The most famous Shrine of the city is located at the busy downtown Ratchaprasong intersection, between major hotels and shopping centers, a hospital and many offices. The shrine was named after the three-headed white elephant that carries Indra the Hindu god, Airaavatha, Erawan in Thai. The shrine is a golden statue of Phra Phrom the four-faced Thai representation of Brahma the god of creation and one of the Hindu Trinity Gods. Thousands of believers every day, both Thai and foreigners mainly from South East Asia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Chinese pray at the shrine to seek blessings. Phra Phrom is venerated by Thai people who make wishes for everything, a new child, job, good health, to find love, a winning lottery ticket number. A friend of mine since the first trip to Bangkok go to pay is respect because years ago he made a wish and that worked, and not only once, he is a believer and even bought a Phra Phrom statue back home.
Hotel and the Astrologer
The works of the Erawan Hotel started in 1953, around 50 meters behind where is the shrine now. Construction of the hotel was behind time by a series of misadventure, injuries, over budget and the loss of an Italian freight of marble designed for the building frightened the Thai workers who believed because of unhappy spirits and angry ghosts (criminals had been executed in the past at the same place by the government) stopped their work. The unfortunate contractor not knowing what to do consulted a well-respected astrologer who explained the reasons for the problems was due to the chosen date for the laying foundation of the first stone. Also, a shrine in honor of Brahma to ward off misfortune was built and inaugurated on a well-chosen date this time, November 9, 1956. Work resumed without incidents and the building was quickly built, which contributed to the legend of the power of the Erawan four-faced Hindu god. Taken over in the 90s by the Hyatt company, the Erawan Hotel was demolished and rebuilt but the shrine was saved and the new hotel was named Grand Hyatt Erawan.
Plenty of Thais believe that there’s a divinity or god inhabit in every parcel of land, and before any construction at a propitious date are holding a ceremony to lay the foundation to soothe the divinity. When the work has finished a shrine is raised at an auspicious location on the plot of land containing a spirit house, where the chosen divinity will be sheltered, which explains the spirit houses in front of many Thai houses and buildings.
On the morning of 21 March 2006, a mentally ill man smashed the statue of Brahma. workers who happened to be there beat him to death on the spot and two street sweepers were charged with this crime. The statue of golden plaster was replaced a few weeks later by a metal statue, containing gold and silver, as well as fragments of the original. Another duplicate was cast in the same molding is now in the National Museum.
On the evening 17 August 2015 the shrine was crowded inside and outside with worshippers, curious and the usual spectators on the close aerial skywalk when they heard a loud explosion of a bomb. The statue not been much damaged but the numbers of victims were, 20 dead including 12 foreigners and 125 injured. None of the dancers and musicians were hurt. The suspect was arrested a few weeks later.
A Car in the Shrine
July 2016 a lady driving has epilepsy seizure and lost control of her vehicle and finished her race in the Shrine. Seven persons were injured.
Dancers are one of Erawan’s attractions, but they are there to make money, that’s their job. If wishes have been fulfilled the devotee return to complete the wow and hire dancers to perform ram Kae bon to thank the god, the dances are from traditional Thai songs with blessing lyrics and last no more than three minutes backed by the beating of a double-sided drum and Thai xylophone. A professional dancer has to know how to perform correctly more than 20 songs. Only two groups of dancers are performing at the Erawan who recruit a few dancers and because of the good pay which can be over 1000 baht/day depending on the number of songs performed, rare are those who want to leave this job, many are there till their late thirties. Hire dancers one can choose from 2, 4, 6 or 8 of them. Prices as shown. About 260 and 720 baht.
It also provides some work for the flower’s seller, incense, candles, and small religious statues. Outside they sell garlands, lottery tickets, and caged birds that people can release after paying a few baht – the birds will either die in the wild or get caught again. Since March 2018, believers can no longer light incense and candles, but still being sold. I think the dancers and musicians appreciate this new rule.
How to Pray
Start from the front, the side that’s facing the entrance and go clockwise. After making a wish, at each face place one garland before the 3 joss sticks. The candle is for the face where you want to make the wish that matter most to you and must be placed BEFORE, then continue your prayer, place your garland and the joss sticks. One of my Thai friends told me that the best time to pray is in the evening around 18.00-19.00, it is the right time when the wishes are most likely to be granted. Each face is oriented toward one of the cardinal directions and represent different elements.
Front view: Business and Wealth
Left-hand side: Wisdom
Back view: Health
Right-hand side: Relationship and interpersonal
In a more figurative sense, the four faces represent the four main qualities of a human being, mind, intellect, ego and self-confidence.
It is interesting to spend some time in the relaxing atmosphere with this incessant ballet of worshippers and the graceful dancers. Although nobody will pay attention to you, please respect the persons, just keep a distance when they pray. Erawan remains a spiritual oasis in the middle of this business and shopping centers environment. But be careful it doesn’t stop the pickpockets.
Where is it?
BTS Chidlom station then elevated skywalk down to Ratchaprasong and take the stairs to the left at Amarin Plaza
Open. 06.00 to 24.00
I hope this will be useful to you in planning your next trip to Bangkok. If you have any questions, I will be more than happy to help you out