Introduction

        

TOK RAJA

Luangpu Khron Ratchanaren (popularly known in Singapore and Malaysia as Tok Raja) was born on 1st December 1876 (BE 2419) and passed away on 19th November 1962 (BE 2505). He was of Thai descent. He was the Chief Abbot of Wat Uttamaram ( Wat Bangsek) in the village of Bangsek, Pasir Mas in Kelantan, Malaysia and very well respected by the then Sultan of Kelantan.

Tok Raja had karmic connection and affinity with Singapore. He had a chance meeting with one Mr Tan Kay Huat in 1962 who kindly offered a piece of the land at Choa Chu Kang in Singapore to Tok Raja for the construction of a temple which after completion was named as Wat Uttamayanmuni. Further, Tok Raja also personally helped to write the yantra and holy Khom characters of “Namo Putaya” for the Chedi (Pagoda) of Wat Palelai in Bedok as part of its consecration. He also maintained close contact with other Thai Buddhist temples in Singapore (particularly, Wat Ananda Metyaram in Bukit Merah where he visited and stayed and Wat Sattha Puchaniyaram formerly in Holland Road but now in Bukit Batok when at the material time Rev. Foo Hong Kim was the Chief Abbot of the latter temple).

Tok Raja also had close link with temples of Thailand (particularly Southern Thailand) and other parts of Malaysia. As for Malaysia, he visited Penang and Kuala Lumpur often. Also, the equally famous Thai Buddhist Master, Luangpu Lindum (popularly known as “Or Chi Sifu” – the Black Tongue Monk) of Wat Naka, Kedah was a very close Sangha brother of Tok Raja. There is a photograph of Tok Raja and Luangpu Lindum in the Photo Gallery when they were received by King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand.

The facial demeanor of Tok Raja gives the misleading impression that he was a fierce, strict and tough person. Without disrespect, some have even likened his look to that of a bulldog! In reality, those who knew him would confirm that Tok Raja was indeed very gentle, soft and kind and even had a good sense of humour. He was most fluent in Thai, Malay and Hokkien.

Tok Raja was and is very famous for making a certain unique pidta amulets (i.e. seated talismanic figure with hands covering eyes and face) with humpback. These humpback pidta amulets were usually made of latex or sap from a single and special tree known in Thai as “Ton Rak” and also mixed with flowers and other holy materials and powder. This tree once grew out from the ground of Wat Uttamaram but after the death of Tok Raja, one day it was set ablaze and subsequently died. The latex or sap caused extreme itch or skin irritation when touched or if one was near it. Even to stand under such tree could cause one much discomfort or itch.

The said name “Ton Rak” is derived from 2 words, namely, “Ton” which means tree in Thai and “Rak” which could mean or has its roots as follows:

(a) to take care or look after as in the Pali word “Raksa”[1];

(b) protection from the Pali word “Rakkha”[2];

(c) sap or latex in accordance with the Thai word “Rak” and

(d) love as in the Thai word “Rak”.

TON RAK

In fact, the expression “Rak” for the tree name “Ton Rak” is traditionally written in or as the Thai word for love as mentioned above. What is quite clear was that Tok Raja particularly selected the latex or sap of this particular tree to make his unique humpback pidta amulets and other talismans because he knew the tree and/or its latex or sap had unique protective quality and power; can generate “Metta” (Loving-Kindness); and is a strong material and hardening substance when mixed with other sacred materials of his but yet can still be carved and re-shaped according to his required forms and shapes.

According to an interesting eye-witness account given by a Buddhist monk by the name of Phra Kitti (now disrobed) of Wat Uttamaram, it was at about 4 or 5 pm on a fateful day in 2003 or 2004 that a single bolt of lightning from the sky directly struck the said tree which caused it to be burnt and later died. He added that at the material time it was strange that there was in fact no rain, no wind and no sunshine. No more of such latex or sap can now be used to replicate or copy Tok Raja’s humpback back pidta amulets. The bolt of lightning was perhaps Tok Raja’s way of preventing forgers to use the same latex or sap to imitate the making of his style and type of humpback pidta amulets to fool and cheat others.

Tok Raja also used other rare or exceptional materials like the bone of dugong (Thai: Pla Phayun), ivory and horn to make his humpback pidta amulets for his important and distinguished visitors and devotees or for those very close and dear to him. However, humpback pidta amulets made from such materials are extremely rare. Other materials selected by Tok Raja to make his humpback pidta amulets include bronze and wood. Tok Raja also coated some of his humpback pidta amulets with a thick layer of Chinese lacquer thereby giving them a rich and thick black colour sheen mottled with fine red colour spots or dots if one examines with a magnifying glass. The coating was done by immersing such amulets into a container filled with such Chinese lacquer or applied by brushing them with such Chinese lacquer. Thai lacquer was also known to have been used to effect such coating as an alternative. The 2 types of lacquer were applied to protect the exterior of such amulets and to give them a good and attractive appearance. It was also a trend by other famous Thai Buddhist monks during the era of Tok Raja to effect such coating especially for pidta amulets.

