KRABI  TRAVEL

 Culture & Religion in Krabi
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Photo by Thomas©: Wat (Temple) Kaew Korawaram, Krabi Town

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Southern Culture


Krabi’s modern-day culture mirrors its mix of people and their history.

 

Thai Buddhism, Chinese Taoist and Mahayana Buddhism, Islam, and folk traditions are apparent in everyday life and in the arts of the area.

 

Unlike many other places in Thailand, Krabi does not have an architectural heritage, even though its documented history is older than almost all other monument-rich areas. Krabi has always been sparsely populated with traders, farmers, and fishing families. There were no major settlements or cities to support large structures or a thriving artistic community (beyond the bead-making artisans of Khlong Thom in the early centuries).


As a suzerain state during the Srivijaya and Ligor Empires, Krabi served as a trading entrepot (serving both maritime and trans-peninsular trade), and was probably populated by immigrants who slowly assimilated into the small local communities. The wealth generated likely helped to build the monuments of Chaiya and Nakhorn Sri Thammarat.


Modern-day Krabi is 60% Muslim (mostly of the Sunni Sect) and 40% Buddhist (Theravada mixed with Sino-Thai Mahayana). There are a small number of Hindus, Christians, and Moken (Sea Page on Mokens).


The Buddhists predominate in the commercial and market areas as merchants and the Muslims in the coastal regions where their livelihood depends on the sea and plantation work. The Moken (or Chao Lay) are dotted around the islands and coastal regions.


The Buddhists are mostly of Chinese ancestry from the southern Chinese province of Fujian. These 'Hokien' Sino-Thais have a strong historic culture with a Taoist base that is visible in their homes and some of the public festivals (see the section on the Vegetarian Festival).


Holidays and festivals are unique to each group. Important Buddhist celebrations are usually official holidays. Chinese festivals are not holidays, but many Sino-Thai owned shops close. The same is true for Muslim holy days. On Koh Lanta and Koh Jum, Mokens celebrate festivals important in their culture.


The Theravada Buddhism of Krabi (like most other places in Thailand) has been culturally adapted to incorporate a broad range of disparate elements. The Goddess of Mercy (Guanyin, Kuan Im), a Mahayana Bodhisattva, has an important role, as can be seen at the Tiger Cave Temple on the outskirts of Krabi Town. Many Sino-Thai's homes have both Buddha images and Taoist shrines.


Wat Kaew Korawaram, in the center of Krabi Town, is a beautiful new temple set in a large wooded area (photo at top of page). Tiger Cave Temple is an amalgam of Theravada and Mayahana Buddhism, and several Forest Monasteries in the province follow stricter rules for their monks and novices.


Shops often display the image of the Hindu Elephant God, Ganesha, to bring good-luck. The statue in front of the Krabi Town City Hall is Jatukham Ramathep of Hindu origin (as inspired by the historic Srivijaya image at the Mahathat Woromaha Vihan Temple in Nakhorn Sri Thammarat). The City Pillar at the Provincial Offices is a Hindu Lingam (Sivalung).


Animism is represented by a strong belief in Guardian Spirits of home and land. Offering are made in various forms, with Spirit Houses being the most visible manifestation of animism. Many fishermen wear a cord around their waist with a wooden or coral carved Lingam (Palad Kik—the Hindu male symbol representing Vishnu) to ward off bad spirits of the sea.


The Muslim culture is highly visible in Krabi with many mosques around the province, and Muslim women wearing their hijab head covering. In several small communities, women in full burqa may be seen. The Islam of Krabi is moderate with few elements of a fundamentalist approach. Buddhist and Muslims are well integrated.

Krabi's Central Mosque, One of the Largest in Southern Thailand
Buddha Image at Tiger Cave Temple
Taoist Street Altar at
Vegetarian Festival

Phra Nang Cave on
Railay Peninsula with Large Display of Hindu Sivalung

Saint Agnus Catholic Church
in Ao Nang