Temple on the Go: The Erawan Shrine in Bangkok
The bustling streets of Bangkok offer a religious gem alongside the food carts and the tuk tuks that we all know and love. Erawan Shrine is essential for any tourist visiting Bangkok.
Walking down a typical Bangkok street you’ll see a microcosm of urban life. Commuters swarm around you and hawkers shout their wares, buses careen through the traffic and the skytrains buzz along overhead. But head to one of the city’s busiest intersections and you’ll find an unexpected religious treat waiting for you out on the street. You’ve found the Erawan Shrine, a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Brahma.
“Erawan” is the Thai name for the three-headed elephant Airavata, which Brahma was said to have ridden in Indian folklore. The shrine itself is a bit of a mix between Thai and Indian styles and is a mecca for camera-touting tourists and devout locals, but what’s the deal and why is it here?
History of Erawan Shrine
The shrine sits on the intersection outside the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel, near Chitlom. When construction started on the hotel in 1956, a series of mishaps befell the site. Workers were injured and on occasions killed, and astrologers started to get nervous that the building had been started on an inauspicious date in the Buddhist calendar. The spirits needed to be appeased!
Enter the Thai notion of constructing a protective ‘Spirit House’ to protect a building and its residents. The Erawan Shrine was built to please the Gods, and make sure that the hotel was a big success. It worked! The accidents ceased and the hotel has prospered ever since.
Making a Visit
Unlike many Bangkok attractions (we’re looking at you, Grand Palace!) you don’t have to save hours of your time to visit the Erawan Shrine. Many commuters pop past for a five minute prayer on the way to work, and you can probably soak up all it has to offer within an hour. Locals claim that the most powerful time for prayers at Erawan are between 6-7pm to get prayers answered, but you should feel free to visit at any time. It’s coolest in the early mornings but you’ll be sharing the space with that commuting crowd. Still, it’s a recipe for a good atmosphere!
If you’re lucky you may find that your visit coincides with a performance by the temple’s resident dance troupe; if you’re rich then you can commission one yourself! Start your visit at the entrance and move clockwise around the four faces of the shrine. The front view represents business and wealth, the left represents wisdom, the back is for health and the right is for relationship and interpersonal issues. Pray hardest at the one most relevant to you!
How to Get to Erawan Shrine
The shrine is right outside the Grant Hyatt Erawan Hotel, at the Ratchaprasong point of Ratchadamri Road. If you’re on the BTS then head to Chit Lom station and look out for signs to the hotel. It’s free to visit and is accessible from 6am to 11pm.
As we’ve said, the shrine doesn’t make for a full day trip to why not add in a visit to Jim Thompson’s house or Lumphini Park to see the monitor lizards while you’re in the area? They’re close by and will round off your Bangkok sightseeing trip nicely.