Jewelery in Thailand is not only for the purpose of beauty but it is also related to beliefs and faith, especially faith in religions and certain practices. Such faith developed into various forms like the amulet; a magical power, worn for the purpose of protection in specific occasions such as wartime, adventure or wondering. Beliefs are also expressed through the patterns and colors of ornaments, since the discovery of precious elements, such as gold, silver and gemstones. These were brought into various styles of ornamentation with particular characteristics and purposes. The ornaments range from being decorative objects, representing status or presenting roles in a society. The ruling class, upper class people, such as the king, specially use precious rare ones and members of the royal family, use them as sacred items related to certain beliefs and religions and respected by the society. Examples are the Buddha images, idols and religious places.
In Thailand, evidence of the ornament designs, partly, have been studied through the accessories of Buddha images or the kings 'and members of royal families' ornamentations. This is because, in the past, the ornaments showed social status. There were orders imposed, which clearly stated which caste could use which ornaments, or objects. For example, the number of ornaments a person belonging to a certain order of precedence can wear and what kind of objects can be worn; a person of a certain status can or cannot wear a certain object; if a person violates the order, what punishment it will be. These rules do not only apply to ornamentation but also to clothing. For instance, a person of certain status should wear flower prints with patterns and colors. Or, for an ornament made of gold decorated with diamonds, only the king can wear. Or, Rachavadee enamelled gold ornaments are worn by the prince or princess. Gold ornaments are allowed to wear only by the prince (in the grandchild generation of the king.) Aristocrats who are not Praya (a nobleman higher in rank than Pra, lower than Chao Praya) can wear silver objects. Ordinary people use copper.
In studying documents written in the past, the word ornament did not exist. However, there are words categorizing ornaments into two categories: Siraphorn, which means head ornaments and Thanimpimpaphorn, which means body, and head ornaments (Siraphorn.) These define positions and the order of precedence (or estate or feudalistic status) (Fine Arts department) 1993, P. 34).
Furthermore, apart from the four necessities for maintaining life, food, clothing, medicines and shelter, which are the fundamental needs, human beings also want to have facilities and other objects for the ritual of life, they want to attain the spirituality of mind, which make life more complete, sacrificing a basic cycle of life; birth, old age, suffering, and death. They also want to differentiate themselves and show self-importance to society. In the past, body decoration with natural objects such as colors from natural resources for painting, flowers, leafs, feathers, shells, bones, canine teeth, ivory, etc., were brought into use. Such decoration is for the purpose of beauty or power or expression of courage.
This simply shows one's pleasure and self-uniqueness, which usually happens in every society in the world. This, also, shows the fundamental relation between human beings and jewelery from the past until the present. Although jewelery is not part of the needs for life, they are objects generating one's fulfilments and regarded as important for one's mind, which has an influence on one's living. The designs and objects brought into body decoration or to ornament production have evolved from a particular period of time and objects found.
Evolution of Jewelery In Relation to Buddhism
Based upon archaeological evidence, records and other documents, including jewellery discovered at a number of ancient sites, Thai jewellery together with its stories and evolution have existed along with Thai history. The designs of the ornaments have been developed according to the change of period and to the influence of a certain belief of a particular period.
All the ornaments are used as sacred items. The popular ones are in the forms of, for example, fig leaves, leaves of a papal tree, which has a heart-like shape and are believed to be sacred leaves of a heavenly tree. Among a variety of precious items discovered and brought into ornamentation, gold is the most popular and most widely used because of the neatly of its color, brightness, its good quality, rustlessness, rarity and its expensive price. Another is the use of precious stones in Thailand related to the belief of colors of Hinduism. Countries in the eastern part of the world are, to a certain extent, influenced by India's art, culture and practice. Thailand received certain ideas about ornamentation in the tenth century and descended until the eighteenth century where Thailand evolved its own characteristics of jewelery according to the change of time. Such precious stones brought into body ornamentation are of nine kinds, called Nawarattana. They are coral reefs, topaz, sapphire, ruby, a bort, a brilliant, an emerald, zircon, garnet. However, it (Nawarattana) is defined differently in some books. That is, Nawarattana are sacred objects that are: pearl, ruby, topaz, diamond, emerald, lapis lazuli, coral reefs, sapphire and garnet, all of which are the colors of the three gems of Deva or of the nine planets of the solar system. There is Lapis lazuli but not zircon.The nine precious stones representing Deva are:
o Pearl representing the color of the full moon
o Ruby representing the color of the sun
o Topaz representing the color of Jupiter
o Diamond representing the color of Venus
o Emerald representing the color of Mercury
o Coral reefs representing the color of Mars
o Sapphire representing the color of Saturn
o Cat's eye representing the color of the waxing moon (1st half of lunar month)
o Garnet representing the color of the waxing moon (2nd half of lunar month.) (Fine Arts Department, 1993, p. 159)
Historically, based upon archaeological evidence, during the Davaravadee period, small blast furnaces and molds for jewelery casts were used. Most of the golden work of the Davaravadee period was found in the ancient cities in the central part of Thailand, such as the ancient cities of Uthong, Supanburi, Srithep, Petchboon, Srimahosod, Prachinburi and Nakornprathom. The oldest golden work in Thailand can be grouped into two kinds. The first one is religious golden work; Buddha images or items used in important religious worship, for example, the reposing form of Buddha images, or bodhisattva images. Another is the golden jewelery found on the sculptures in ascetic places, which were at the time parts of people lives. There are head-ornaments, earrings, necklaces, belts, arm and wrist ornaments, whose designs were influenced by India. The characteristics of Davaravadee's jewelery are as follows
o Necklaces: The necklaces of the period of Davaravadee are of various designs. They are octagon-like, star gooseberry-like, star apple-like, rattan ball-like shaped golden bead-necklaces found at the ancient city of Uthong, Supanburi.
