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The Origin of Kelantan Pidta Genres

After all these years, Kelantan remained the top notch place for Pidta collectors. As Malaysian Buddhists following the Thai Theravada’s traditions and believers of the marvellous power of amulets, we should be proud that we have our very own Siamese temples in Kelantan that produces great miraculous protective talismans.

Thai Buddhist temples’ in Kelantan became famous for its Phra Pidta throughout this region largely attributed to our late Tok Raja or Luang Phor Khron Rachanaren for his sacred arcane knowledge in creating this unique full body Pidta. The venerable Tok Raja therefore can be considered as father of Phra Pidta holy talismans in Malaysia.

Kelantan’s Pidta genre is distinctively unique in both style and identity. The distinctive trademark of Kelantan’s Pidta is easily identifiable with both hands covering the face with a full visible body usually dark colours in cross-legs sitting position.  As such this is the unique design of Kelantan’s Pidta genre after all these years. Die-hard fans and collectors of Phra Pidta would describe this marvellous craftsmanship design to be masculine and looks “fierce” with invulnerability endowment. After all Luang Phor Khron himself looks serious and fierce and it’s not surprising that even his disciple students made Pidta have the same flavour – masculine and fierce. Ultimately due to the protective powers and unique styling of this Pidta genre, it quickly became known to amulet collectors all over as the “Bangsek” style populated by Tok Raja since it was first made at Bangsek district (the old name of Tok’s birthplace).

It is very common to hear older folks and expert collectors referring to this form of Pidta talisman as Pidta Bangsek. The word ‘Bangsek’ is derived from either Repek village or Wat Uttamaram’s old name. Hence, Tok Raja’s Pidta was popularly referred to as Pidta Bangsek in this practical sense. Since the first Pidta Bangsek was created it became an icon for over 80 years and had made its mark particularly among the collectors’ fraternity in Malaysia, Singapore and a small percentage from Thailand.

Some commentories may dispute the claim that Pidta Bangsek is not the origin of Kelantan pointing that similar full-bodied Pidta styles are also created by other masters from Thailand. But firstly we have to understand one important aspect about the lineage of Tok Raja’s disciples residing in Thailand after the passing away of Tok Raja e.g. Chao Koon Chan, Chao Koon Mit, Chao Koon Onn (Wat Sg. Padi just across the Golok/Malaysia border), Luang Phor Daeng Wat Kok Sai (Hadyai), Luang Phor Dee Wat Sanghasitharam (Narathiwat), and later second generation disciple such as Luang Phor Dum (Wat Mai Naparam, Tak Bai Thailand).

From a historical standpoint, it is true that present states in Kelantan and Kedah belonged to Thailand in the past before it was gazetted by the British colonials and placed under Malaya map around the 1900s A.D. In the course of history since Malaysia’s independence in 1957, Kelantan became an official state of Malaysia and we must pay tribute to these Kelantanese Buddhist teachers and Sangha Order for their Dhamma services irrespective of any land territory demarcation in the past history. Buddhism does not distinguish between nations or race as it’s a religion concerning humanity and practical truth about the cessation of suffering if we could understand it correctly.

Luang Phor Khron was highly respected by a large proportion of people for his humanity efforts and Buddhism teachings under his tutelage flourished in Kelantan until he was recognized by the Kelantan Royal family and subsequently Luang Phor Khron was bestowed the title Tok Raja which practically carries the responsibility as Chao Khun or Chief Monks for Kelantan in B.E.2488 (1945A.D.). That was a great achievement by Tok Raja for all Thai Theravadian Buddhists in Malaysia.

With regards to any potential dispute about Pidta Bangsek as the origin of Kelantan, the other aspect is that this full-bodied Pidta style has never been popular among Thai collectors and talisman makers. This is a simple fact that the Thais would prefer a much popular flatter design such as those created by Luang Phor Toh, Wat Pradoochimlee in Bangkok or Luang Phor Eam and many other notable masters in this respect.

Pidta Phakawan Than Thit, Wat Machimmaram
From my own observation, if you show a piece of newer Pidta Bangsek say from Than Thit to a common Thai person in Bangkok, he would distinguished it as a Pidta and probably turn around and ask you where is your piece of amulet came from and made by which temple.  However, to a Thai die-hard Pidta veteran collector he would utter the name Tok Raja or Luang Phor Khron when he sees an association of a full-bodied shaped Pidta. Such is the remarkable reputation of Pidta Bangsek genre in contemporary amulets circle.

A large proportion of Tok Raja’s Pidta Bangsek are classified under the category of Pidta Phakawan. Other forms of Pidta Phakawan that are found elsewhere are in the formation of either 4 hands or 6 hands covering the eyes, mouth, ears and bottom. But all Tok Raja’s Pidta Phakawans are distinctively designed with just 2 hands.

Tradition of making Pidta Bangsek’s style is still being carried until today by temples in Kelantan. From the previous articles; World of Pidta, Wat Uttamaram Bangsek and Kelantan Thai Temples, we can see that almost all temples in Kelantan made Pidta following Tok Raja’s Bangsek style and incantation techniques. The most recent documented evidence in the making of Pidta Bangsek was Than Boon - the present 4th Chief Abbot of Wat Uttamaram.

