The Erawan Shrine in Bangkok attracts lots of worshipers and believers to pay respects to Phra Phrom God, who is the Thai version of the Hindu God – Thao Maha Brahma, also known commonly as the “Four-Faced Buddha” .
Phra Phrom God is commonly worshiped in Thailand as he is linked with prosperity and protection. I’ve seen many Phra Phrom shrines during my few days in Thailand, mostly in the courtyards of commercial buildings.
Phra Phrom God at Erawan Shrine is particularly famed because it is thought to be efficacious – granting wishes to worshipers, be it cure a terminal disease, promotion at work or strike the lottery, and thereby gaining believers that are not only Thai locals, but also from the Chinese community in China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Macau and Singapore.
When you do a prayer, offerings such as lit incense, candles and fresh flowers are given.
When you make a wish – you must simultaneously make a vow to Phra Phrom God, telling him how you will show your gratitude or repay offerings when your wish is granted. The vow must be redeemed once your wish come true. Do keep the vow within your capabilities. I hope I have explained it correctly in English. The explanation seems very lengthy but it boils down to two simple words in Chinese that describe this process “还愿” (huan yuan), which also applies to Buddhism, literally meaning “to return the wish”. As superstitious as it may sound, when deity is involved, I choose to believe rather than not.
At the end of prayers, worshipers wash their hands with (holy?) water.
When your prayers are answered, depending on what you have told Phra Phrom God, whether it’s to become vegetarian for a year, or giving wooden elephants as offerings, the vow is redeemed. You might notice there are some dancers for hire and wooden elephants in the compound, which are for the particular use of “repaying the offering”.
The story of how the shrine came about was that the Thai government constructed the Erawan Hotel in the 1950’s unfortunately on an inauspicious date, causing accidents and injuries during the construction period. After consulting an astrologer, the shrine was built to counteract the unexplained ominous forces. The Erawan Hotel no longer exists today and the Grand Hyatt Erawan hotel currently occupies the same site.
Aerial view of Erawan Shrine from the BTS Sky Train Chitlom Station.