Complexity has characterized the Thai religious system since at least 1292, when the well-known inscription of Rama Kamhaeng was composed. This inscription not only celebrates the devotion of his people of Sukhothai to Theravada Buddhism but also notes a special relationship between the prosperity of the kingdom and reverence for Phra Khaphung, a “spirit-deity” living in a nearby mountain. Phra Khaphung is characterized as a phī-thewadā, combining phī (an indigenous Thai form meaning “spirit,” “ghost”) with thewadā (a form derived from Hindu-Buddhist cosmology and meaning “deity”). This classification of Phra Khaphung suggests that a process of merging two once-distinct religious traditions had already begun.

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