September 23, 2020

Nang Tolanee - Earth Goddess

Nang Tolanee - Earth Goddess
ນາງທໍລະນີ.  Artwork by: LM/

At Lao temples, you'll often see depictions in paintings and statue form of a woman kneeling down while holding her hair out with water dripping from it.

Formally, in Lao, she is called Chow Mae Tolanee ເຈົ້າແມ່ທໍລະນີ.  But more commonly, she is referred to as simply Nang Tolanee ນາງທໍລະນີ.  Alternate spellings: tholani, tolany, tholanee, thoranee.  In Thailand, she's referred to Pra Mae Toranee พระแม่ธรณี.

Nang Tolanee is a demi-goddess / deity found in Hindu and Buddhist scriptures.  In Sanskrit she is called Bhumi Devi (meaning Earth Goddess).

In Laos and Thailand the focus is on her long hair and the water that drips and flows from it.  For this reason, this is why nowadays her statue is often shown next to decorative water fountains.  This is quite different artistically from how she is depicted in Indian Hindu art where she is often shown seated on the earth surrounded by animals and plants.

The legend say that her hair helped bring water to earth by way of the rains and thus onto the land, rivers, lakes and oceans.

Its symbolism means that she's revered, not just for the water, but for how that water sustains life and also how it brings growth to vegetation and farm lands that follow.

For those reasons, her popularity among the Lao is not surprising since Laos has been historically a nation of agriculture with its subsistence farming, as well as, being geographically in an area of the world that experiences a long dry, hot season.  What better deity to revere than one that brings water to the earth?

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