What's In A Name? Erawan Shrine:
The Erawan Shrine (often called the Erawan Buddha) must easily be the most famous holy site in all Thailand. In Thai it is called Sam Phra Phrom, meaning the Thai representation of the Hindu creation god Brahma. Countless millions of local devotees, foreign and domestic tourists and other interested parties have flocked to the Hindu shrine since it was constructed more than half a century ago. Once there these visitors either pray, pay their respects, ask for good fortune or make merit. Its popularity has only continued to grow through the decades. Although the site is quite modest in size and scope, it has had an enormous positive effect in spiritually uplifting all the serious devotees who visit the shrine.
The site is also one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country. There are resident classical Thai dance troupes who are employed by worshippers to perform. These dances are done to help worshippers have their prayers answered. The name of the dance they perform is called Ram Ke Bon (“a dance to fulfill one’s vows”). Although commonly called the Erawan Buddha it does not actually contain a statue of Buddha. It is a shrine featuring a statue of the four-faced, six-armed Hindu God Brahma in various hand poses holding objects that include a wheel, vase, conch shell and mirror.
The shrine is situated right outside the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel, at the corner of the Ratchaprasong intersection of Ratchadamri Road and Ploenchit Road in Pathum Wan district, Bangkok. It is very close-by the Bangkok Skytrain’s Chitlom Station. There is an elevated walkway overlooking the shrine. The area has a number of large shopping malls nearby, including CentralWorld, Gaysorn and Amarin Plazas.
Monetary donations made to the shrine are gathered and re-distributed to 265 medical hospitals in the country to aid needy persons for care and treatment. Devotions at the shrine can include lighting incense and candles, offering garlands of flowers, fruit and coconuts, small wooden elephants and money. Gold leaf is also often used.
The Erawan Shrine was constructed as part of the government-owned Erawan Hotel to eliminate the bad karma that was believed to have been caused by laying the foundations of the hotel on the wrong date. The hotel’s construction was held-up by a string of accidents and work stoppages. These numerous mishaps included the sinking of a shipload of Italian marble intended for the building, cost overruns, and injuries to labourers. In the past, the Ratchaprasong Intersection had once been used to put criminals on public display.
One noteworthy astrologer, Rear Admiral Luang Suvicharnpaad, recommended building the shrine to counter all these negative influences. His advice was promptly acted upon. The Brahma statue was designed and built by the Department of Fine Arts and opened on 9 November 1956. The hotel’s construction proceeded without further incidents or delay. In 1987, the hotel was razed and the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel was constructed on the site.
The Brahma statue was designed by Luang Buragrun Kovit. It was crafted using the lost wax method. The statue was made of bronze with a coat of lacquer. It is 0.30 metres high and 0.22 metres wide. The idol faces due north and sits under a structure which has an architecture called the Corbelled Arch Pattern, most likely derived from the Khmer style of Thailand.
In the early hours of 21 March 2006, the shrine was smashed by a Thai man believed to be seriously mentally ill. After destroying the statue with a hammer, 27-year-old Thanakorn Pakdeepol, was quickly beaten to death by angry bystanders. Two street sweepers who worked for the Pathum Wan district office were arrested and charged with the fatal beating.
Witnesses explained Thanakorn stood on the base of the statue with a large hammer in his hands. He then without any warning smashed the hollow statue into pieces. The statue’s four-faced head, torso, six arms and weapons were shattered. Only some of the lap and base of the statue were left intact. The incident occurred at about 1am.
A white cloth was put up to hide the absence of the statue. It was then closed to the public for a period of time. However, officials soon reopened the site, displaying photographs of the statue so worshippers could continue to pay homage.
On 21 May 2006 the new Brahma statue was officially unveiled at the shrine at 11:39 am, the time the sun was shining directly overhead. According to officials the new statue was made of plaster, constructed with a mixture of bronze, gold and other precious metals, along with pieces of the old statue.
Thailand is full of fantastic places to see, check out our article on the historic town of Ayutthaya.