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Haunting Legends: Mae Nak Of Phra Khanong

Enduring folklore of the Thai people that have risen to legendary status in Thailand (probably the whole of ASEAN) is The Legend Of Mae Nak Phra Khanong (actually, it’s Mae Nak ‘of‘ Phra Khanong). A fierce lady ghost that would kill anyone trying to come between her (and her child) and her husband that she dearly loved.

The Legend Of Mae Nak :

During the reign of King Rama IV, lived a beautiful young woman named Nak. She lived on the banks of Phra Khanong canal (still exists today next to the Wat Mahabut) and she had a husband named Mak whom she loved dearly until even death couldn’t do them apart.

Nak was pregnant when Mak got enlisted in the army and had to leave for the war that some said was with the Shan Tribe but others said with the Burmese Kingdom (today Myanmar), no one is actually sure. Mak got severely wounded in the war and had to be nursed back to health in Bangkok, by that time Nak and her child died during difficult childbirth.

Mak recovered and returned home to find his loving wife Nak and her child waiting for him at home. Everything seemed normal just like any other family. His friends tried to warn him that he’s living with a ghost, they were killed one by one.

Photography - Mae Nak Shrine - Wat Mahabut 005
Statue Of Mae Nak And Her Child

As the story goes, one day Nak was preparing a Thai chilli sauce known as Nam Phrik, she accidentally dropped a lime through the wooden crevices of her kitchen floor and to retrieve it hastily she extended her arm through the crevice, some say the distance between the wooden floor and the ground is about two and a half meters.

Mak was terrified when he saw that with his own eyes, but he was also deeply sad as then he realized that his friends were right and Nak and his child did die in childbirth.

Photography - Traditional Thai Dance - Wat Mahabut 008
Traditional Thai Dance
performed in the shrine
(as an offering to Mae Nak)

That night Mak tried to find a way to flee without alarming her so he excused himself from Nak saying that he needed to urinate.  Once Mak was outside his house he fled as fast as he could, realizing that Mak is gone Nak went after him. Mak tried to hide behind a Nat (Blumea balsamifera) bush as the Thai people believe that ghosts or spirits are afraid of its sticky leaves, but Nak found him. He then ran as fast as he could to Wat Mahabut, ghosts and spirits can’t enter holy ground.

Nak was very sad and at the same time furious at the people of Phra Khanong and in a fit of rage started terrorizing them. It is said she started to burn villagers’ houses and killing bystanders (by ripping their throats). It is also said that by that time she looked extremely scary with bloodshot eyes, pale skin, long nails, and long hair extending to her feet.

The venerable monk of Wat Mahabut named Somdet Phra Phutthachan finally conquered her spirit after a fierce battle and confined her spirit inside her forehead bone and bound the bone to his waistband. It is said that the waistband is currently in the possession of the Royal Family, but some also say that the waistband is locked inside a silver chest in Mae Nak’s shrine, behind Wat Mahabut.

Mae Nak Shrine
Mae Nak Shrine
(offerings wrapped around the Bo tree)

Mae Nak Shrine :

Photography - Thai Culture - Wat Mahabut 006
Mae Nak Shrine

Mae Nak shrine is right behind Wat Mahabut in Soi 77, off Sukhumvit Road. Bangkok. There’s a statue of Mae Nak and her child there, her devotees go there with offerings of coloured fabrics, fruits, incense sticks, and even cash donations. Her devotees are usually women seeking easy childbirth or for their husband to be exempted from military enrollment.

Mae Nak Shrine
Mae Nak Shrine
(it's said her forehead bone is kept here)
Mae Nak Shrine
Mae Nak Shrine
(devotees offerings)
Mae Nak Devotees
Mae Nak Shrine
(many devotees visits everyday)

Wat Mahabut :

Wat Mahabut is one of the 887 temples in Bangkok. It is located in Phra Khanong district, eastern Bangkok. In 1762, five years before the fall of Ayutthaya, a monk visited the villagers of Phra Khanong and as the village didn’t have a temple, the villagers invited the monk to stay. They built a temple and named it after him. The monk’s name was Phra Mahabut.

Photography - Mae Nak - Wat Mahabut 002
Wat Mahabut

So, now you know about the legendary Mae Nak of Phra Khanong.

Have a good day guys,

Roy Singh

Roy Singh

Founder and Photographer
I'm the founder of Temples Zone and my hobby is travelling to remote places rarely visited by tourists where the nature is still untouched and beautiful. I want my photos to tell stories to the viewers about the trip, because, the voyage is as important as the destination. I want to bring the world to your screen. So sit back, relax and enjoy the views.

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