o Lockets: The lockets found are of various designs. They are in a round shape, like that of the Wheel of Dharma decorated with either long bell-like, or upturned end triangle-liked shapes with diamonds at the center. This evidence confirms that symbols in Buddhism have been strongly represented in jewellery for a long time.
o Earrings: The earrings found are of various designs and sizes. The styles discovered mostly are in the shape of a bulb or pear, the ends of which turn to each other. The earrings are created either with gold with or without patterns. Some have small seeds of diamonds decorated around the rim.
o Rings: The rings are of various designs, such as those with gold without pattern, those with color stones decorated on top and those gold coiled around.
o Other ornaments: They are, for example, small parts of golden ornaments assumed to be parts of head ornaments.
Other found items are beads, earrings and gold flakes, including equipment made of gold. The prosperity in trading was important for about five hundred years. From the eleventh to sixteenth century, the new center of trading became the kingdom of ancient Khmer, which grew in the east and expanded to Davaravadee and Srivichai.
From the twelfth to eighteenth century, the Khmer influence expanded to the east, the northeast and to some parts of central Thailand. Stone inscriptions were found. There were records of religious activities, sacred images and worship items made of gold, including the imposition on gold use restricted to the king. For instance, the imposition was from the Ayutthaya period based upon the Deva belief in Khmer culture, which was the important convention in governing the kingdom and completely validated again that essences of religion have been brought into jewellery. From archaeological evidence from the northeastern part, gold ornaments were found such as necklaces, rings, and earrings. They were discovered around Phnom Rung Stone Castle, Buriram. Golden rings inlaid with jewels and See Sao style braided gold necklaces were found at Pimai Stone Castle, Nakornratchsima. Pieces of gold with and without patterns for religious purposes, including gold ornaments offered to Deva images, such as necklaces and pahurad (a kind of bracelet) created for offering to Hinduism's devas, or bodhisattvas of Mahayana Buddhism, were also found.
Subsequently, in the nineteenth century, Thais living around Yom Basin gathered and established the Kingdom of Sukothai. The central cities were Sukothai and Srisatchanarai which are now located in the province of Sukothai. The cities were prosperous in terms of art, culture, and economics. There are archaeological evidences and objects left until today. The designs of the uses of gold for Buddhism, dresses and jewelery discovered are such as, golden rings, eight petal-golden flowers at Wat Mahatath, including golden Buddha images. The time when the kingdom of Sukothai was located at Yom Basin was prosperous; another Thai kingdom was called Ayutthaya.
Ayutthaya was situated to the south of Chao Phraya Basin surrounded by three rivers: Lopburi River, Chao Phraya River and Pasak River. Such a location made Ayutthaya an appropriate spot for trading, for communication and goods forwarding, especially from India and China. Ayutthaya became the center of trading in Southeast Asia. The civilization and power of the kingdom enabled Ayutthaya to annex neighborhood states, including Sukothai. Eventually they were all called the Kingdom of Siam. The evidence showing the prosperity and wealth of the kingdom of Ayutthaya is the gold work discovered at Wat Mahatath. The goldsmiths in Ayutthaya are renowned for producing the best goldsmithing era that is as well skilful as those in our country. Goldsmiths can produce gold-silver work in thousands of styles, all of which are very beautiful. Gold and silver inlaid work is very cleanly neat, including the brilliant lines added superbly; They use little water to weld the gold and inlay with gold and silver so skilfully that it is difficult to identify which part is the seam.
