If you ever decide to visit a local market in Thailand, you might see some shops selling small ornaments. And chances are you will also find some locals doing a scrutiny on the same before buying it. Yes, you came to the Thai Amulet market.
History of Thai Amulets:
Thai amulets are an integral part of Thailand culture even before the introduction of Buddhism. Though amulets can be traced back several centuries ago, it was during the reign of King Rama V in 1800s when it started to boom. Among all the Buddhist countries, these amulets are made only in Thailand. They are also known as ‘Talismans’ or ‘Thai Buddha Amulets’.
How Thai amulets are made:
Thai amulets come in many shapes and sizes. These have a sculptured image of lord Buddha or of a famous monk who made the amulet. These amulets are made from a wide variety of materials.
The ingredients range from gold, silver, platinum to more simple items like wood plastic, clay etc. Though these ingredients generally add little to no spiritual value to it, however there are certain ingredients added during the making of the amulet to give it spiritual value. These include ashes of incense in temples, rare flower pollens, hair of the monk who made the amulet etc.
It is then blessed by the monk over a period of few weeks to several years which is believed to give the spiritual powers to the amulet. The value of an amulet is in the reputation of the creator.
Cultural value of Amulets:
Amulets are mostly worn in the neck or the waist. Locals consider these ornaments as a solution to almost everything. Whether it is making love, marriage, wealth or even the boosting personal health, specific amulets are believed to give specific powers. Many amulets are passed from older generation to new generation in a family, whereas new ones acquired by donating to various temples or from the local market.
The Thai amulet market:
With a total market value of $1.25 billion USD and ever-increasing demand for amulets it is estimated that 70% of the total Thai population have amulets. This huge demand leads to mass production and counterfeiting of amulets. These knockoffs are mainly targeted towards tourists.
Locals avoid counterfeits either by having a trusted source or a thorough scrutiny of the ornament while purchasing. The price of an amulet may range from a few dollars to few million dollars!
Moreover, in this modern age, the amulets are sold online as well. Even though some sellers provide authenticity certificates with online purchases, for a layman it is impossible to determine the real value of an amulet. It takes a well-trained eye to identify the replicas.
Types of Thai amulets:
There are many types of amulets available, each for a specific purpose. Few examples are as follows:
The phra pidta – This amulet consists of Buddha closing his eyes. It is believed to protect the beholder from danger.
Phra Phong Pim Phra Sangkajai- This amulet is believed to give prosperity and business prowess. There are only about 3000 of these made.
Keeping aside all the knockoffs, Thai amulets are considered sacred and believed to have spiritual powers which benefits the owner of the same. People can go over the top to get hold of a genuine one. The amulet business is also a lifeline of many locals. This ritual is continuing through generations and provide a significant kick to the economy of Thailand.