The Mongkol or Mongkon crown is a sacred headdress with a long history steeped in Buddhist traditions. Dating all the way back from a time when Thailand was known as “Siam” and battles were common. The Siamese (Thai) warriors would tear strips of cloth and tie them around their heads and arms before battle. The cloth used was often a talisman, filled with memories from their loved ones and spiritual symbols blessed by a monk to offer the fighter protection, strength and victory in battle. Some fighters would even use scrolls of Buddhist prayers rolled and wrapped around the head. If in battle the Mongkol was felt slipping off the head, the fighter would pull it down and wear it around the neck as a symbol to not lose spiritual strength.
The Mongkol talisman tradition has been carried down in history to the present day where many modern fighters wear the crown into the ring before the fight. The Mongkol is often blessed by a Buddhist monk and each Muay Thai gym usually has only one crown they use with all of their fighters. The crown is considered a sacred object in Thai culture and it is bad luck for it to touch or be near the floor so it is always kept in a prominent place well above the ground. Even when stepping into the ring with the crown it is important to jump over the top ropes so nothing passes over the sacred object.
When the fighter wears the Mongkol and performs the sacred rituals of Wai Kru and Ram Muay, it is considered a physical representation that their fight is really and expression of all the people in their life that have contributed to their accomplishments. It represents the fighters respect and loyalty to their coach, team and family and is only worn by the fighter when ready and willing to show their respect and represent their camp.
The crown is placed on the head of the fighter by the coach before entering the ring. The head being the most sacred part of the body, it is bad luck for the fighter to touch the Mongkol, so it is placed by the coach and a short prayer is uttered at this time. The fighter enters the ring by jumping over the top rope, seals the ring by walking the full perimeter of the ring while holding onto the top rope. This is meant to keep bad luck out and provide a safe place for both competitors. After the ring seal the Wai Kru and Ram Muay dance are performed by the fighter. These rituals are extensions of the loyalty, love and respect the fighter expresses to their coach, family and team. The fighter then walks back to their corner, another short prayer is spoken by the coach and the Mongkol is removed and placed on the post of their corner for good luck. Often the words of prayer spoken by the coach include power and victory for their athlete, and safety for both athletes competing.
Although it was frowned upon for women to wear the Mongkol in history these sentiments are changing and we are seeing many more females in competition with the sacred crown being part of their pre-fight rituals.
It’s a beautiful tradition, one who’s roots lie deep in the love and respect for the coach, gym, family and Muay Thai itself. We hope that it will continue to have it’s place in the ring and that more gyms will understand it’s true meaning.