: The endangered heritage
will give the picture of Mon language situation in
both spoken and written language from the earliest time to the present
day. The written language will include inscriptions, palm leaf
manuscripts, and printed books.
has a very long history. The written Mon language first appeared in
during the Dvâravatî, period. They are two fragments of votive
inscriptions found at Wat Phô Rang, Nakhon Pathom, dated around the end
of the 6th century. Old Mon language appeared in many inscriptions on
stone slaps, found in various parts of
, especially the central plain at Nakhon Pathom, Lopburi, Saraburî,
Uthaithânî and Nakhon Sawan. They are dated from the 6th to the 8th
century. The other sites are the northeastern plateau at Khonkaen, Mahâ
Sârakhâm and Kâlasin,
and also at Nakhon Sî Thammarat on the
. They are dated around the 8th century. The late Old Mon or early
Middle Mon language inscriptions, dated in the 13th century, were found
only in Lamphûn, North of Thailand. After the Mon
at Lamphûn was lost to the Thai King Mangray from Chiang Saen, no
evidence of Mon language was found in
since then until the middle of the Ayutthayâ period.
was among the first groups of people in
who develop their own scripts along with the Châm, Khmer, and Pyû. The
Mon script adapted from the Pallava script from southeast
in the 5th century. [Guillon 1999: 31 ] The Mon script has been adopted
by Northern Thai [Lânnâ] in the 14th century and later by Laospeaking
groups in northeastern
. [Bauer 1990: 16] Both of them called their scripts
as 'Tham [Pâli: Dhamma] script' because they were used to record
religious writings. The Mon script also influenced the formation of the
Thai 'Sukhothai' script along with the Khmer script.
inscriptions found showed that Mon people were the first group in the
area of the present day Thailand to receive Buddhism and build up
civilization of urban life. The introduction of Buddhism had been
developed into the whole Buddhist culture of the present day Thai
culture. The earliest urban civilization of Dvaravati period had been
the foundation for modern day the great city of
There are a
few Mon inscriptions in Rattanakosin or
period. The first one may be the stone inscription before the Uposatha
of Wat Paramayyikavâsa, at Koh Kret, Nonthaburî. It is the declaration
of renovation of the monastery by King Ram V the Great in honor of the
King's Grandmother in 1884 (Úakarâj 1246/2427]. The others are the
tombstone of Mahâ Phuan Râmanwong, the first president of the
Association, in Lopburi. The last one may be the one at Wat Nong Dû,
Lamphûn, dated B.E. 2519. [Bauer 1982: vii]
reign of King Naresuan the Great of Ayutthayâ period a lot of Mon
people migrated to
. Since then there were endless groups of Mon migrating to
up until now. There was a palm leaf manuscript found at Wat Bân Muang,
Amphoe Bân Pông, Râtchaburi, written in the middle of the Ayutthayâ
period. It is the palm leaf manuscript of 'Expositions on Pali Culavagga'
in Mon language written in Cula Úakarâj [Minor Era] 1091 [B.E. 2272,
A.D.1729] by Phra Visarada Mahâ Thera. [Siriphan 2536: 199]
of recording the Mon language in palm leaf manuscripts begins at least
in the middle of Ayutthayâ period. Most of the Mon palm leaf
manuscripts founded in central plain of Thailand were written during
King Râma II period to King Rama VI. Since the coming of the printing
technology during King Râma V the Great, the recording of Mon language
in palm leaf manuscript became disappearing.
people belief that the offering of palm leaf manuscript to the monastery
will let them have the merit equals to the offering of a Buddha image.
