This article discusses the Phetchabun City Pillar Shrine which contains the pillar from the ancient city of Si Thep. There is another City Pillar Shrine located in Lom Sak Phetchabun which has its own blog article. Si Thep is sometimes spelled Srithep but for this article we will use the more common spelling.
Every province in Thailand has its’ own city pillar shrine so what makes this one special?
It contains the pillar from the ancient city of Si Thep. This one is made from stone (most are made from wood) and was brought in by HRH Damrong Rajanubhab in 1904. It is believed to have been constructed between the 6th and the 13th century and is considered the oldest in Thailand.
The sign outside the shrine reads:
“Sanh Jao Poh Lak Maung” is a sacred stone pillar brought to the city of Srithep in 1908 (B.E. 2447). As an old city influenced by both the Burmese and Khmer cultures, Srithep was founded during the 11th – 12th centuries. Thought to be the oldest of its kind in Thailand, the ancient stone is visited by many pilgrims who come to pay their respects and ask for good fortune. If their prayers are answered, worshipers will arrange for cultural performances such as “rike”, or will honk their horns three times in acknowledgement.
There are possibly two words here that can be expanded or explained. Firstly is the word “rike”. Searching the internet gave me no real answer to this so I asked Phat to read the Thai script and explain the word “rike” in the context of the sign. Phat explained that it is the action of giving a gift to the spirit that lives within the shrine. When a Thai person wants something, and this could be an I want to win the lottery” then they will pray to the spirit and promise the spirit a gift in return for the answer to the prayer. This could be a wide ranging request and corresponding a wide ranging gift in return. Some of the examples I have either witnessed or heard about have ranged from winning the lottery, finding a good husband or rain for a good rice harvest. One that I witnessed was the friend of a Thai friend who found a good Swedish husband that promised to take care of her. This resulted in a trip to a tiger temple in Bangkok where I witnessed the purchase of 10 kg of prime pork steak as a gift to the tiger for granting the wish. At this point I perhaps should add that some of the Buddhist teachers try to discourage this especially when the offering requires killing. A gift of fruit would be better than a gift of pork, however putting in the effort to make your self desirable for a good Swedish husband is better than praying for one. This is one Buddhist teacher that I agree with.
The other word/s that perhaps need explanation is “Sanh Jao Poh Lak Maung”. This basically means the spirit that occupies the spirit house. A City Pillar Shrine, or more correctly all shrines are thought to be occupied by a spirit. Often the image of a deceased king or monk may be on display at the shrine in the belief that this is the spirit that is the resident of the shrine.
Unfortunately there is not a lot more to add about the Phetchabun City pillar Shrine except to say that it can be included in our Phetchabun Tour together with the City Pillar Shrine at Lom Sak and the Si Thep Historical Park.
Below are a few photos from our visits. Click on any image to open a cascading light-box and to see a description of the image.