Eat, Pray, Shop: An Initiative by the Tourist Authority of Thailand
Ratchaprasong Intersection: one of the busiest shopping districts in downtown Bangkok. The City of Angels itself rarely sleeps, and Ratchaprasong is another level entirely. The non-stop buzz of activity between Siam Paragon and Central World, two of Bangkok's biggest and most popular shopping malls is chaotic. Buses and tuk-tuks zip past, and hoards of tourists, students, and business-people hurry along their way, barely pausing for a moment.
But amidst all this, there is a sacred secret: eight great shrines to various Hindu deities scattered throughout the area. Although the TAT (Tourist Authority of Thailand) promotes a sort of pilgrimage walk to each shrine along the Ratchaprasong Intersection, busy people rarely have time to make the commitment to visit and pray at each.
Step away from the shopping malls and into a more spiritual world on this mini pilgrimage to visit and pray at each of downtown Bangkok's eight holy shrines.
1. Indra Shrine
The God of Thunder
Indra is the Hindu god of lightning, thunder, and the heavens, and is the king of the gods. He is the remover of obstacles and the bringer of happiness.
Indra is also revered in Buddhism as the god who encouraged the Buddha to become a teacher to mankind, and he is seen as a protector and defender. Indra even appears on the seal of the City of Bangkok, riding his great elephant (Erawan). In fact, the ceremonial name of Bangkok refers to the city as "given by Indra".
Needless to say, Indra is very important and popular within Thai Buddhism.
Location of the Indra Shrine
The Indra Shrine is located at the corner of Amarin Plaza, just down the stairs from the BTS Skytrain Chitlom Station.
What to do at the Indra Shrine
Visitors to the Indra Shrine can buy marigold flowers and incense from an attendant at the shrine to give as an offering. Pray at the shrine for prosperity and protection from evil.
2. Erawan Shrine
Shrine of Lord Brahma the Great - The God of Creation
The Erawan Shrine is a Bangkok landmark. Officially, the shrine is the spirit house of the Erawan Hotel (Grand Hyatt Erawan), another Bangkok Landmark. It's become so much more, however.
During its construction in 1956, the Erawan Hotel was plagued by misfortune, setbacks, and bad luck. In a desperate attempt to ward off this negative karma, the management consulted an astrologer, who suggested the construction of a magnificent shrine to the four-faced god of creation, Brahma (in Thai: Phra Prom). This shrine is one of only a few shrines to Brahma in the world.
The Erawan Shrine is lively, colorful, and incredibly popular. Visitors offer marigold garlands, incense, and candles, and pray for protection and the clearing of obstacles. The statue has four faces, one facing in each cardinal direction.
Location of the Erawan Shrine
The Erawan Shrine is located in front of the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel, at the corner of Ratchadamri Road, Between BTS Chitlom and Siam Stations.
What to do at the Erawan Shrine
A troupe of traditional Thai dancers will perform a dance as a prayer for worshipers kneeling and facing the shrine; a unique and beautiful spiritual ritual. If you make a donation and queue up, you can hire the dancers for a prayer honoring Brahma.
There are plenty of vendors around the shrine selling all sort of items for offerings.
3. Narayana Shrine
The God of Protection
The Shrine of Narayana atop Garuda stands in front of the Hotel Intercontinental, offering protection and deflecting evil spirits.
Narayana is another name for Vishnu, the Preserver.
Garuda, the great eagle, is a symbol of royal power in Thailand.
Location of the Narayana Shrine
The Narayana Shrine is located across the road from the Erawan and Indra Shrines in front of the Hotel Intercontinental. Go up and over the sky bridge to reach this shrine. The Narayana Shrine is part of a fountain in front of the hotel.
What to do at the Narayana Shrine
The shrine is fairly quiet. Visitors leave offerings of small cups of water, flowers, incense, and fruit and pray for protection from evil, as Narayana is believed to bring spiritual balance.
