Mon Language in
This paper will give the picture of Mon language situation in
spoken and written language from the earliest time to the present day. The
written language will include inscriptions, palm leaf manuscripts, and
The Mon language in
language first appeared in
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
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
around the 8th century. The late Old Mon or early Middle Mon language
inscriptions, dated in the 13th century, were found only in Lamphűn, North
of Thailand. After the Mon
the Thai King Mangray from Chiang Saen, no evidence of Mon language was
Mon people was among the first groups of people in
develop their own scripts along with the Châm, Khmer, and Pyű. The Mon
script adapted from the Pallava script from southeast
century. [Guillon 1999: 31 ] The Mon script has been adopted by Northern
Thai [Lânnâ] in the 14th century and later by Laospeaking groups in
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.
From the 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
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 ThaiRaman [Mon]
Association, in Lopburi. The last one may be the one at Wat Nong Dű,
Lamphűn, dated B.E. 2519. [Bauer 1982: vii]
The Palmleaf Manuscripts
During the reign of King Naresuan the Great of Ayutthayâ period a lot of
Mon people migrated to
Mon migrating to
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]
The tradition 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.
The Mon 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
The last 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.
From the 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
Religion, Texts, Society, History, and Folklore and Poetry.
First, the Religion group. 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 dictionary.
Second, the Text group. The second largest group includes medical texts,
astrology, soothsaying, white magic, house building, calculating auspicious
date, text for learning Mon script, mathematics, alchemy, etc.
Third, the Society group. This includes rites and rituals, customary laws
[Dharmsastra], and ethics.
dynasties [Rajavamsa], history of the stupas [Dhatuvamsa], the history of a
particular king and religious history.
Five, the Folklore and Poetry group. This group includes the story, novel
and poetry both of Mon origin and foreign origin [Thai and Indian].
Many Thai 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]
The Mon literature 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.
'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
preserve and enrich their culture.
There were a few Mon writers in
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 last reformation of the Mon religious tradition in
The third one was Phra Ajan Bock [Aca Bock] of Wat Siri Mankala, Tambon Ban
Koh, Amphoe Muang,
religious works, such as Pancakadulla Silakatha, Danakatha,
Sattaariyadhana, Appamada, Aggatove, etc. [Theera 2541: 24]
The spreading 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 Thailand.
The Mon monastic education system in
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:
Prayoga I Adikanda and Pacittiya of the Pali Mahavibbanga.
Prayoga 2 Pali Mahavagga and Culavagga.
Prayoga 3 Pali Mutthakavinayavinicchaya.
Prayoga 4 Pathamasamantapasadikaatthakathavinaya.
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 Parian 2.
The Thai 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.
The Printed Books
The Mon printing history in
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
Mokkha also in Phra Pradaeng and in 1924 [B.E. 2467] to Wat Bhimbhavasa in
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 ThaiRaman 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.
3. Lakkhanapanna by Phra Gunavamsa (Ju), Wat Paramayyikavasa, 38 pages, B.E
2448, 1,000 prints.
4. Lokasiddhi by Ajan Foh [in B.E. 2283], 28 pages, B.E. 2449, 2,000 prints.
5. Textbook for Monastery Boy [Lik Plai Bha], unknown author, 35 pages,
unknown date, unknown prints.
6. Roganidanakatha [Medicine text], unknown author, 81 pages, unknown date,
7. 28 Buddhas by Yiaplai [in B.E. 2379], 31 pages, B.E. 2451, 4,000 prints.
8. Navagovada and Vinayakatha by Maha Khem Jotipala, 74 pages, B.E. 2451,
9. Upasakanuvattakatha by Phra Traisaranadhaja, 61 pages, B.E. 245 1, 1,000
10. Paramikan by Ajan Foh [in B.E. 2319], 75 pages, 2451, 4,000 prints.
11. 10 Bodhisattvas by Phra Bhiksu Pandita [in B.E. 2371], 75 pages, B.E.
2451, 3,000 prints.
12. Samanapatipatti and Gihipatipatti by Phra Khru Uttamoruvamsadhata, 140
pages, B.E. 2451, 2,000 prints.
13. Upasakovadakatha by Phra Traisaranadhaja, 118 pages, B.E. 2451, 1,700
14. Acinteyyagunakatha by Phra Traisaranadhaja, 80 pages, B.E. 245 1, 1,000
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, 1,000
18. Chronicles of Sudhammavati [Thaton] and Hamsavati [Pegu] from old Mon
tradition, 444 pages, B.E. 2453, 1,000 prints.
19. Nidanadhannacetiya (The Story of King Dharmacetiya] from old Mon
tradition, 264 pages. B.E. 2455, 1,000 prints.
20. Dvadasaparitta [First Edition] from old Mon tradition, 116 pages, B.E.
2455, 1,000 pages.
21. Bhikkhupatimokkha from old Mon tradition, 91 pages, B.E. 2456, 1,000
22. Ariyasaccadivinicchayakatha by the abbot of Wat Khlong Sip Jet [Tambon
Donchimpli, Amphoe Bang Nam Priao,
2466, 2,000 prints.
23. Dvadasaparitta [Second Edition] from old Mon tradition, 252 pages, B.E.
2467, 1,000 prints.
24. Dvadasaparitta [Third Edition] fro m old Mon tradition, 118 pages, B.E.
2480, 1,000 prints.
[Bussaba 2532: 8991] [Sujaritlak and others 2538: 103107]
The Mon printing press at Pak Lat was a very special phenomenon because it
was run by a monk. Mon was the only minority in
press. This may be because in
citizen the same as Thai people. A lot of
and they had related to the Royal family by marriage. Mon people also had a
very long literary tradition.
The second known Mon press may be the Vindasara Press at Bang Kradi,
Khwaeng Samae Dam, Khet Bang Khun Thian,
the biggest Mon community in
still unknown. Some of the books seen were printed during 1980's.
The present Mon press in
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
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.
The compilation and edition of the Mon Tipitaka is done by Ven.Vedhanyana,
a Mon scholar from
for Mon Tipitaka are found in
plain notably in Pathumthani, Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan, and Samut Sakhon.
His recent important compilation and 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 Mon in
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
books published recently in
In present 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
problems in reading, one has to be acquainted with them to know exactly
what they stand for.
Another problem of the modern Mon language is the difference between the
Mon language of the peoples from
in the palm leaf manuscripts. The
literary language used in the literature but there are very few materials
for them to study, where as they are abundant in
The Spoken Mon Language
The spoken Mon language situation in
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 suburb of
The Wangka village, Amphoe Sangkhlaburi, now is the biggest Mon community
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
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 villages
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, Ratchaburi,
Samut Prakan, Lopburi, and Lamphun. In Samut Sakhon the situation is quite
close to Bang Kradi. Other village communities the situation will be better
than the urban communities.
The worst situation is the literacy. There are a few Mon speakers in
of Mon palm leaf manuscript in Ratchburi and Pathumthani we had depended on
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 or
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 work 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
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This article was published online by Kao Wao on 11 May 2003