungsi
Every Buddha’s pendant collector in Thailand knows that the Somdej Wat Bangkhunprom and Somdej Wat Rakang have great origins as they were created from the hands of the same sage; Somdej Puttajarn Toh Prommarungsi over 140 years ago. Therefore, there are similarities in the quality, recital ceremony, methods of creation, and molding art. It can be said that these pendants come out from the same master and the same mould and are thus twins.
The only difference between these two types of pendants is that the Somdej Wat Rakang votive tablets did not go through the Pagoda Burial Ceremony, and was personally made by Somdej Toh as gifts for people he met through Buddhist fate. The Somdej Bangkhunprom pendants however went through the Pagoda Burial Ceremony hosted by many Buddhist sages after being personally made by Somdej Toh and was buried under a sealed pagoda in Wat Bangkhunprom.
There are no records in the ancient texts as to why Somdej Toh made so many of these Buddhist pendants in total 84,000 pieces in accordance to the Dharmakhanda and then buried them under the pagodas (Chedis) at Wat Bangkhunprom. However, experts from the Thai Ancient Buddha Research Association and members of the Thai Ancient Customs Research Association believed that these pendants which were buried under the pagodas might have been burial items when the Buddhist sage passed away. According to another Thai folklore on customary practices, the monastery must build the pagodas so as to make offerings to the Gods in exchange for protection. The buried pendants might have been a custom practice then or a Buddhist ritual used mainly to protect the powers of the Gods.
Shown here is an authentic Somdej Bangkhumprom aged over 140 years old in immaculate condition known as Phim Sendai block by Somdej Puttajahn Toh originated from old Wat Bangkhumprom chedi pagoda.
In the present day we are still able to find some relatively good Somdej Bangkhunprom powder based pendants from Wat Mai Amataros. They are remade of old powders and broken fragments from the original amulets.
Amulets in this display library showcase are not for sale.
A closer view into the display library reveals B.E.2509 and some other earlier pendants.
Amulets available in another separate counter are for renting. Shown above are 3 pieces Somdej Bangkhumprom produced in B.E.2531 (Pim Sendai on left) B.E.2543 (Pim Yai on middle & right).
Special phim B.E.2531
The somdej piece in this picture is a special phim made in B.E.2531 Phim Yai (Large mould). The brochure has 5 special phims altoghter for this B.E.2531 batch. Each phim has an intricate marking as shown by the pen arrows. The somdej featured in the brochure are the top phims for this batch.
Below is a close-up picture of the thin frame control line marking.
In total there are 3 batches of amulets for devoted collectors to rent namely B.E.2531, B.E.2539 and B.E.2543. Each batch is supported by photos of senior Buddhist masters during the conceration and blessing ceremony.
Somdej Bangkhunprom B.E.2531
All of the Phra Somdej Bangkhunprom B.E.2531 amulets were blessed at a great ceremony held on April 30th, B.E.2531, at Wat Mai Amataros, Bangkok, where 14 famous sacred monks joined to recite sacred spells in order to transfer sacred power into the amulets.
Most of the sacred materials were the same used for the Phra Somdej Bangkhunprom B.E.2517 amulets, which were made of sacred powder, ground from original Phra Somdej Bangkhunprom amulets and Pra Somdej Bangkhunprom B.E.2509 amulets.
Additionaly the original B.E.2517 amulets were also ground and used as part of the mix to create this series of amulets.
This means that the B.E.2531 amulets are composed of the sacred powder from at least three previous series, making them exceptionally powerful.
All the B.E.2531 amulets were manually pressed into the moulds and stamped on their backs with an image of the sacred Chedi in blue ink.
There are a total of 12 Pims (styles) that make up this series:
1. Pim Yai
2. Pim Sendai
3. Pim Song Chedi
4. Pim Kesbuatoom
5. Pim Sungkhati
6. Pim Prokbhoti
7. Pim Tarnkoo
8. Pim Tarnsam
9. Pim Okrut
10. Pim Kanaen
11. Pim Junloi
12. Pim Saiyas
There was also another special group of Phra Somdej Bangkhunprom B.E.2531 Pim Yai amulets (see picture above), each sprinkled on the fronts with sacred powder called “Pong Somdej”. The surface of these amulets appears somewhat rougher and more fragile than the standard series.
Actually the amulets are identical to the Phra Somdej Bangkhunprom B.E.2517 Pim Yai amulets as they were pressed from the same mould.
Apart from the Pong Somdej, other amulets were also sprinkled with Pong Phra Somdej powder from the BE 2509 series and some sprinkled with powder from the BE 2517 series.
Conceration and blessing ceremony photos of B.E.2531 Somdej Bangkhumprom. LP Pae and LP Koon are among the senior Buddhist masters for this batch.
Conceration and blessing ceremony for B.E.2539 Somdej Bangkhunprom
Conceration and blessing ceremony for B.E.2543 Somdej Bangkhunprom (Udommongkol Version)
Somdej Bangkhunprom B.E.2543
Prakru Boriharnkunawat, the abbot of Wat Mai Amataros, created a series of sacred amulets called Phra Somdej Bangkhunprom B.E.2543 (Udommongkol Version) amulets, made from several sacred materials, including powders from the B.E.2500, B.E.2509, B.E.2517 and B.E.2531 batches.
