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.
Women will return if their wish is fulfilled, and place yet another phallus at the shrine in thanks. Little is known about the origins of the shrine, which now stands on the grounds of the Swissotel Nai Lert Hotel in the heart of Bangkok. It can only be recalled that a spirit house was built by Nai Lert, for the spirit who was believed to reside in the large Sai (Ficus) tree.
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Offerings of fragrant Jasmine garlands, incense sticks or lotus buds are commonly placed at the shrine. The star attractions here are the phalluses though. Confronted by this extraordinary and hidden-away display makes many first-time visitors (tourists) blush, considering that Thai people have such a gentle and polite nature. But sexual imagery, as a matter of fact, is not uncommon in Thailand.
Much of modern Buddhism has its roots in India's ancient Hinduism, and many spiritual rituals and symbols are shared by both religions. These particular phalluses ('lingams') have their origins from the fabled Hindu god Shiva, and are sold at many markets as good luck amulets, or for protection. They are also believed to have some mystical influence over the cash-flow of businesses, so don't be surprised if you spot one lying discreetly next to a cash register - or even dangling perhaps from the rear-view mirror of a taxi.
The Phallus Shrine
- Location: Grounds of the Swissotel Nai Lert Hotel, Chidlom-Ploenchit
- BTS: Chitlom