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Phra Malai (พระมาลัย)

Thai. Name of a legendary Sinhalese monk, who visited the different places of narok, the Buddhist hell. He is always depicted holding a pad bai lahn (fig.), a fan made of a palm leaf, and often whilst floating in the air, overlooking the inferno and horrors of hell below him (fig.). The death in the underworld asked Phra Malai to tell their relatives to live good lives, in order to be saved from the misery and tortures they were experiencing in hell, thus making him their witness and ambassador. He later also visited the heavens and reported all his findings to the human world. In a seemingly unrelated story, perhaps associated with the monk's name, a poor man gave Phra Malai eight lotuses, with the desire to be set free from poverty. Phra Malai took these flowers on the man's behalf to the Tavatimsa heaven, where he offered these flowers to a Buddhist shrine, reminiscent of puang malai, flower garlands used in Thailand as offerings in Buddhist temples. Compare with Nemiraja. Also spelled Phra Malay and sometimes called Phra Malaya.