Phra Suthanu (Biographical details)

Phra Suthanu (literary character; royal/imperial; Thai; Male)

Also known as

Suthanu; Sudhanu; Sattadhanu


Phra Suthanu is the hero of a Thai poetical narrative, the 'Suthanu Khamchan', composed by Phraya Isaranuphap to honor Siam’s monarch, King Rama IV (r. 1851-1868). The content is based on the Sudhanu (also called Sattadhanu) Jataka, a non-canonical story of the Buddha’s past life, found in Southeast Asia. The story begins in the kingdom of Pharanasi (Varanasi). The god Indra requests the Bodhisatta (the future Buddha Gotama) to be reborn as the son of King Phromathat and Queen Kesani of Pharanasi. The Queen eats a jujube fruit and becomes pregnant. The seed of the fruit which she dropped on the ground is eaten by a horse, who also becomes pregnant. In time the Queen gives birth to her son Suthanu; the horse give birth to her son called Manikakkha, a horse with the power of flight who becomes a close friend of Suthanu. When he is grown up, Suthanu flies off on Manikakkha and they arrive in the land of Setanakhon where Suthanu falls in love with the beautiful princess Chiraprapha. Suthanu attains her father’s permission to marry her after winning an archery contest and defeating other rivals in battle. The newly-wed pair then begins the journey to Pharanasi. On the way, they stop to rest in the country of a yaksa (ogre) named Khantarayak. They anger him and he threatens to eat the princess. The horse Manikakkha fights Khantarayak but is defeated and ridden away by the yaksa. Suthanu and Chiraprapha continue their journey by boarding a traders’ ship. While at sea the ship is destroyed in a storm. Chiraprapha and Suthanu survive but are separated in the chaos. Chiraprapha ends up in Inthapat. She sells her jewellery to build a home and a hall for feeding monks, and awaits news of Suthanu. Meanwhile, Suthanu ends up in the land of Nang Anchawadi, sister of Khantarayak. She has a number of servants, who are princesses which she has captured from various kingdoms. Among them is Suthanu’s uncle’s daughter, Nang Karenu. Nang Anchawadi falls in love with Suthanu and brings him to live with her. Through a trick Suthanu gets Manikakkha back from Anchawadi’s brother, Khantarayak. He finds Chiraprapha and brings Nang Anchawadi, Nang Karenu and the other princess-servants to live with him in Pharanasi. Then Suthanu gave a sermon to Khantarayak to follow the five silas (precepts of Buddhism) and Khantarayak indeed listened and practiced according to the teachings.

See Phimphaphon Muhammat, ‘Suthanu Khamchan’, in Saranukrom Watanatham Thai Phak Klang [Encyclopaedia of Culture of the Central Thai Region] (Krung Thep: Mulaniti Saranukrom Watanatham Thai, 2542 [1999]), Vol. 14, pp. 6813-6816. Also, see: Apocryphal Birth-Stories (Paññāsa-Jātaka), Vol. II, Padmanabh S. Jaini, trans. (Oxford: The Pali Text Society, 2003), pp. 245-268.