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Nang Usa-Thao Barot (นางอุษา-ท้าวบารส)

Thai. Name of a folk tale that is set in Udonthani and which describes the love story between Nang Usa, the daughter of the Phraya Phaan, the ruler of the city Meuang Phaan, and Thao Barot (ท้าวบารส). Phraya Phaan took his daughter to a hermit, who lived near a mountain in the forest, in order for her to be educated in science. She lived there alone in a mushroom-shaped earthen pillar, which the local population referred to as Ho Nang Usa (หอนางอุสา), i.e. ‘Nang Usa's Tower’. One day, striving to find true love, Usa made a flower arrangement in the shape of a hongse, i.e. a mythological swan (fig.), in which she hid a love message. She took this to the river and set it afloat on the water. Thao Barot, a prince from the city Meuang Phra Kho, retrieved the flower arrangement and upon reading the message, he immediately fell in love with Nang Usa. Hence, he left his hometown on his beloved horse, searching the forest until he arrived at Usa's tower. There, he tied his horse on a stone pillar, which consequently became known as Khok Mah Thao Barot (คอกม้าท้าวบารส), i.e. the Thao Barot Horse Stable’. When the couple finally met, they loved each other instantly. However, when the news of their affair reached Phraya Phaan, the father was outraged and challenged Thao Barot by putting forth a wager, in which they were to compete in building a temple, which had to be finished before the planet Venus would rise, or else would have their heads cut off. However, it was Phraya Phaan's side who lost the wager and the latter hence quickly took back his pledge. Consequently, Thao Barot had to fight Phraya Phaan, who he killed in the process, thus saddening Nang Usa over her father's death. When she eventually moved to Meuang Phra Kho with Thao Barot, she was ill-treated by the 10 other consorts of the prince, who conspired against her and plotted a scheme, sending the prince away to the forest for a year. Thus, Usa returned to her tower, where she died of sadness, heartbroken and disillusioned in her quest for love. The tower and other sites mentioned in the story are found in Phu Phrabaht (ภูพระบาท) Historical Park, located in the tambon Meuang Phaan, amphur Ban Pheu (บ้านผื), in Udonthani, and appear on a set of Thai postage stamps issued in 2006 (fig.), while a full-size replica of Ho Nang Usa, the mushroom-shaped earthen pillar, is also found in Meuang Boraan.