The Erawan Shrine has an interesting history that is linked to a government-owned project started in 1956 to construct the Erawan Hotel. Before completion, the project met with a slew of misfortunes. Several workers died in the initial construction stages and labourers became reluctant to work on the site as they came to believe an evil spirit was casting a shadow over the area.
Most ominous of all, a ship transporting marble from Italy for the hotel’s construction sank at sea, delaying the construction and the budget overshot badly. The mishap further strengthened the belief that the site was inauspicious.
An astrologer then advised project managers to construct a shrine to counter negative influences. Although Erawan, which had already been chosen as the hotel’s name, is the elephant who carries the god Indra, the astrologer proposed constructing a shrine to Brahma, to whom this animal is also considered to be very dear.
Hence a site at the corner of the Erawan Hotel was selected and an image of the deity was placed facing north, and consecrated. The four-faced Brahma figure was then designed and built by the Department of Fine Arts and finally enshrined on 9 November 1956. Thereafter, the hotel’s construction went ahead unimpeded without further incidents.
The hotel itself survived until 1987, when it was demolished to make way for the Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok hotel that stands there today, but the shrine has remained and its fame continued to grow as a remover of obstacles. The shrine today is a meeting point of religion, astrology and history.
The script of the scriptures, Sewa Bhattarai
One recent morning, dental nurse Siwiwan Nuchikaew offered marigold flowers to Brahma, and spoke of her deep reverence and connection to the shrine.
“Just before I entered nursing school six years ago, my father developed heart disease and my mother disappeared,” recalled Siwiwan, who was then working at a 7Eleven store to take care of her two younger sisters and her father the best she could. But she sank into depression, and started having suicidal thoughts.
One day, while wandering aimlessly through the streets, she stopped by chance in front of the shrine and saw many people praying. Without really knowing who Brahma was at the time, she joined them to pray for her father to recover and for help to become a nurse.
Amazingly, she said, a few months later her father started to feel better, her mother returned, and she was admitted to nursing school. The place where she had prayed was the Erawan Shrine, and since then Siwiwan has visited every month to give thanks.
There are always circumstances and events beyond human will, and many people ultimately turn to God for help. For Thais, and perhaps even for many of the foreign tourists who come here, the Erawan shrine is the place to tell their story to Brahma in the hope that their wishes will be fulfilled.
And as Thailand reinstated restrictions on movement after new cases of Covid-19 were detected this week, the prayers will be for the country and the world to come out of this crisis quickly.
Buddhist relics in western Nepal, Sewa Bhattarai