King Ashoka and Suvarnabhumi in the “Phra Dhatu” Legends of Thailand

Sulpakorn University, Thailand

Legends relating to the construction of the chedis housing Buddha’s relics (Phra Dhatu Chedi) have been popular for hundreds of years in what is now Thailand, especially in the northern and northeastern regions. The legends can be divided into two parts: 1) mythical stories and 2) real historical events. The former was created in order to insist that Buddha’s relics were installed at this place, from the time of cremation of the Lord Buddha, while the latter told historical stories of local kings. The legends of Phra Dhatu share a similar order arrangement of events: The Lord Buddha visited the place, then he gave a local his hair for veneration. Moreover, the Lord forecasted that his own relics would be housed there in the future by King Ashoka, and that the stupa housing his relics would become the most sacred site in that kingdom. The Phra Dhatu. The legends did not state if the kingdoms or areas with the chedis housing the Buddha’s relics were Suvarnabhumi or not. However, around a hundred years ago, the writing of King Rama IV and Prince Damrong Rajanubhab stated that “Phar Phathom Chedi” in Nakorn Pathom province was built in Suvarnabhumi, to house Buddha’s relics brought there by Sona and Uddhara during the reign of King Ashoka. Hence, Thailand is believed to be Suvarnabhumi, where King Ashoka sent Sona and Uddhara and had a Phra Dhatu Chedi constructed.