Thailand Travel Tales – Erawan Shrine, Bangkok
Erawan shrine, located in Thailand’s capital Bangkok, came into news last year for unfortunate reasons. A powerful bomb blasted right outside the shrine killing 20 and injuring about 120 others.
I left the newsroom years ago but still there is a part of me which gets moved by news. Mr. B is a news junkie himself. Hence, Erawan shrine was high on the list of places we wanted to visit in Bangkok. I just wanted to go there and see it for myself. Of course, I knew that the blast site would have been rebuilt and the shrine renovated, but still.
The story behind the shrine is quite interesting. In 1950s, Thai government started constructing the luxury Erawan Hotel at Bangkok city’s Ratchaprasong intersection. For a number of reasons, hotel’s construction kept getting delayed. Either it was cost overrun or construction workers getting injured or sinking of ship carrying construction material, something or the other kept hampering with the construction. It was then that a priest was consulted who advised construction of shrine of Phra Phrom or Lord Brahma who is considered as the creator of the universe in Hindu mythology. As the shrine got build in 1956, just like that, the string of misfortunes that the under-construction hotel was going through came to an end.
Since then, the shrine is considered as somewhat of a problem solver. A place where wishes are fulfilled and obstacles removed. All you need to do is to come here and pray.
The shrine though belongs to a Hindu god, is revered by all, Hindu or Buddhist or Thai or non-Thai.
My Travel Tale
We spoke English, almost everybody in Thailand speak Thai. In our entire trip, we found just a handful of people who understood English. And therefore communication was a big problem.
We took a cab to go to the shrine. We kept saying to the driver that we want to go to the “Erawan shrine” or the “Phra Phrom shrine” which is “near Chit Lom station” but he couldn’t understand us. Luckily, we were carrying a tourist map of Bangkok and so we pointed to him where we want to go. To that he replied, “oh Erawan Hotel?” So I guess that is the more popular name for the shrine.
We were dropped at the Erawan Hyatt and the shrine was supposed to be just around 100 metres from there. As I got down from the cab and started walking, I couldn’t figure out where the shrine could be. That place right there is like a concrete jungle. All you can see is rows and rows of building. So where would the shrine be?
However, within a couple of minutes, as we reached the intersection, we were standing right in front of the shrine.
It is beautiful. Idol of the four-faced Lord Brahma in all golden sitting under a sparkling canopy.
And all around him are lotus buds and marigolds and incense and candles and people. There is the constant melody of xylophone in the background coming from the shrine dance troupe. If you want to offer something to Lord Brahma, you can offer him flowers or candles or your prayers through the traditional Thai dance.
The shrine is situated at a busy intersection and yet when I stood there I only felt calm. It was filled with people and yet there was tranquillity. There were huge grey concrete towers all around it and yet the small shrine was shining golden.
There was just something about the place. It was spiritual in a very strange way.
This is first in the series of YellowMellowLife’s Thailand Travel Tales.