The Buddha image is the symbol of the Buddha. The making of Buddha image
is to show reverence to the Lord Buddha and to remind in the future that
there was Buddhism in the world. The palm leaf manuscript is the symbol
and the medium of Dharma. Thus those who offer palm-leaf manuscripts to
the monastery is preserving and making available the precious knowledge
for mankind. The best of all offerings is dharmadâna, the giving of
dharma. The Mon people
respect the palm leaf manuscript the same as a monk, when the palm tree
from which the palm leaves were taken died. The people will say the palm
tree goes to nirvâna. They will hold a funeral ceremony to the palm
tree and make merits dedicate to it. This tradition was heard from both
from Nongdû Larnphûn, and Ye, in
great offering of Mon palm leaf manuscripts was done by King Râma V the
Great in honor of the King's Grandmother, as part of the renovation of
Wat Paramayyikavâsa, in 1884/2427. The two inscriptions in Thai and
Mon, a translation of Thai, before the uposatha give the details that
the set comprised of 412 palm-leaf manuscripts; 49 for Vinaya Pitaka,
215 for Sutta Pitaka, 90 for Abhidhamma Pitaka, and 62 for special
texts, all contained in 180 boxes.
surveys of Mon palm leaf manuscripts done at Wat Muang in Râtchaburi
(1,209 titles] [Siriphan 2536], and Wat Khongkharam also in Râtchaburi
[510 titles] and Wat Sâlâ Daeng in Pathumthâni [370 titles] [Bussaba
and associates 2541], we can see a picture of the Mon literature in
. We may divide Mon literature in
into 5 groups:
Texts, Society, History, and Folklore and Poetry
This is the
largest group, comprising of the Tipitaka, its related commentaries,
sub-commentaries, expositions, special texts both in Pâli and Mon, the
Buddha's legendary history, the great Jataka [Vessantara], the ten
Jatakas, general Jatakas [many are folklore], famous disciples, monastic
ceremonies and traditions, religious teachings, and Pali grammar and
largest group includes medical texts, astrology, soothsaying, white
magic, house building, calculating auspicious date, text for learning
Mon script, mathematics, alchemy, etc.
rites and rituals, customary laws [Dharmsastra], and ethics.
, the History group;
comprises of chronology of the dynasties [Rajavamsa], history of the
stupas [Dhatuvamsa], the history of a particular king and religious
Folklore and Poetry group;
includes the story, novel and poetry both of Mon origin and foreign
origin [Thai and Indian].
literature appeared in Mon, such as Nok Krajap (translated from a Thai
Jataka), Pannasajataka, Phra Kaew Morakot [the Emerald Buddha], Krai
Thong, Sang Thong, Khun Phaen Khun Chang, Nang Phikun Thong, Chalawan,
and Ratchasi kap Ma Pa [Lion and Wolf). Most of them are adaptations. [Bussaba
and associates 2541: 25]
literatures which have influence to Thai literature are Rajadhiraja and
Dhamasastra. The Thai translation version of Rajadhiraja leaded by Chao
Phraya Phra Kh1ang [Hon] in 1785/2328 is praised to be well written, and
part of the story is the text for Thai secondary students in Thai
language subject. The Mon Dharmasastra had been mentioned as the source
of Thai law in 'Kotmay Tra Sam Duang' [The Three Seals Code], a code of
law compiled in 1804/2347 during the reign of King Rama I the Great.
, we found until now two works from Sanskrit. They are the 'Dhammasat'
from Manu Dharmasastra and 'Meghasan' from Meghaduta. The Dhammasat had
been adapted from Sanskrit first to Pali and then to Mon. The Hindu
belief had been changed to Buddhist belief. It also includes custom of
the Mon people. [Paphatsaun 2539]
The richness and completeness of the Mon palm leaf manuscripts in
Thailand may be supported by the word of a Mon monk from Burma who
helped the survey at Wat Khongkharam that if Mons in Burma had this rich
and complete collection of Buddhist texts, they will have no need to
read Burmese texts at all for the study of Buddhism. This may be because
the Mon people who migrated to
were the high ranking people, noble men, and capable monks.
provided them the peaceful and supportive environment to preserve and
enrich their culture.