Most of Tok Raja’s humpback pidta amulets were handmade and carved by him and no piece is completely alike. However, some were made using moulds. His humpback pidta amulets reflect his high artistic skills and symmetry and they exude irresistible beauty, charm and appeal for amulet collectors and devotees. In Thai amulet collectors’ parlance, it is most “Niyom” (i.e. most desired and sought after).

Tok Raja’s humpback pidta amulets were inscribed by him with yantra and/or holy Khom characters mainly on the arms, legs, body, back and bottom. However, in some of his humpback pidta amulets he instead inscribed Takrut and inserted it into the base of his humpback pidta amulets. His Takrut basically came in the form of kite paper with yantra and holy Khom characters specially handwritten by him using pencil or in the form of small and fine metal sheet specially inscribed by him with yantra and holy Khom characters using a sharp pointed writing instrument known in Thai as “Lek Chan”. After writing or inscribing the Takruts, Tok Raja would then roll them up into a scroll form for insertion usually into the base of his humpback pidta amulets. There are of course in existence special and rare Tok Raja’s humpback pidta amulets made not only by him inscribing yantra and holy Khom characters on the arms, legs, body and back but also with him adding such extra Takrut at the base of such pidta amulets.

 

Tok Raja is also famous for making Takrut amulets worn as belt on the waist. These Takrut amulets in belt-style basically comprised of a single section known as “Takrut Tone” in Thai or many sections of rolled-up metal sheet Takrut which were then skillfully tied with consecrated thread or string (known in Thai as “Cherk”) to be worn as a belt. As explained before, these rolled-up Takruts contained yantra and holy Khom characters and they were handwritten by Tok Raja with designated uses and purposes in mind for the wearer [e.g. “Metta” (i.e. Loving-Kindness); “Umnat” (i.e. commanding respect and authority from subordinates); “Mahalup” (i.e. good luck and fortune); “Kelkrat” (i.e. avoiding danger and trouble); “Kongkapan” (i.e. protection); etc. The metal usually used was copper for such Takruts made in belt-style.

Tok Raja actually made a very rare belt-style Takrut amulet with 14-sections of rolled-up copper sheet Takruts specially for his now still living godson affectionately known to many in Malaysia and Singapore as “Uncle George”. It is for multi-purposes and diverse functions. Uncle George is 86 years old as at 2013 and was once ordained as a monk under Tok Raja. Please see Photo Gallery for this 14-sections rolled-up copper sheet Takruts.

Another of Tok Raja’s beloved and close disciple affectionately known to many as “Uncle Khoo” from Penang wore many rolled-up Takrut amulets on his waist which were all specially handwritten for him by Tok Raja. After the demise of Uncle Khoo, attempts were made but without success to secure such Takruts for publication from his family members. The unsuccessful attempts were initiated by Woon Wee Teng and he sought the help of Uncle George and Phor Than Boon (the present Chief Abbot of Wat Uttamaram). The purpose was to trace and look for Uncle Khoo’s Takrut amulets in order to record them for appreciation and study by posterity.

Other Takrut amulets made by Tok Raja could come in the form of a single rolled-up metal sheet (usually made of copper or silver) which could be inserted into a cylindrical case for ease of wearing by hanging down from the neck. Uncle George vividly remembered seeing Tok Raja writing yantra and holy Khom characters on gold sheets brought by his followers for making Takruts.

In Tok Raja’s lifetime, he made many types of talisman for his followers, disciples and distinguished visitors and some of such types are stated below:

(1) Tongkat (Malay word for walking stick);

(2) Short “Pen-Like” Tongkat;

(3) Images of Tok Raja himself;

(4) Humpback Pidta Amulets;

(5) Rishi (Ascetic / Hermit);

(6) Loop Om (holy ball-like amulet);

(7) Nang Kuak (Goddess of Luck);

(8) Chert Yant (Shirt with yantra and holy Khom characters);

(9) Phra Yant (Cloth with yantra and holy Khom characters);

Tok Raja would consecrate and empower such humpback pidta amulets, belt-styled Takrut amulets and other of his talismans for at least 3 Pansas (Retreats) [i.e. at least for 3 years] before giving to his devotees, disciples and distinguished visitors. This is to ensure maximum Metta (Loving-Kindness) and good luck; to give maximum power for protection and to ensure they could avoid danger and ward off evil. According to his followers and disciples, Tok Raja asked nothing in return for giving his amulets and talismans. At all times before, he did not touch or handle money and all contributions given to him were directed to be placed into donation box for the general use and maintenance of the temple and monks. This tradition was strictly adhered by his disciple Phor Than Mitr who later succeeded the lineage and became the Chief Abbot of Wat Uttamayanmuni and Wat Uttamaram. By the way, he too made humpback pidtas, Phra Yant, Takruts, etc in the style and tradition of Tok Raja.

