June 22, 2016
Phra Nang beach is part of a small peninsula located between the city of Krabi and Ao Nang beach. It is here you will find the famous “Princess Cave” or Tham Phra Nang Nok. (Recently, an inner Princess Cave or Tham Phra Nang Nai has also been discovered).
There are a number of folk tales surrounding the cave, according to one legend, Phra Nang was an Indian princess who was killed in a shipwreck and her spirit found its way to the cave. In another tale, Phra Nang was the wife of a local fisherman who was lost at sea; the bereaved wife lived out the rest of her days in the cave, waiting her husband’s return.
What-ever ancient fable is right it has for centuries been a shrine where the local fisherman and boatmen leave offerings, to ensure a plentiful catch and protect them from the dangers at sea.
These offers take the form of male genitalia – the cave is covered in many differing sized “lingam”, or phallic-shaped statues. (Known as the Siwaleung or Palad Khik in Thai), all are decorated with colorful cloth, and the cave is almost always filled with the smell of incense.
Lingam (also linga, ling, Shiva linga, Shiv ling) means sign, or symbol and is an abstract representation of the Hindu deity, Shiva, used for worship in temples, smaller shrines, or as self-manifested natural objects. In traditional Indian and Thai society, the lingam is seen as a symbol of the energy and potential of Shiva himself.
Another local myth says that if somebody carves a wooden lingam and releases it at high tide anywhere along the Krabi coast, it will eventually end up in the Phra Nang cave.
While people may find these symbols of fertility and virility strange it must be noted in Thailand over eons of time a number of religious beliefs have run hand in hand from the earliest days of animists and spirit worshiping, to the later Hinduism and today, where Buddhism is followed by 93.6% of the population.
With its backdrop of stalagmites and stalactites the Princess Cave is a perfect natural canvas to show case the mixture of faiths and beliefs that can be found through-out the Kingdom, but it is worth noting that visitors should never forget its importance as a religious place of worship for the local people.
For more on Caving in Thailand see our post