There were a
few Mon writers in
. The first one and most important was Mor Khlay, a traditional medicine
doctor who lived near Wat Chimphli in Koh Kret, Nonthaburl. During the
reign of King Rama V the Great, he composed many titles: [I] Nang Kaen
Chan,  Luk Pla Salit,  Luk Pla Mor,  Luk Sao Phaya Nak, 
Nang Muang Thong,  Khun Phaen Raja,  Phaya Chang Chatthan, 
Chalawan,  Phrommathat,  Megha Luk Kwang,  Phaya Nok Krathung,
 Suwanna Hong, and  Sawinchayya. Many of his works were adapted
from Thai stories. [Sued 2527: 60]
The second one may be Phra Traisaranadhaja whose many works had been
printed by the Mon press at Pak Lat in 1908/2451: Upasakanuvattakatha,
Upasakovadakatha, AcinteyyaMakatha,Upasakanusasanakatha, and
Mahasatipatthana. We still can not identify exactly which Mon monk who
held the title of Phra Traisaranadhaja and was the author of those
works. The most possible one may be Phra Maha Yen Buddhavamso who was
famous for his great knowledge of Pali and held the title of Phra
Traisaranadhaja in 1907 as the abbot of Wat Bovorn Mongkhon. He was born
in the Mon community of
Ban Laem Khru, Samut Sakhon in 1840/2383 and ordained at Wat Bovornnives
Vihara. [Phisan 2540: 9899] He was the one who set up the famous Maha
Yin Sect among the Mon and Burmese Buddhists in
. The sect may said to be the last reformation of the Mon religious
The third one
was Phra Ajan Bock [Aca Bock] of Wat Siri Mankala, Tambon Ban Koh,
. He was the author of many religious works, such as Pancakadulla
Silakatha, Danakatha, Sattaariyadhana, Appamada, Aggatove, etc. [Theera
of the Thai school system into the Mon communities together with the end
of the Mon monastic education system during King RamVI, can be
considered as the main causes of the end of written Mon language in palm
leaf manuscripts and also the Mon literary tradition in
monastic education system in
started from the middle
period until the reign of King Rama VI. Before the modern school system,
the Mon boys were brought to the monastery to learn the Mon writing and
the way of life of a good Buddhist. If they decided to become a monk
after the novice years, they will further their study with the monastic
education. There were four stages of Mon monastic education or pariyatti
[the study of dharma] called Prayoga 14:
Adikanda and Pacittiya of the Pali Mahavibbanga.
Pali Mahavagga and Culavagga.
All of them
were stressed on the Vinaya Pitaka. This was why the Mon monks were
famous for their strict discipline. Those who can pass the examination
from Prayoga 2 onwards will be called Parian. The Mon Parian 24 can be
compared to Thai Parian 35. The reason for the end of the Mon monastic
education was that there were a few Mon monks who can manage the
examination for them. From the record found during the reign of King
Rama V, there were only 2 Mon Parian 4, 25 Mon Parian 3, and 33 Mon
Sangha had to manage the examination with Mon monk as assisting
translator. Thus at the end of the reign of King Rama VI, the Thai
Patriarch ordered the Mon monks to have Thai monastic education.
printing history in
started in 1902/2445] at Pak Lat, now is Amphoe Phra Pradaeng, Samut
Prakan. Phra Ajan Bunkhan Candakanta [B.E. 24092483] the abbot of Wat
Khae" had set up Punnakkhandhagara Press, the first Mon press in
, at his monastery. The press had moved twice first to Wat Mokkha also
in Phra Pradaeng and in 1924 [B.E. 2467] to Wat Bhimbhavasa in
. He had published 24 titles up to l941/2484], mostly religious books
especially the Pali Tipitaka in Mon script. The list of books published
by the press below compiled by Prof. Dr. Sued Gajaseni, the present
president of Thai Raman Association:
1. Tipitaka (Pali
in Mon script) from Tipitaka of the Royal Thai edition, 32 volumes,
11,520 pages, B.E. 244583, 1,000 prints.
2. Dvadasaparitta and
Suttaparita from old Mon tradition, 112 pages, B.E. 2447, 2,000 prints.
