Bangkok Shrines and Spirit Houses
A stroll around Bangkok has many surprises in store. Despite being a modern, cosmopolitan metropolis with skyscrapers, a sophisticated Skytrain system and mega-malls that feed a consumerism culture like those of most big cities in the world, it's got its own very unique edge, like shrines and spirit houses.
Common throughout Thailand, spirit houses can be found outside almost every house and building. The doll house-sized homes are set atop a pedestal and placed in an auspicious location, which allows residents, workers and others to offer prayers and small gifts to appease spirits, represented by doll-sized human figures, or perhaps a small figurine of Buddha.
Shrines, on the other hand, are places of worship where you'd go to pay respect to sacred religious icons in Buddhism (especially Brahma infleunces) and Hinduism, who in turn could grant you love, happiness, good fortune, success, luck or even fertility.
Shrines and Spirit Houses in Bangkok
Erawan Shrine in Bangkok is Brahman, not strictly Buddhist. And yet, this famous shrine attracts more visitors than many of the city's temples. It was erected during the mid 1950s, after the Thai government had decided to build the luxury Erawan Hotel on this location. However, the first stages of the construction were beset with so many problems that superstitious labourers refused to continue unless the land spirits were appeased. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 06:00-24:00
- Location: In front of Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel, corner of Ploenchit and Ratchadamri Road
- BTS: Chidlom
Directly adjacent to Trimurti stands another important Hindu shrine, this time for Ganesha, the son of Shiva and Parvati. Ganesha is considered a master of intellect and wisdom, and visitors here seek to be blessed with artistic success and accomplishment. The deity is one of the more recognizable (at least for non-Hindus) because of his elephant head, human components (many arms), elements of serpents, and the big belly that it is depicted with. His attendant is a mouse. Ganesha is often linked to the field of arts, but is, in fact, the Destroyer of Obstacles. Craftsmen would invoke Ganesha before embarking on a delicate process like stone carving, hence the link with the arts. He is also believed to be the god of good fortune, and revered by businessmen who wish for success in their ventures. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 24 hours
- Location: 999/9 Rajdamri Road, in front of CentralWorld
- BTS: Chidlom
"Pii Maak khaaa," Mae Nak wailed, desperately calling and reaching out to Maak, her husband from a different realm. This is, perhaps, one of the most memorable lines in the history of Thai TV drama based on a well-known folk tale, 'Mae Nak Prakanong' (Mother Nak of Prakanong District). Most Thai love tales often end in tragedy, usually with the death of either a male or female protagonist, like the legend of Sarasin Love Bridge, which tells a story of star-crossed lovers who, together, decided to jump off Sarasin Bridge (the bridge connecting Phuket to the mainland) in hopes of reuniting in their next lives. The tale of Mae Nak is no different, except that death isn't necessarily the end of everything... Read More...
- Location: Wat Maha But, On Nut, Sukhumvit 77
- How to get there: Take the BTS to On Nut station. Maha But Temple is located about 900 metres down Sukhumvit Soi 77. The temple is at the end of Soi 7
Literally hundreds of penises (phalluses) - from small wooden carvings to big stone sculptures that stand ten feet tall and decorated with ribbons - make this shrine quite unique. It honors Chao Mae Tubtim, a female fertility spirit. Women visit this shrine when they are trying to conceive, leaving offerings of lotus and jasmine. And if rumours can be believed, the shrine has a good success rate. Read More...
- Location: Grounds of the Swissotel Nai Lert Hotel, Chidlom-Ploenchit
- BTS: Chitlom
If you've been to Bangkok, you've seen them. They're everywhere! Beside houses, offices, schools, car dealerships, construction sites, trees, demolished buildings, malls and even high-rise office towers - very little that sits still and points up in Bangkok escapes the company of a cute little spirit house. If you've spent some time near one, you'll also have seen locals giving them a deferential 'wai' before heading on their way, or delivering daily offerings at the doorways of these elaborate constructions - gifts of food, incense, flowers, figurines and candles.
An understanding of the spirit house demands firstly an understanding of how deeply superstitious and spiritual Thais are. Around 97% are Buddhist, but their supernatural inclinations are deeply entwined with Animism and Hinduism. Many elements of these distinct belief systems demand daily prayers and religious ceremonies in Thailand, and aside from the teachings of Lord Buddha, many Thais believe in local spirits, land gods, tree nymphs, wayward ghosts, 'nagas' (mythical water snakes) and Hindu deities, among many other kinds of celestials. Read More...
On Thursday evening at 21:30 is when lovelorn singles wearing red turn to Trimurti, the god of love, with offerings of red roses - all in the name of love, and in the hope that they will meet their eternal sweethearts. The shrine is a landmark in front of CentralWorld, and was recently slightly moved (at great expense) to make way for recent renovations. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 24 hours
- BTS: Chidlom or Siam
- Address: 999/9 Rajdamri Road, in front of CentralWorld
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