History and museums
The Erawan Shrine, formally the Thao Maha Phrom Shrine (Thai: ศาลท้าวมหาพรหม; rtgs: San Thao Maha Phrom; "Shrine of Lord Brahma the Great"), is a Hindu shrine in Bangkok, Thailand, that houses a statue of Phra Phrom, the Thai representation of the Hindu god of creation Lord Brahma. A popular worship attraction, it often features performances by resident Thai dance troupes, who are hired by worshippers in return for seeing their prayers at the shrine answered.
On 17 August 2015, a bomb exploded near the shrine, killing 20 and injuring 125 more.
The shrine is located by the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel, at the Ratchaprasong intersection of Ratchadamri Road in Pathum Wan district. It is near the Bangkok Skytrain's Chitlom Station, which has an elevated walkway overlooking the shrine. The area has many shopping malls nearby, including Gaysorn, CentralWorld and Amarin Plaza.
Five other shrines dedicated to Hindu deities are located in the area as well: Phra Laksami (Lakshmi), Phra Trimurati (Trimurti), Phra Khanet (Ganesha), Phra In (Indra), and Phra Narai Song Suban (Narayana on his garuda).
The Erawan Shrine was built in 1956 as part of the government-owned Erawan Hotel to eliminate the bad karma believed caused by laying the foundations on the wrong date.
The hotel's construction was delayed by a series of mishaps, including cost overruns, injuries to laborers, and the loss of a shipload of Italian marble intended for the building. Furthermore, the Ratchaprasong intersection had once been used to put criminals on public display.
An astrologer advised building the shrine to counter the negative influences. The Brahma statue was designed and built by the Department of Fine Arts and enshrined on 9 November 1956. The hotel's construction thereafter proceeded without further incident. In 1987, the hotel was demolished and the site used for the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel.
In the early hours of 21 March 2006, the shrine was vandalised by a Thai man believed to be mentally ill. After smashing the statue with a hammer, 27-year-old Thanakorn Pakdeepol was beaten to death by angry bystanders. Two street sweepers who worked for the Pathum Wan District office were arrested and charged with the fatal beating.
Witnesses said Thanakorn stood on the base of the statue with a large hammer in his hands, and smashed the Brahma hollow statue to pieces. The deity's four-faced head, torso, six arms and weapons were fragmented. Only part of the lap and base of the statue were left intact. The incident occurred at about 01:00. A white cloth was put up to conceal the absence of the statue. The shrine was closed to the public for some time, but officials later reopened the site, displaying photographs of the statue so that worshippers could continue to pay their respects.
During an autopsy of Thanakorn Pakdeepol, the vandal who destroyed the revered statue, doctors found Arabic characters tattooed on his back and arms, prompting police to investigate whether the attack had a religious motive and if Thanakorn or his family had any ties to Muslim extremists. However, the slain man's father, Sayant Pakdeepol, said his son had received treatment for psychiatric problems in recent years and that mental illness was the cause for the attack. Sayant called the beating to death of his son an "overreaction". "Doing something like this is not the act of people with good beliefs, of those with real faith in Brahma", Sayant was quoted as saying by The Nation. "Murder is an immoral act and people with morality would not have done what they did".
In the days following the incident at Erawan Shrine, embattled Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra visited and paid his respects to the broken statue of the deity.
The new Brahma statue was completed and placed in the shrine on 21 May 2006 at 11:39, the time the sun was shining directly above the shrine. According to officials with the Religious Affairs Department and the Maha Brahma Foundation, it was made of plaster, mixed with a mixture of gold, bronze and other precious metals, along with pieces of the old statue. Another statue, made wholly of metal, was cast from the same mold, and will be kept in the national museum.
At an anti-Thaksin rally on 22 March, government critic Sondhi Limthongkul charged that the destruction of the statue was a plot by a superstitious Thaksin who was seeking to maintain power through black magic. The vandal's father dismissed that notion, and was quoted by The Nation as saying that Sondhi "is the biggest liar I have ever seen." Thaksin, when asked to comment on Sondhi's accusations, simply replied: "That's insane."
On 17 August 2015, at 18:55 local time, an explosive device detonated near Erawan Shrine, killing 20 people and injuring 125. Bomb disposal units checked two suspicious objects but found no other bombs. As of 26 August, no one has claimed responsibility for the act and the investigation is ongoing. The bombing is suspected to have been carried out by the Pan-Turkic Turkish ultra-nationalist organization Grey Wolves in retaliation for Thailand's deportation of Uyghur terrorist suspects back to China instead of allowing them to travel to Turkey for asylum.
The bomb was placed in the shrine grounds next to a metal railing. The statue was slightly damaged. Within two days all repairs had been completed and the shrine reopened. Rather than being commended for the swift reopening of the shrine, the government's actions have been subject to criticism. The government's perceived lack of progress in the investigation has stimulated critics to propose a number of theories as to who is responsible for the bombing, including elements of the government itself.