Lakkhanapanna by Phra Gunavamsa (Ju), Wat Paramayyikavasa, 38 pages, B.E
2448, 1,000 prints.
by Ajan Foh [in B.E. 2283], 28 pages, B.E. 2449, 2,000 prints.
for Monastery Boy [Lik Plai Bha], unknown author, 35 pages, unknown
date, unknown prints.
6. Roganidanakatha [Medicine text], unknown author, 81 pages, unknown
date, unknown prints.
7. 28 Buddhas
by Yiaplai [in B.E. 2379], 31 pages, B.E. 2451, 4,000 prints.
and Vinayakatha by Maha Khem Jotipala, 74 pages, B.E. 2451, 1,300
Upasakanuvattakatha by Phra Traisaranadhaja, 61 pages, B.E. 245 1, 1,000
by Ajan Foh [in B.E. 2319], 75 pages, 2451, 4,000 prints.
Bodhisattvas by Phra Bhiksu Pandita [in B.E. 2371], 75 pages, B.E. 2451,
Samanapatipatti and Gihipatipatti by Phra Khru Uttamoruvamsadhata, 140
pages, B.E. 2451, 2,000 prints.
Upasakovadakatha by Phra Traisaranadhaja, 118 pages, B.E. 2451, 1,700
14. Acinteyyagunakatha by Phra Traisaranadhaja, 80 pages, B.E. 245 1,
15. Upasakanusasana-katha by Phra Traisaranadhaja, 201 pages, B.E. 2451,
16. Mahasatipatthana by Phra Traisaranadhaja, 78 pages, B.E. 2451, 1,000
17. Lekhachandadanasilakatha by Phra Nyanaramsi, 33 pages, B.E. 2452,
18. Chronicles of Sudhammavati [Thaton] and Hamsavati [Pegu] from old
Mon tradition, 444 pages, B.E. 2453, 1,000 prints.
Nidanadhannacetiya (The Story of King Dharmacetiya] from old Mon
tradition, 264 pages, B.E. 2455, 1,000 prints.
Dvadasaparitta [First Edition] from old Mon tradition, 116 pages, B.E.
2455, 1,000 pages.
Bhikkhupatimokkha from old Mon tradition, 91 pages, B.E. 2456, 1,000
Ariyasaccadivinicchayakatha by the abbot of Wat Khlong Sip Jet [Tambon
Donchimpli, Amphoe Bang Nam Priao,
Province], 12 pages, B.E.2466, 2,000 prints.
23. Dvadasaparitta [Second Edition] from old Mon tradition, 252 pages,
B.E.2467, 1,000 prints.
Dvadasaparitta [Third Edition] fro m old Mon tradition, 118 pages, B.E.
2480, 1,000 prints.
[Bussaba 2532: 8991] [Sujaritlak and others 2538: 103107]
printing press at Pak Lat was a very special phenomenon because it was
run by a monk. Mon was the only minority in
to have its own press. This may be because in
Mon people were considered to be citizen the same as Thai people. A lot
were high ranking officers and they had related to the Royal family by
marriage. Mon people also had a very long literary tradition.
known Mon press may be the Vindasara Press at Bang Kradi, Khwaeng Samae
Dam, Khet Bang Khun Thian,
. Bang Kradi is known to be the biggest Mon community in
suburb. The details of this press are still unknown. Some of the books
seen were printed during 1980's.
Mon press in
is the Tech Promotion and Advertising Co., Ltd., by Mr. Jamnian
Sridaoduean. The modern Mon press uses Mon fonts and sets by computer.
Mon fonts are designed by Annop [a Norwegian] and Okpung, a Mon student
in Sangkhlaburi, Kanjanaburi. The press sets its main mission as the
first one, to print the Tipitaka but now in Mon language.
The pre press
activities are prepared in Sangkhlaburi and in
, mostly by Mon students from
. The palm leaf manuscript is typed in Mon fonts in computer. Now the
Vinaya Pitaka is ready to print, waiting for only the sponsors. The
compilation and edition of the Mon Tipitaka is done by a Mon scholar.