4. Lakshmi Shrine
The Goddess of Wealth and Fortune
Lakshmi is the consort of Narayana, and the goddess of wealth and fortune. Tucked away in a quiet corner of Gaysorn Plaza's roof, the Lakshmi Shrine can be a bit hard to find. She stands, a golden statue clad in pink robes, looking out over Bangkok, protecting businesses and offering good fortune.
Location of the Lakshmi Shrine
The Lakshmi Shrine can be a little hard to find if you don't know where to look. Unlike the other shrines on this list, the Lakshmi and Jatulokbal Shrines are not on the street, but rather high above the city on a rooftop. The shrine is located on the 4th floor rooftop terrace of the Gaysorn Plaza shopping center. To reach the shrine, enter Gaysorn Plaza (next to the Hotel Intercontinental) and take the elevator to the 4th floor. From the outdoor terrace, the Lakshmi Shrine is on the corner to the left looking out across the city.
What to do at the Lakshmi Shrine
Lakshmi is said to like pink. People leave offerings of pink lotus blossoms, incense, and coins, and pray for an increase in luck, wealth, and prosperity.
5. Jatulokbal Shrine
The God of Directions
Lord Tao Jatulokbal is a combination of four gods, the "Four Heavenly Kings", into one statue, each representing one cardinal direction. He preserves the teachings of Buddhism and protects the humans on earth.
Location of the Jatulokbal Shrine
The Jatukokbal Shrine is also on the 4th floor terrace at Gaysorn Plaza. From the Lakshmi Shrine, keep going as the terrace wraps around the building to find the Jatulokbal Shrine, also looking out over Bangkok.
What to do at the Jatulokbal Shrine
Visitors can pray for luck, power, protection, and prosperity by lighting incense. If you are going on a trip, you can ask for protection, as Jatulokbal looks out over every direction.
6. Umathevi Shrine
The Goddess of Compassion
The Umathevi Shrine is dedicated to the goddess of compassion. Women especially pray here for success and leadership.
Location of the Umathevi Shrine
The Umathevi Shrine is located in front of Big C Supercenter, across from Central World shopping mall. From Gaysorn Plaza, exit the building and turn right towards Big C. This large shrine is easy to spot, just in front of the entrance to the shopping center.
What to do at the Umathevi Shrine
You can leave flowers, fruit, and incense as an offering. Signs at the shrine say not to leave clothes or meat as offerings.
7. Trimurti Shrine
The God of Love
The Trimurti Shrine represents the unity of the three great gods of Hinduism: Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma. In Thailand, Trimurti is the god of love. This shrine was constructed to balance out the power from the Brahma Shrine at the Erawan Hotel across the street, but has been moved further down the road in years since.
Location of the Trimurti Shrine
Cross the street from Big C to Central World, one of the largest shopping malls in Bangkok. The Trimurti and Ganesh Shrines are right next to each other in front of the mall, at the entrance to Isetan Department Store. The Trimurti Shrine is to the left, and the Ganesh Shrine is to the right.
What to do at the Trimurti Shrine
Heartbroken? Lonely? Offer red roses, available from the vendors near the shrine, to the god of love.
Couples can pray for success in their relationship, and lonely singles can pray for luck in love. Many flower vendors set up shop around the shrine, which is especially popular in the evenings. Trimurti is said to be especially receptive to answering prayers on Tuesday and Thursday nights.
8. Ganesh Shrine
The God of Wisdom and Success
The final shrine on this small pilgrimage is the Shrine to Ganesh, located just adjacent to the Trimurti Shrine. Ganesh is the elephant-headed god of success, and is especially popular with students, teachers, and other professions requiring wisdom.
Location of the Ganesh Shrine
The Ganesh Shrine is also in front of Central World, just to the right of the Trimurti Shrine. Both shrines can be found just outside the entrance to Isetan Department Store at Central World shopping mall.
What to do at the Ganesh Shrine
Offer marigold garlands, fruit, incense, or Thai snacks (such as incense) to Ganesh and pray for luck and blessings of wisdom and creative inspiration.
Visit the official Ratchaprasong District website to download a free PDF ebook guide and map to each shrine.