The history runs deep

One of the smallest and most traditional of Thailand’s provincial capitals, Lamphun has no shopping malls or superstores, no ‘walking streets’, no tuk tuks, not even a cinema and barely a single building over four storeys. It also sees very few tourists.

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Yet this quiet backwater was once one of the region’s most important towns. A powerful Mon city state, formerly known as Haripunchai and established by a Queen Chama Devi in the seventh century, Lamphun was strategically placed between Bagan to the west, the Nanchao kingdom to the north and the Khmer dominated Mon states of central Thailand.

Temple detail on the outskirts of Lamphun. : Stuart McDonald.
Temple detail on the outskirts of Lamphun. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Lamphun city has a Chama Devi road, temple, stupa, monument, restaurant; Chama Devi this, Chama Devi that, the woman’s ubiquitous. So who was she exactly? Well, a seventh century semi-legendary queen, and like many similar figures it’s impossible to say how much we think we know today is true. It begins with some odd stuff like being born in a lotus flower, and then she was adopted, raised and married off by the king of Lavo, a Mon city state (and modern Lopburi). For whatever reason, she left him and moved north with some followers to settle in the Ping valley.

The story gets a bit weird at this point as it involves a magical city, the virgin birth of twins, struggles with local Mon tribes and a run in with a local king whom she supposedly defeated by fashioning him a hat out of her underwear. But the queen found time to establish the city of Haripunchai and is considered today (at least by locals if not historians) to be responsible for the construction of the original city wall, moat and most of the old town’s ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 600 words.)

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