Can this amulet make you rich ? Millions of people believe so.
The Jatukham Rammathep amulet is believed by millions Thais and to some extent Malaysians and Singaporeans, to bring wealth to its possessor.
It is reported in the Thai press that during the unprecedented Jatukarm amulet craze just a few months ago, the temple where the talismans originated, had been fully booked for rituals. Now, only a few amulet makers made requests for the temple to perform rites for new models of the talisman. Previously, the temple received nearly a thousand requests a month but now it seems very quiet.
With the craze now being over and the oversupply of amulets for the last few months, including the sale of the fake ones, has caused prices to drop sharply.
Thailand is known as the largest market for amulets. Each year several classes and types of amulets are produced and commercialised by numerous producers and investors, most of whom have links with famous monks and masters of meditation.
Whenever there is a demand for something, even if it is something considered "spiritual", there will always be willing suppliers. First, demand will exceed supply and the price will be high. Then eventually supply will exceed demand and the price will start to drop.
As with anything in life, the law of supply and demand reigns supreme. Remember the Flower Horn fish craze a few years ago ? Mature fish had an average selling price of RM250 each. After the craze, people were releasing their Flower Horns into public lakes or giving them away, for free.
Read the story about the Jatukham Rammathep amulet featured in The Star early last month.
By KEE HUA CHEE
Aside from ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the other hot topic on the Thai people’s lips is Jatukarm, a highly sought-after talisman said to be driving the Thai economy.
I had never heard of the Jatukarm until I visited Thailand last month. Immediately I was bombarded with newspaper articles and TV stories of the Jatukarm craze. It seems all of Thailand is in its grip.
I’m told even academics in universities are writing theses on it.
So who or what is this Jatukarm?
Jatukarm Ramathep is a god associated with wealth, success and happiness. People who wear a Jatukarm talisman believe the deity will help grant their wishes. According to a friend, Krichsakol Khemamnat from Finansa Securities, Jatukarm was an 8th century king.
“He ruled over Nakorn Si Thammarat. When he died, many who worshipped him had their wishes granted. But he was only a secondary deity and not particularly revered. Even I had not really heard of Jatukarm. Jatukarm was not famous until last year when the craze started.
“We believe this is the era of Jatukarm, as he has entered the charts. As this is his golden period, he is now very, very powerful so we are all trying to grab some of his power!” Khemamnat explained.
He likened the ascendancy of Jatukarm to the Chinese animal cycle.
“We are now in the Year of the Pig, so the Boar has more power than the Dog or Horse. Likewise, this is the Year of Jatukarm! Er, actually we don’t know how long this will last but it usually lasts a few years before interest wanes.”
Most Buddhists see no harm in improving their odds in life with a Jatukarm charm, since the cheapest, “entry-level” clay amulet only costs RM3. All the popular malls sell them. Just keep an eye out for any place with heightened activity. If there is a small crowd huddling around a counter, chances are Jatukarm amulets are being sold!
Having succumbed to the craze, I bought not one, not two, but five talismans.
I paid RM200 for my jade Jatukarm at Chatuchak Market. My two flashiest Jatukarms are embellished with Swarovski crystals and cost RM350 each. They have been mistaken for rapper’s medallions or a piece of hip-hop accessory. A particularly lovely golden-hued version set me back only RM40.
The most expensive is from the original Jatukarm Temple in Nakon Si Thammarat. It came in a plastic box with the name of the temple: Wat Phra Mahatat. I was told not to throw the plastic container away for it was proof the amulet was from the temple.
I paid RM550 for this amulet at the Areewan Jewellery Shop in MBK (Mah Bung Krung) Shopping Centre. When I protested that it was scandalously expensive, owner Areewan said indignantly: “We cannot make a profit from the gods. Your Jatukarm comes from the original Jatukarm temple in Nakorn Si Thammarat, and I only make a little money from the gold and ruby locket. I sell you the pendant for the same price I paid the temple. I not make money from Jatukarm!”
Every Thai I met had a Jatukarm – from taxi drivers to the immigration officer who whipped one out of his shirt pocket when he saw mine. The bellboy at swanky Legua Hotel told me his tips had increased dramatically after he started praying to the deity!
Nakorn Veerapravati, president of the Bangkok Critics Assembly and a wealthy businessman, was kind enough to fill me in on Jatukarm Ramathep’s background.
