Despite advancements and modernization, not all industries in Thailand have been replaced with factories and mechanization. The Baan Batt Bowl industry is one of those that have continued to function exactly the same it has for centuries.
In an otherwise ordinary neighbourhood in central Bangkok, there is an extended family of artisans that have been making monk’s alms bowls for 7 generations. If you didn’t know where to look, the neighbourhood would disappear into the labyrinth of repetitive streets and cookie-cutter shop houses. “Baan Batt” translates literally to “bowl village”. It’s the last remaining neighbourhood in Bangkok that makes monk’s alms bowls by hand.
In most industries, progress has made it easier and more profitable for the products to be made in large-scale factory operations. But the bowls made by this family are still hammered out one-by-one every day. The methods have been passed down along the generations since the early 1800’s. That was when King Rama I established the business in this neighbourhood. Each bowl is built from 8 individual pieces of metal that are soldered together. They are then hammered flat, shaped and polished into a finished product.
The current patriarch of the family, Amorn Kuldinksamphan, has been welding the bowls as long as he can remember. He’s currently training his granddaughter to assume his role when he retires. She is still a pre-teen, so that may take a while. Although most monks get their bowls donated to them, tourists often buy the bowls for decorations at home. Perhaps that’s not the original intention, but it is keeping the industry alive.
Ian Robert Knight Photography
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