Important moulding apparatus includes 2 pieces of wooden planks which are connected with a hinge. There are two perfectly inverted holes on each of the wooden plank to place the Pidta mould. Today’s Pidta moulds are made from fibre resins or synthetic materials to form the shape of the desired Pidta dimension.

These two pieces of woods were pressed together tightly by using hand to mould the Pidta out. The moulded Pidta was then hand coated with Black Janrakh Wax or Getah Rengas Hitam to give its shiny austerity look. Each Pidta are individually pressed and then blessed by Than Boon.

The technique used today (as shown above) is considerably much more easier than Tok’s days especially the moulding apparatus. During Tok’s days the moulding apparatus is not as advanced as today with the advancement in resin mould. Yesteryears mould has to be handcrafted out to achieve the desired shape and dimension of the Pidta talisman. Tok is a meticulous person and almost every Pidta created by him personally are in very beautiful shape and they are highly detailed. Some of Tok's early version Pidtas are hand-carved with knives without any particular mould.  Certainly it would take much longer time to make just one single piece of his Pidta.

Pidta by CK Chan (the 2nd Abbot of Wat Uttamaram Bangsek) is perhaps the closest resemblance to Tok Raja's Pidta Phakawan. The trademark of Pidta Bangsek is easily distinguished by its black color lacquer.

Modern techniques such as machine moulding for wahn based Pidtas is very common nowadays as modern technology is fast and convenient as compared to the demonstrated traditional method. But more importantly is the inclusion of sacred materials and incantation into the Pidta itself that makes it "alive".  An example of modern block moulding Pidta Bangsek is shown above made by Luang Phor Keaw of Wat Hui Ngok, Pattani.  It has a golden takrut inserted at the bottom, serial numbers and temple code.  Pidta Bangsek's popularity reached many southerner Thais too for instance Wat Pra Chumchonlathara Sungai Padi, Wat Mai Naparam, and Wat Hui Ngok in today's era.  

On the contrary to common beliefs, Tok Raja's pidta phakawan are mostly Kongkrapan Chatri. To a certain extent it's true for most of his pidta as early as around circa B.E.2460s.  However, we do believe that all Tok's pidta also contained both Maha Niyom and Mahalarp properties that made it so potent.

From my own experience, most of the Kelantan stuffs e.g. Pidta or Takruts particularly those from Tok Raja’s lineage disciples when worn initially would easily raise one’s temperament and anger. This effect is known as “settling down” and is quite a common effect for first-time wearers. But this effect can be true to a certain extent as not everyone would feel this hot temper effect. After a short period of time upon harmonising with the energy of the particular talisman energies, things will usually go smoothly for the wearer.

In those days Tok Raja do not simply give out his stuffs to devotees unlike today where the amulets are readily available over the amulet counter for people to own.  In the past, Tok will firstly assess a person’s temperament and understand his real needs before giving away his Pidta or other stuffs such as Takrut or Phayant.

Newer genres of Pidta Bangsek are made by mostly Tok Raja’s disciples such as the late Chao Khun Chan, Than Mit, Luang Phor Daeng, and Luang Phor Dum, and present masters such as Than Boon, Than Thit, Chao Khun Onn, Than Hua, and Luang Phor Uwan or A1 infamous for his buffalo bones Pidta.  It's worth mentioning there are still a small handful of Tok's second generation disciples in Kelantan today.

It must be noted that Than Lek Wat Ariyakiri and Than Phut Wat Balai are considered senior masters of the same generation as Tok Raja.  Nevertheless, Pidta Bangsek is indeed a great talisman marvel invented by none other than Tok Raja himself, the father of Kelantan Pidta that had generated much interests and genre continuation till this day. In conclusion, Pidta Bangsek originated from Kelantan regardless old or new is definitely an important Buddhist votive talisman treasure.

Buddhist masters in Kelantan not only produce Pidta but also other powerful stuffs as well such as Takruts, Mai Tao “tongkat” of various shapes, and other forms of amulets in general. I have provided the travel route extensively to reach Kelantan in our previous article and you may consider visiting some of those famous temples around not just collecting great amulets that are still available but rather spending your holiday with your loves ones. Avoid visiting this East Coast area during the monsoon season that usually start from November to January due to heavy rains and flooding.

Mai Tao Pakka by CK Onn, B.E.2554

From the perspective of every serious amulet collectors, it can be said that Phra Srivichai is the amulet icon in Northern Thailand whereas Archan Toh’s Somdej Wat Rakang is the icon in central Bangkok, and Luang Pu Tuad amulets in Southern Thailand respectively.

What about Pidta Bangsek? If you ever bring any piece of this Pidta to a casing shop in Bangkok, very likely the Thai retailer will utter the work "Bangsek".  More often you will be able to find custom-ready-made amulet casing that will fit snugly to the shape of your Pidta Bangsek.  Therefore, don't be surprised that Thais and amulet enthusiasts do know about Luang Phor Kron and the renowned Pidta Bangsek.

After digesting the points highlighted in this article, we may want to consider Pidta Bangsek and all its genres as the undisputable amulet icon originated from our very own North-East Coast of Kelantan made popular by Tok Raja and his lineage disciples.

Namo Bodhisato Punnak Suwanno Pattisimae

Sabbe Satta Sukhi Hontu
(May All Sentient Living Beings Be Well and Happy Always)

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