According to the Jinakalamalini
, a 16th century chronicle, written in the Pali
language, Haripunjaya was founded by the rishi (hermit) Vasudeva, known in Thai
as "Suthep", who gave his name to the famous hilltop shrine of Doi Suthep
In the Year 1204 of the Buddhist era, at the full moon of the month of
Pagguna, the hermit Vasudeva founded the city of Haripunjaya. Two years later, Cammadevi
came from Lawapura and reigned at Haripunjaya.
The year 1204 B.E. corresponds to 661 C.E. (i.e. B.E. + 543 years), though modern
scholars suggest 750 C.E. as a more likely date for the foundation of the city. "Cammadevi" is the
Mon form of Chammathevi. Lawapura (city of the Lawa) was the Mon name for modern Lopburi, once part
of the Mon kingdom of Dvaravati. Curiously, another early Pali
chronicle, the Cammadevivamsa
the modern name Lamphun for the city.
Her memory is still much revered in Lamphun with references to her all over the city, from
the Chamathevi memorial (pictured left) to Wat Chamathevi - one of the oldest temples
in northern Thailand.
Legends of Chamathevi
In the Wiharn of Wat Chamathevi is a mural which depicts a
princely gentleman in a turban, throwing a spear from a mountain top towards a distant walled town. The
mountain is Doi Suthep west of Chiang Mai, the town is Lamphun, the prince is the Lawa Chieftain Khun Luang
Wilanga and the hat is the subject of the story.
The Three Spears
The legend tells that King Wilanga wooed Queen Chamathevi for many years without
success. Eventually she was compelled to promise marriage, but only on the condition that
he prove himself by throwing three spears into the center of Lamphun from the top of Doi Suthep.
When his first spear reached the target, the queen, fearing he might win the challenge, made
him a turban from her own sarong, claiming it would give
him strength for the next attempts. Weakened by traces of menstrual
blood in the fabric, the prince threw the second spear short and lost the contest.
One version of the story says that he threw the third spear
straight up in the air and was killed by it as it returned to earth. In any case the
queen retained her city.
version of the story
is much more decorous. Because of her many meritorious deeds, the gods presented the queen with a splendid
white elephant (commemorated in the Ku Chang
Chedi) which she presented to her two sons
Mahayasa and Indaravara as a war mount:
"It was then that the barbarian king Bilanka approached with 80,000 soldiers, in the hope of taking Haripunjaya. Then
Mahayasa mounted on the elephant's shoulders, and Indaravara on the middle of the back, with the Mahout behind. Surrounded by a multitude of
soldiers they made a sortie from the western gate of the city. The barbarian king, seeing
the tusks of this white elephant as if lit up by a red glow, feared for his life and fled the field of battle, his comrades dispersing
in all directions." (translation from the French by current author)
The unfortunate King Wilanga is still remembered by the Lawa as the last king of their people. As late as
the 1990's, Dr. Christian Goodden heard stories of him in a Lawa village near Mae Sariang, on the Burma
border (see his book Three Pagodas
). The Lawa Guardian Spirits of Chiang Mai are still
honored every year in a buffalo slaughter at Bahn Pa Chi, near Doi Suthep.
End of Haripunjaya
Haripunjaya flourished as a
political and cultural center until 1275 when it was conquered by King Mengrai, ruler of the northern Tai
kingdom of Lan Na and founder of Chiang Mai. Lan Na itself, however, acquired much of its Buddhist culture
from the Mon peoples of the conquered city.