Many who wore and wears Tok Raja’s humpback pidta amulets and his other talismans have sworn to their efficacy and power. They have reported that they escaped untimely death; avoided accidents or imminent dangers; being lucky in business and other endeavours; have improved relationship with others; warded off black magic, curse or spells; and other unexplained but positive phenomena. Most interestingly, it is said that the infamous Botak Chin (the so-called Robin Hood of Malaysia) was said to have worn Tok Raja’s amulet. Many people believe that it was why he at all material times remained at large and repeatedly escaped injuries and death despite under hail of police gunfire until it is said that Tok Raja’s interfered and nullified the power of his amulets.

By reasons of his unique style of humpback pidta amulets and their power and efficacy experienced by many, people start to describe Tok Raja as “The Master of Pidtas” and even “The King of Pidtas” and other complimentary names.

Tok Raja is very famous for his special sacred Tongkats (both long and short ones). He could be said to set the tradition of making them in South Thailand and Malaysia and making them very popular. He did present one special Tongkat to honour the then Sultan of Kelantan and see photo of such presentation in the Photo Gallery. Tok Raja specially made one short silver Tongkat for Uncle George. He also made one Tongkat for his godson, Charlie Wu and this Tongkat has now being enshrined into the Pagoda in Wat Uttamayanmuni, Singapore. Tok Raja also made Tongkats for his lay “Bomoh” disciples and other of his close devotees. Photographs of such Tongkats where available are published in the Photo Gallery.

Tok Raja can be regarded as “The Master of Three Nations” as he was and is highly revered by Buddhists from Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. He had Thailand as his root and descent; Malaysia as his residence; and he graced Singapore with his holy presence and was instrumental in initiating the building of Wat Uttamayanmuni at Choa Chu Kang, Singapore.

Tok Raja’s humpback pidta amulets and his other talismans are now even sought by Buddhists from Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. As a matter of interest, in 2012 there were put for sale at Pantip Plaza in Ngam Mong Wan, Bangkok, a series of portrait-size photographs of many famous past Thai Buddhist Masters. Pantip Plaza is the biggest centre in Thailand where Buddha images, amulets and talismans are exchanged or “chow” (i.e. the refined Thai expression for acquiring Buddha images as it is blasphemous to say one buy or sell them). The photographs of Tok Raja were included in such sale. When the salesgirl was asked whose photographs sold well and fast, her quick and sure answer was that Tok Raja’s photographs were the first to be sold out and with many still wanting to acquire them! The fame and respect for Tok Raja has already spread to Thailand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tok Raja is considered one of the greatest all time amulet-making Buddhist Masters in Thailand. The value of his humpback pidta amulets and his other belt-style Takruts and talismans are very sought after and costly indeed. This is most ironical as they were supposed to be of no monetary or commercial value. They were originally made by Tok Raja with utmost dedication and out of his true and boundless love and compassion to protect and bless his disciples and followers through his very high level cultivation and purity. Naturally, fakes and copies of Tok Raja are now abound when the intrinsic and monetary value of his amulets and talismans are so high. One must exercise great care and caution if one wishes to acquire any amulets and talismans of Tok Raja. One must check for the provenance of a particular piece to ensure its authenticity. To be wise, one must do due diligence and seek the help of genuine experts or established collectors before ever acquiring them. One must never fall into the hands and snares of unscrupulous dealers who would assert and swear to anything in order to secure a sale. Those who are lucky to possess real Tok Raja’s pieces through direct gifts by Tok Raja or his successors or through their parents or relatives now treat them as treasures and as heirlooms.

Tok Raja’s beloved name and his supernatural power are indeed now legendary! He was and is still very great and noble. He continues to be highly revered and respected long after his demise. He left behind a treasure trove of wonderful amulets and talismans which are at the same time great and beautiful works of art. They are simply enchanting and purely magical! They are indeed gifts and legacies left behind by Tok Raja for our enduring blessing and appreciation.

There are shown in this website a wide selection of Tok Raja’s pidtas and other amulets, Takruts, statues, etc. Every attempt was made to carefully check the provenance with the view to share with netizens the authentic works of Tok Raja for reference and studies. We extend our thanks and appreciation to Uncle George and many other selfless disciples for sharing with us their family heirlooms for publication herein. After the creation and publication of this website, we sincerely hope many would come forward to show what Tok Raja had given their parents, grandparents or great grandparents. The works of Tok Raja are truly Buddhist and art treasures and ought to shared, seen and appreciated by others! For one reason or another, many kept without showing and sharing. It is hoped that this website would finally change their minds and that we would have a greater measure of success in securing and showing more Tok Raja’s works in his memory in the near future.

 

 

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