The story of the shrine
The Erawan Shrine, formally the Thao Maha Phrom Shrine is a shrine in Bangkok, Thailand, which houses a statue of Phra Phrom, the Thai representation of Brahma, the Hindu god of creation. “Erawan” is the Thai name for Airavata, the three-headed elephant that Brahma was said to have ridden. The shrine is near the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel in Pathum Wan District. It is near the BTS Skytrain‘s Chit Lom Station, which has an elevated walkway overlooking the shrine.
The Erawan Shrine was designed and built by the Department of Fine Arts in 1956 as part of the government-owned Erawan Hotel to eliminate the bad karma believed caused by laying the foundations on the wrong date. This reflects the old animist custom in Thailand of erecting “spirit houses” next to buildings to appease spirits potentially displaced by the construction. The hotel’s construction was actually delayed by a series of mishaps, including cost overruns, injuries to laborers, and the loss of a shipload of Italian marble intended for the building. Furthermore, the site had once been used to put criminals on public display. In 1987, the hotel was demolished and the site used for the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel.
In the early hours of 21 March 2006, a young man named Thanakorn Pakdeepol destroyed the statue with a large hammer. He was then beaten to death by angry bystanders. Two street sweepers were arrested and charged with the murder. A new statue of Brahma was built and the shrine was reopened shortly after the attack.
The Erawan Shrine was the target for an attack on August 17, 2015. A pipe bomb detonated at 6:55 p.m. while the shrine was busy. Sadly, 20 people were killed and at least 125 injured. Most of the victims were Asian tourists.
Why people visit
The god has four faces, and each one is said to represent some type of good fortune. People pray to him for everything from a new child to a lottery ticket.
This Brahman shrine is said to continue to bring those who visit good luck, and that it will grant any visitor a wish. Throughout the day (and night), you’ll often see crowds paying their respects, presenting flowers and incense sticks, fruits, and teakwood elephants.
The traditional dancers often seen near the shrine actually aren’t there to attract or entertain tourists—although they do both. They are hired by worshipers who hope to gain merit or give thanks for prayers answered.
Another good luck ritual that happens at the site is that of the release of doves or other birds.
The shrine is most crowded with visitors at about sunset when Thais make a quick pit stop to the shrine after a day of work and tourists venture here in hopes of catching one of the traditional Thai dance performances.
Cash contributions are managed by a foundation that regularly distributes funds to charitable organisations and provides equipment for hospitals in Thailand’s many provinces.