The work if printed will be the first printed Mon language Tipitaka, in
the world. The other Mon books published are
religious books for distributed freely in funerals and health and
education promotions for refugees by international organizations.
compilation and edition of the Mon Tipitaka is done by Ven.Vedhanyana, a
Mon scholar from
now a visiting abbot in
. His materials for Mon Tipitaka are found in
among the Mon monasteries in central plain notably in Pathumthani,
Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan, and Samut Sakhon.
important compilation an edition are Puranadhammakatha and Mon Poetry (Kaphya
Alanka Man Gamluin) which include Meghasan, Lik Maghadevan,
and Guin Dacit [9 Garna]. Both works, appeared in 1997, try to
illustrate and explain Mon poetry, the topic that no one knows much
about its details now. Another compilation from other editor, also
appeared in 1997, is the Rajavamsakatha, an anthology of Mon chronicles
and histories. The three books published in 1997 were under the
sponsorship of Ven.Uttama, the famous senior Mon monk, the abbot of Wat
Wangvivekaram, Sangkhlaburi, Kanjanaburi. Another significant book by
, Phra Adhikara
Bunnak Padumo, is The Mon 12 Parittas with its Atthakatha and Exposition
Slapat Paruit Man Cah Ba Khan], appeared in 1998. There are two
dictionaries appeared recently, the EnglishMon Dictionary in 1997 and
MonEnglish Dictionary in 2001, both by
Nai Tun Way
. These are the six Mon books published recently in
situation the written Mon language faces many orthographic problems
which needed to be modernized. Since the end of the Hamsavati kingdom
more than 200 years ago, the development of Mon orthography had been
stopped. The written Mon language and the modern spoken Mon language now
vary form each other enormously. The written language preserved a lot of
initial clusters where as the spoken language has shortened them down or
change to "h". The traditional abbreviations in writing many
words set out
reading, one has to be acquainted with them to know exactly what they
Another problem of the modern Mon language is the difference between the
Mon language of the peoples from
. Both Mon people in
absorbed the Burmese and Thai words into their Mon languages. The
also familiar with the old usage recorded in the palm leaf manuscripts.
need to learn the high literary language used in the literature but
there are very few materials for them to study, where as they are
, but no one to study them.
Mon language situation in
may said to be in the last stage of extinction. There were only a few
Mon communities that the children still speak Mon in their daily life as
in Sangkhlaburi of Kanjanaburi and the Bang Kradi community at the
village, Amphoe Sangkhlaburi, now is the biggest Mon community
with around 6,000 Mon speaking population. Most of them are refugees
from 50 years ago and their descendants, with Mon students joined them
in the past decade. They try to preserve the way of life of Mon people
. The advancing of tourism to the village and the coming of the Thai
citizenship for them, many villagers are felt insecure that they can
stand the influx of both Thai and foreign cultural influences. The
present situation still in their favor because of lacking the
citizenship they can
not go outside Sangkhlaburi. Once they are Thais by law, the villagers
will disperse, the young for education, the grownup for work. Many Mon
faced the broken village situation that destroyed their culture, no one
to be trained to play the traditional games in the Songkran festival
because they are working in the town, no one to study Mon script because
it can not use in the work.
Bang Kradi is
the most fortunate community that they still be, able to hold the
villagers together even though the factories and urban area are
advancing towards them. This is because their community is on the sea
shore, and situated at the end of the road from the main road on the
bank of a river. They had sold out their land between the main road and
their village for the industrialists to build factories and then work
there. So they have no need to go out far from their village like other
communities. Many villagers
I met there rarely go out of the village. A young man whom I assisted to
set up a folk museum there told me that he never go out of the village
until he was twenty. Thus once you step into the village ground you will
hear every one from young to old speaks Mon as you are in Monland, in
In most Mon
communities the old age people of 60 and over, can speak Mon fluently
and a few of them can read and write. The middle age people of 40 to 60,
half of them can speak Mon fluently and another half fairly. The grownup
age people of 20 to 40, half of them can speak Mon fairly and another
half can understand. The young age people of under 20, half of them can
understand fairly and another half cannot understand Mon at all. The
above description is the situation of Pathumthani, Nonthaburi,
Samut Prakan, Lopburi, and Lamphun. In Samut Sakhon the situation is
close to Bang Kradi. Other village communities the situation will be
better than the urban communities.