Nakorn Veerapravati believes that the Jatukarm does bring luck.
The guardian angel(s)
“As far as I know,” Veerapravati began, “Jatukarm is the name of a guardian angel, and Ramathep is the name of another. This pair protected the stupa of Wat Phra Mahatat. I don’t know why Ramathep is not worshipped like Jatukarm, but since the name includes both, I guess we are paying homage to both.”
The story has it that 30 years ago, a policeman (or general or monk or layman, depending on who you ask) commissioned the temple to make 300 Jatukarm amulets, and these he gave away as thanksgiving presents for a wish fulfilled. Made of clay, each cost him just a few ringgit but is now worth a small fortune.
“These 300 original amulets are the most sought after! People go mad searching for them. These originals have the most power, and it is said they grant one’s wish within the hour.
“Last year, the newspapers reported that each one costs 500,000 baht (RM50,000). One was sold two weeks ago for 1.2mil baht (RM120,000). A millionaire bought one from the family who gave the originals away for 2mil baht (RM200,000).”
Last year, when his mother fell ill, Veerapravati rang a friend in Nakorn Si Thammarat to buy a Jatukarm amulet and have it delivered to him in Bangkok.
“My friend then told me something which almost gave me a heart attack: he said why should he bother doing that when I already had an original Jatukarm from the temple! He reminded me that he gave me one of the original 300 Jatukarms 17 years ago as a good luck gift when I left Nakorn Si Thammarat for Bangkok.
“Of course, back then it probably cost him only 80 baht (RM8)!
“I dropped my handphone in shock and joy. I rushed home and dust flew as I searched the cupboards and drawers for it. We Thais never throw amulets away, so I knew it was somewhere although I only wore it during my first year in Bangkok and hadn’t seen it in 17 years.
“Finally, to my relief, I found it in a drawer!”
Like David Copperfield, Veerapravati slowly and tantalisingly pulled out the precious Jatukarm from under his shirt to show me. His Jatukarm looked ordinary enough, being made from earth and clay with the embossed image of Jatukarm.
As with all collectibles, there are specialists in Bangkok who say they can verify the authenticity of such 30-year-old amulets.
“I had mine checked and the specialist said he didn’t even need a loupe, magnifying glass or scientific instrument to know that it was in perfect condition. It was hardly worn and never exposed to the sun.”
Alas, Veerapravati’s mother died anyway, though she regained her health briefly and was coherent enough to enjoy her last few months. She told her son she dreamt an angel told her that it was time for her to go since she was meant to be reborn soon.
At her funeral in Nakorn Si Thammarat, Veerapravati commissioned 1,000 Jatukarm talismans to be given away free. Word spread and there was a veritable stampede as 5,000 people queued up for his gift. The police had to be called in to restore order. He was told never to attempt this again.
According to some, this overnight craze started last year when King Bhumibol Adulyadej emerged from hospital following a successful treatment. On His Majesty’s neck, it was said, was a Jatukarm pendant.
The small pendant was assumed to be that of the Buddha but when a picture of it was magnified, it proved to be a Jatukarm. The Jatukarm juggernaut snowballed after that. Stories of its miraculous powers abound. Tales have been told of car crashes where people who wore the pendants survived whereas those who didn’t, died.
So far, sales of the amulets have topped a staggering 20bil baht (RM2bil) from an estimated 600,000 amulets produced so far. Jatukarm sales are said to have pushed up the Thai economy by nearly 0.5%!
Factories producing Jatukarms normally approach the temple in Nakorn Si Thammarat and pay anything from RM1mil to RM2mil for the rights to use the temple’s name.
Does the Jatukarm work?
Armed with my five Jatukarm, I managed to get an airport limousine for 1,000 baht, instead of the usual 2,000 baht. Upon reaching Suvanabhumi Airport, I discovered the airport tax had been done away with, thus saving me RM50! At KLIA, somebody gave me a ride home, thus saving me RM70.
In my letterbox, I found a cheque for RM980. Then out of the blue, a friend rang to offer me a 6ft tall, wooden Buddha statue I was admiring at his home two months back! He even delivered it to my condo the next day! A few days later, a friend sent over a juicer I was so taken with at her home?
Hmmm, maybe there really is something to this Jatukarm craze.