Thailand's Rich and Ancient History of Women in Buddhism

Thailand has a rich and ancient history of women in Buddhism, from the 3rd century BCE, when Asokan-era arahant missionaries Sona and Uttara Thera came from India to the ancient land of Suvarnabhumi first sharing the Buddha's teaching, ordaining more than 3,000 noble men and 1,500 noble women as bhikkhus and bhikkhunis. This was the foundation of Buddhism in Thailand, where Buddhism is still very much alive and flourishing to this day, with more than 90% of the population being Buddhists of the Theravada School. Thailand also has many Chinese-Thai Mahayana Buddhists, and an old and recently reviving history of Vajrayana Buddhism. The ancient land of Survarnamubhumi or Suvannabhumi in the Pali-Buddhist language -- the Land of Gold -- used to include all of Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and the South of Vietnam and China.

This blog showcases a little of the immense wealth of the rich heritage and history of Thailand's Buddhist women - and of all of the Thai people and culture - from ancient to modern times. We hope you enjoy your Women in Buddhism Tour here and during your stay in Thailand!

(If you enjoy this blog, please be sure to read the "Older Posts" - click link at the bottom of this page. Most more recent posts are focused around Bangkok and Ayutthaya. Older posts are mostly from further afield upcountry in Thailand's Northeast and Northwest.)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Nirotharam Vipassana Meditation Center - Chom Tong, Chiang Mai


Nirotharam is an arama (monastic garden or park) for nirodha (the end of suffering). Nirotharam is a women's monastic vipassana practice community outside the city of Chom Tong in the region of Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. It is located in a reforested by Maechee Rung and her nuns years ago surrounded by orchards and the nearby mountain forests. It is not far from Doi Inthanon, the highest peaks in Thailand.

Phra Ajahn Nanthayani is the founder of the Nirotharam community. She is an eminent and skilled Dhamma teacher of many years.

Her community of nuns at Nirotharam developed over decades before she and several others nuns decided to go to Sri Lanka first for samaneri ordination, and then two years later, to be fully ordained as bhikkhunis.

These nuns were brave and faithful to go for full bhikkhuni ordination in Sri Lanka, as bhikkhuni ordination is not common for Thai women in these days, although the popularity of ordination is slowly increasing.

You can see a lovely series of three videos of Loung Mae Nanthayani and a group of the Nirotharam nuns samaneri pabbaja or "going forth" in Sri Lanka here.

Many women and girls come to Nirotharam to study Dhamma and practice meditation. Retreatants wear white and keep the eight uposatha precepts.

Women wishing to enter into monastic life may undertake the eight precepts or go forth as samaneris or novices with the bhikkhuni sangha.

There are meditation retreats at Nirotharam year round. Phra Ajahn Nanthayani teachings Dhamma from the Pali Canon and the vipassana meditation tradition also taught by Loung Por Tong of Wat Phrathat Si Chom Tong in the nearby countryside city of Chom Tong. This method of vipassana meditation was developed in Burma and is widely practiced in the Chiang Mai area.

Nirotharam bhikkhunis are an alms mendicant monastic community and live in kutis scattered nearby along paths through the trees. They go for pindapat (almsround) to their local village daily and study and practice the precepts of the Bhikkhuni Vinaya together as a sangha.

Nirotharam: 127 Moo 6, T. Doi Kaew, Chom Thong, Chiang Mai 50160
Tel: 084-8042040.

Suttha Jit (Nirotharam 2nd branch) 88 / 1 Moo 9, Luang Nua, A. Doi Saket, Chiang Mai
Tel: 081-2055416.


  1. Dear Maechee Kanya Sombut,
    My name is Lim from Singapore. I would like to visit Nirotharam Meditation Center in April. May I know how to get there from Chiangmai. Please advise.
    Your prompt response is greatly appreciated.

    With metta

  2. Dear Lim, please email nirotharam[at]gmail[dot]com for the information. Have a good visit!

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. Hello, Thank you so much for this very useful post! I have visited Nirotharam in Chom Thong district, and I would like to come back in order to stay for a vipassana retreat. I think I should better go to the other branch - apparently designed for westerners (so english speaking). Do you know how could I reach the center and ask for details about retreat for westeners? Thank you :)

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