situation is the literacy. There are a few Mon speakers in
who can read and write Mon script. In the above mentioned survey of Mon
palm leaf manuscript in Ratchburi and Pathumthani we had depended on
. The hope to revive Mon language among Mon people in
is very dim. There are a few places which teach Mon literacy. Most of
the Mon people can not see the usefulness of the knowledge of Mon
literacy because they can not use it to support their living like Thai
English. On the other hand, the non Mon people are interested in Mon
language to find out the rich cultural and religious heritage of Mon
There are a
lot of works to be done to save the Mon most precious heritage, the palm
leaf manuscripts. The survey work done in Ratchaburi and Pathumthani is
only the first step to study them systematically. We still need a lot of
help both financial and academic. The study of Mon literature in palm
leaf manuscripts will be the key to understand the Thai and Burmese
culture in particular, and the cultural heritage of
Trakulsujjawatr 2532 'Laksana Warmakam Mon : Korani Sueksa Wannakam Phra
Ajan Afoh.' [Characteristics of, Mon Literature: A Case Study of
Literary Works of the Monk Acwo'] M.A. [Thai Epigraphy] thesis,
Prapasapong and associates.2541 'Kan Samruat Wannakam Mon nai Phak Klang
' [A Survey of Mon Literature in
.] An unpublished research report under the sponsorship of the Ministry
Thianpanya. 2539 'Kan Sueksa Priapthiap Khamphi Phra Manu Thammasat
Chabap Phasa Sansakrit lae Chabap Phasa Mon.'[The Comparative Study of
Mon and Sanskrit Versions of Manu Dharmasastra.] M.A. [Sanskrit] thesis,
Phisan Bunphuk.2540 'Phra Song Raman nai Phra RatchaAnajak Thai [Mon
Monks in the
.] In Traisaranadhaja Anusorn, a memorial book in the funeral of Phra
Traisaranadhaja [Malay Pupphadamo] at Wat Paramayyikavasa, Nonthaburi
Siriphan Thirasichot.2536 'Wat Muang: Khlang Witthaya samrap Chaowat lae
Chaoban.' [Wat Muang: the source of knowledge for people in the Wat and
the village] in Pranee
Wongthes, Ed., The Mae Klong Basin: Sociocultural Development.
Gajaseni.2527 'Watthanatham, Prapheni Mon.'[Mon Culture and Tradition]
Boran,10.3: 5063. Sujaritlak Deepadung and others.
Botbat Dan Sangkhom Watthanatham Kham Penma lae Khwam Plianplaeng nai
Rop 200 Pi khong Krung Rattanakosin. [Mon: The SocioCultural Roles,
Origin and Change in the 200 years of Ratanakosin period.] Nakhon Pathom:
and Culture for Rural Development,
Songlak.2541 "Khamphi Bailan Pancakadullabha.' [The Palmleaf
Manuscript of Pancakadullabha.] In the Memorial book in the occasion of
the funeral of LieutenantGeneral Momchao Chidchanok Kridakorn at Wat
Christian. 1982 'Morphology and Syntax of Spoken Mon.' Ph.D., thesis,
and Ethnicity: The Mon in
.' In Gehan Wijeyewardene, ed., Ethnic Groups across National Boundaries
: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies: 1447.
, A Civilization of
. Translated and edited by James V. Di Crocco.
KAOWAO NEWS GROUP
Tel: + 66 7 169-0971, + 66 1 561-0860
Tel: + 1- 403 - 248 2027 (Canada)
Online Burma Library --
Kaowao Newsgroup is committed to social justice,
peace, and democracy in Burma. We hope to be
able to provide more of an in-depth analysis
that will help to promote lasting peace and
change within Burma.
Editors, reporters, writers, and overseas
volunteers are dedicated members of the Mon
activist community based in Thailand.
Our motto is working together for lasting peace