Khun Paen of BanKrang Temple, Suphanburi Province
These religious votive tablets unearthed over a century ago and their displays cover over forty plus models made largely from terra-cottas interspersed with quartz like materials. It is popularly believed that a person who owns this type of religious icon especially from this temple will be blessed with charm towards the opposite sex and be able to ward off wicked accidents.
Location of Ban Krang Monastery
Ban Krang Monastery is located on the West bank of Tha ]een River in Ban Krang sub-district of Suphanburi Province. The monastery was built sometime in the Sixteenth Century during the Ayudhaya Period. Suphanburi Province is only one hundred kilometers away from Bangkok, rich in tradition and historical heritage, it occupies over 5,000 square kilometers and administratively divided into 10 districts.
The Origin of Ban Krang Religious Icons
It was believed that those religious icons were made during the reign of King Naresuan the Great (1590-1605) which was in the middle of Ayudhaya Period. It was also reputed to commemorate the victory over the Burmese king in the gory battle on the legendary war elephant’s back over four hundred years ago.
Not until one hundred years ago had religious icons from the famous Ban Krang Monastery been accidentally unearthed by the collapse of ancient stupa located next to the river bank.
Abbot Sawai, former abbot, who passed away for over twenty years ago along with my other acquaintance had recounted in anecdotes as well as in memoirs freely distributed during funeral rites of deceased persons that reside in the vicinity of Ban Krang Monastery alleging that local people were not interested in collecting religious icons of Ban Krang Monastery in the beginning.
The texture of religious icons from Ban Ktang
There are two major kinds of texture - coarse and reﬁne - but the main key components are quartz and clay. For religiously votive icons of coarse texture, they are similar to dried tofu or sponge but with lots of clay interspersed with quartz. When submerged in warm water, the icon will emanate strings of air bubbles so ﬁne they are resembling beer suds due to its porous texture. On the other hand, the Ban Krang religious icon of reﬁne texture will have more clay than the coarse type but again the texture is still embedded and interspersed with quartz. Once closely examined through 10X magnifying glass, one could easily spot that the texture of the icon is pitted and shriveled due to exposure of changing temperatures over several centuries in the crypt beneath the stupa near the riverbank of Tha ]een River.
The Coloration of Ban Krang Icons
Through my own experience plus other observations from avid collectors of religiously votive icons of Ban Krang Monastery, the dark reddish brown with a tad of orange tint are the most prevalent followed by the colors of yellowish brown and light gray icons. The rarest of them all is the dark olive green.
Other points of observation for authenticity
- Every pieces of religious icon from Ban Krang Monastery has embedded bits and pieces of laterite.
- Fast mold and mildew stains on icons that are difﬁcult to remove.
- Wood grain marks embedded at the back of icons created accidentally when religious icons were ﬁrst air-dry on Wooden planks after icons were made and ﬁnished centuries ago.
- Rectangular shaped pockmarks the size of a small rice grain that are perceivably scattered throughout the front and back of the icon due to the disintegration of organic matters embedded in the riverbank clay.
- The surface texture are perceivably pitted and shriveled in most cases.
Luang Por Sawai, the former abbot of Ban Krang Monastery, along with my other acquaintances have recounted several annecdotes of victims of both serious accidents and armed robberies who mysteriously escaped all of those mishaps unscathed with the help of only faith in religious icons of the Ban Krang Monastery that they carry with them.