In addition to that he also incorporated ground Somdej amulets and sacred powder from many other famous monks such as Luang Tar Pun and Luang Phor Lumpoon into the composition.
Apart from the sacred powders, some of the amulets in this series also incorporated a sacred metal alloy known as “Takua Tumcha Somdej” (refer to picture below).
This series are very much less expensive than some of the earlier series of Bangkhunprom amulets such as those produced in BE 2509 and BE 2517, but it is believed that the power is quite similar and is an ideal alternative suitable for any worshipoper.
Phra Somdej Bangkhunprom B.E.2543 (Udommongkol Version) amulets were divided into five different pims, this being
Pim Yai Kestalusoom
Back to Somdej Bangkhunprom topic, over 140 years ago, Somdej Puttajarn Toh of Wat Rakang made various Buddhist pendants. Besides presenting them to followers at Wat Rakang, he also presented some for burial in the pagodas at Wat Bangkhunprom. In the year 2500 by the Buddhist calendar (A.D.1957), Wat Mai Amataros organized a never done before pagoda opening ceremony in commemoration of the 2500th anniversary of Lord Buddha Sakyamuni Gotama’s enlightenment. The antinque Buddhist pendants inside were extracted for display to the people.
There were many Buddhist pendants extracted from the pagodas in Wat Mai Amataros. They are as follows;
(1) Somdej Bang KhunProm (Pim Yai)
(2) Somdej Bang Khunprom (Pim Chedi)
(3) Somdej Bangkhunprom (Pim Tansaam)
(4) Somdej Bangkhunprom (Pim Tankoo)
(5) Somdej Bang KhunProm (Pim Sendai)
(6) Somdej Bang KhunProm (Pim Kesbuatoom)
(7) Somdej Bang KhunProm (Pim Sankati Me Woo – Buddhist robe with ears)
(8) Somdej Bang KhunProm (Pim Sangkati Gan Gong – Buddhist robe with bending arms)
(9) Somdej Bang KhunProm (Pim Orkrut)
(10) Somdej Bang KhunProm (Pim Orkrut Yai)
(11) Somdej Bang KhunProm (Pim Prok Poh)
(12) Somdej Bang KhunProm (Pim Siya – Sleeping Posture)
Of the pendants extracted from the pagodas, no. 6. Somdej Bang KhunProm
(Pim Kesbuatoom), no.11 Somdej Bang KhunProm (Pim Prok Poh), no. 12. Somdej Bang
KhunProm (Pim Siya) is less seen and are much sought after by collectors and so are their value
which are higher.
Somdej Bangkhunprom is divided into two categories; the New Niche (Gu Mai) and the Old Niche (Gu Kow). This was because prior to the year B.E.2500 (A.D.1957), a small group of collectors however could not wait for the official pagoda opening and alas they sneaked into Wat Mai Amataros and stole a small number of these pendants.
In order to differentiate the Somdej Bangkhunprom, antique Buddha collectors held a meeting and agreed to name the pendants brought out before B.E.2500 as “Somdej Bangkhunprom Kru Kow (Old Niche)”. Whereas the pendants brought out officially by the monastery was named as “Somdej Bangkhunprom Kru Mai (New Niche)”. Actually whether it is Old Niche or New Niche, their qualities are the same and their value for collection is no different.
The votive tablets or pendants brought out from the pagodas can be divided into three types namely Top of Pagoda, Middle of Pagoda and the Bottom of Pagoda. Pendants that were extracted out from the top of pagodas are less affected by weather and rain conditions. Therefore the surface is sturdier and the lines and forms of the amulet image are more visible. These have the most collection value.
Amulets that are brought out from the middle section of pagodas are mostly yellow or brown in colour. A small number of amulets from this middle section would even have water corrosion marks or exhibit crack marks. Their value therefore must be in proportions to the extent of corrosion found. The more corroded amulets will fetch lower value whereas in better condition in the case of those light yellow or golden yellow in colour could fetch prices not lower than the pendants brought out from the top of the pagodas.
Finally, the amulets that were extracted out from the bottom of the pagodas are usually the most corroded ones where most are broken or not even in shape. There would of course be a small number of amulets which are not affected by the conditions inside the pagodas. Although these amulets have been buried for many years, are still in good condition. The value of these amulets are thus higher and if they are truly beautiful, their value could even be comparable to the amulets brought out from the top of the pagodas. However, these incidences are rare. To conclude, amulets brought out from the bottom of the pagodas usually fetch the lowest prices.
Althought it is hard to find these ancient sought after pendants from Wat Bangkhunprom nowadays, we are very fortunate to have its historical background revealed for our knowledge and own some of the present batches. It is my sincere hope that this article will serve as future reference for hobbyist studying this important amulet from this historical temple that is associated with Somdej Toh Prommarungsi.
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