Site logo

The Deity & Protector of Thailand’s Forests

If you hike the forests of Thailand, or travel back roads through the woods, you will undoubtedly see a sign for Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation (กรมอุทยานแห่งชาติ สัตว์ป่า และพันธุ์พืช). These signs have a curious emblem or logo that is a mystery to many tourists, who wonder over the identity of the figure on the emblem, often mistakenly believing that it represents the Buddha or the Hindu god Shiva or Indra.

The stately figure on the emblem, who is holding a magnifying glass in one hand and a sword in the other, is a deity named Rukha Thewada (Parksรุกขเทวดา). He is said to live in old, large trees in Thailand, in a mystical castle hidden within the tree that is invisible to the human eye. Thailand believes in different spirits, angels, and goddesses who live in old trees, such as Nang Ta-khian (นางตะเคียน) who haunts the huge Ta-Khian trees. But Rukha Thewada is the most powerful forest deity of all.

On the Thailand National Parks emblem, Rukha Thewada is holding a magnifying glass to demonstrate that he is observing everything that is happening in Thai forests, and a sword to show that he will protect the forests from any evil intruder. When very large trees are cut down, a special ceremony must be conducted with monks to ensure that Rukha Thewada (and the forest spirits) do not become enraged and cause misfortune to fall upon those who have cut down the tree or used the wood.

 

วัดป่าธรรมวิโมกข์ ดุสิตาราม
An ancient tree trunk covered with sacred ribbons at Wat Pa Thammawimok in Sakon Nakhon

In order not to anger Rukha Thewada, traditional saws and axes are often used if an ancient tree is cut down, rather than a chainsaw, which would cause both noise and air pollution. At Thai temples, you’ll sometimes see large trees wrapped in colorful ribbons. When the tree is not a Bodhi tree (under which the Buddha achieved enlightenment), the ribbons pay homage to Rukha Thewada.

If you would like to hike in Sakon Nakhon, be sure to check out our list of places at: Hiking in Sakon Nakhon.