The examples of Ayutthaya jewelery are specifically from the mid and late Ayutthaya periods because of the war with Burma, but very few remain. However, from studying sculptures, such as the images of bodhisattva, or the jewelery on the full dressed Buddha images, there were ornaments decorated with 'Prajamyam', 'Dokjan flower', flowery or flowers in rhombus frame, 'Kra Chang' or triangle patterns. The Buddha images found can be divided into two groups:
o The first group of jewelery sacred for the Buddha images is similar to the characteristics like the ones inscribed. That is, the head ornaments are decorated with a series of coils overlapping upwards to form a high cone-shape top. The heads are still of the same style with general Buddha images, which show the heads and the rays.
o The second group of jewelery sacred for the Buddha images with clear development (evolved from the first group of Buddha images) in terms of ornamentation. (Chao Sam Praya National Museum, Ayutthaya and Pra Nakorn National Museum, Bangkok leaflet 2000)
What they have in common are that the lockets are in the broad shape like wide collars; There are strings of ornaments hung from the lockets called Tub suang, which were made as broad gold sheets. The gold sheets were made in different pieces that could be joined. The front of the locket, at the lowest part, is made as a big broad gold sheet with many peaks and with big 'dokchan' patterns beautifully inlaid with colorful rubies. Other gold sheets are also decorated with patterns and inlaid with precious stones (Judhawipak 2002, P.42-43).
o Other ornaments are crowns, earrings, Pahurad and arm bracelets. Pahurad is a little bigger than an arm bracelet, which they can resemble. More precisely, the differences are that the lower part of Pahurad is concave and its upper part is pointed. For the arm bracelet, both its upper and lower frames are even (Chao Sam Praya National Museum, Ayutthaya and Pra Nakorn National Museum, Bangkok leaflet, 2000).
Their patterns and designs can be compared with those of dressed sculptures created in the subsequent period. But sometimes the Buddha images were not fully dressed with all the jewelery mentioned.
The prosperity of Ayutthaya lasted for four hundred and seventeen years. Burmese in BE2310 destroying historical evidences burnt those.
Later in the same year, Pra Chao Taksin brought liberty to the country and established Thonburi as the capital city. Thonburi was the capital for fifteen years, during which time the city was constantly at war, thus no clear evidence of gold work could be found. Subsequently, Chao Praya Chakri established Rattanakosin, an era as the capital in BE 2325, which was restored and prospered until becoming Thailand, the center of art and culture, economics and trading, as today. For jewelery, there has been schematic development until the present time. The first king brought the customs and restrictions of Ayutthaya back into use again, including the rules of gold usage in the court, including the restrictions on dressing and ornamentation according to status, the prohibition against certain kinds of gold ornaments made for ordinary people. This is because after the changes resulting from being beaten by the Burmese, the old orders, institutions and impositions were omitted. Significantly, jewelery as a sacred object is full of decorations for religion, ornamentation, golden gifts, golden set of items for worshipping the Buddha have been expressed in the old Thai styles, being restored and encouraged to recognize the golden work of the Rattankosin period. (Pra Nakorn National museum, Bangkok 2000) Jewelery as sacred objects show how creative the royal goldsmiths were, being able to create and impose certain forms of gold work to show the status of estate of Buddhism in Thai people's minds clearly and most appropriately.
Moreover, the traditional belief in the relation of Buddhist culture to jewelery in Thailand symbolizes the use of precious color stones such as rubies, emeralds etc. that heritages since the Ayutthaya period, as can be seen in many types of jewelery. According to traditional belief (Chandawit 1992, P. 36), Thai people believe there is a guardian angel for each day of the week (Ibid 1992 P. 43-44). Each angel has an individual skin color.
This belief was referred to by Sunthornphu, who describes the following seven auspicious colors, one for each day of the week:
Sunday: wearing red will bring the wearer good luck
Monday: wearing white denotes long life
Tuesday: blue & purple will bless the wearer with grace
Wednesday: the day for wearing green
Thursday: orange should be worn with a dash of yellow
Friday: gray will bring victory in battle
Saturday: the day to array oneself in purple
In the National Museum in Bangkok, there is a collection of clothes belonging to King Rama IV (1851-1868) in these seven auspicious lucky colors. As fashion changed, the rule was modified. Traced from a classical novel, Si-phandin 'Four Reigns' (Pramoj, 1948, P.49) during the reign of King Rama V (1868-1910), colors for everyday clothing were defined as follows: (for the lower wrap / for the shoulder sash)
Sunday: green / red or lichee red or pig's blood red / yellow green
Monday: pale yellow / pale blue or deep magenta; pigeon blue / champa red
Tuesday: salmon pink or light purple / yellow green or yellow green / pale purple
Wednesday: iron gray / yellow ocher
Thursday: leaf green / bird blood red or orange / pale green
Friday: deep blue / yellow
Saturday: light purple / yellow green
The belief in the relationship between colors and guardian angels was expressed through relating colors of gemstones suitable for individual birthdays. For instance,
Tuesday: Yellow sapphire
Thursday: Cat's eye
Saturday: Blue sapphire (Boonprakob 1999, P. 24)
To conclude, the development of jewelery as a sacred object in the context of Thai Buddhist Culture in various facets throughout the different eras enabled Thailand to be prosperous, especially in Thai people's minds today. When minds are fulfilled and uplifted, human resources then benefit through the development of education, government, economy, science, tradition, customs, art and culture, including the preservation of peace for over two hundred years. Jewelery, a main facet of this scared culture, has therefore been influenced by such development in order to be consistent with the way of life. Beyond the mere issue of its design, jewelery has been developed to fit the use, social and cultural condition of the Thai people.