The Origins of Pra Khun Phaen Thai Amulets
The name ‘Pra Khun Phaen’, or ‘Khun Phaen’, (regardless of which edition it is or which town or province it came from), is a name given to the amulet by the generations who came after the amulet was created and buried. There is absolutely no evidence at all that the amulets were given a special title or name.
The name for the Khun Phaen amulet came from the people who dug them up and found them. They thought of this name and the Pra Khun Phaen amulet was born. Pra Gru Khun Phaen Wat Bang Grang is no exception to this fact; when the Gru was broken open for the first time, there was no name attributed to the amulets, so the local folk of Supann Buri gave it the nickname of ‘Pra Gru Ban Grang’.If it was a single amulet, they would use the term ‘Pra Ban Grang Diaw’and if it was a pair of them, they would call it ‘Pra Ban Grang Koo’. After this, the name developed into various forms of expression, all referring to the same amulet; Some people would call a single one ‘Pra Khun Phaen’, others would c all it ‘Pra Play Diaw’ (fora single amulet) or ‘Pra PlayKoo’ (for a pair of them).
It is believed that the people who gave the name of Khun Phaen to these amulets upon discovering them, wanted to make a connection with the story of Khun Chang Khun Phaen, which is one of the most popular works of Thai Literature and poetry ever, and whose story originated from Supann Buri. Below – a competition quality original Pra Gru Ban Grang Khun Phaen amulet, the price for such an amulet in the present day collectors market will probably fetch anything from 2 to 10 thousand U.S. Dollars.
Because of the increased importance with connection to a local legendary folk hero, the name ‘Pra Gru Ban Grang’ was slowly dropped and the new name of the amulet became ‘Pra Khun
Phaen. A secondary belief (this time based in faith instead of historical evidence), is the possibility that the amulet received the name of Khun Phaen, because of people who wore it having experienced miracles, and wonderful luck in love and salesmanship, that it reminded them of the magic that Khun Phaen enjoyed, and thus gave the name of Khun Phaen to the amulet for the qualities of Metta Mahaniyom, and Maha Sanaeh that were believed to be in the amulet.
It is understood that the Pra Gru Ban Grang amulets were made as a batch of 84,00 amulets (the same as the number of Sutras in the Tripitaka Buddhist Canon), in line with ancient traditional amulet making methods of that Era. When the Gru was broken open and the amulets taken out, there were a number of different prints made from various molds which all differed slightly in both size and markings. There were about thirty different models of amulet, Some models were given the name ‘Pra Khun Phaen’ (which is the model which recieves the status of ‘Yord Niyom’).
Then there are other variations with other names such as ‘Pim Ha Liam Ok Yai’ (five sided with large chest), Pim Song Pala Yai (bearing great power/great army, large size amulet), Pim Song Pala Lek (bearing great power, small size amulet), Pim Pratan (Prime edition) Pim Thao Was Lueay
Pim Khaen Orn. Some editions were named ‘Pra Play’ (referring to Khun Phaens son), and some of these were made to depict a twin pair of them on the face of the amulet. These amulets were called ‘Pra Play Koo’, and a single one was called ‘Pra Play Diaw’. Each of these different editions with different molds, also had sub categories and sizes and design variations, such as ‘Pim Play Koo Hnaa Yaks’ (pair of Khun Phaens son with Yaksa/Asura demon faces), ‘Pra Gru Ban Grang Hnaa Ruesi’ (Ruesi faced Khun Phaen), ‘Hnaa Taewada (Angelic faced), Play Diaw Pim Chalood, Pim Gang Pla, and man other lesser variations.
Nowadays, many collectors and devotees may not know the difference anymore in knowing how to name an amulet correctly for which ‘Pim'(mold) it belongs to, be it a ‘Khun Phaen’ amulet or a ‘Pim Play’. To let you in on part of the secret to naming them, one should consider the fact that the ancient folk who named these amulets in the first place, will have used the following criteria to categorize the amulets with;
If the figure of the deity in the amulet was very beautiful and attractive, with a handsome face, then it would be named a ‘Khun Phaen’ amulet (because of the legendary attraction women had to Khun Phaen), and when the amulet was of lesser beauty or the figure was not very gracefully carved, then it would be named as a ‘Pra Play’ amulet.