Restored Brahma Deity to be Reinstalled in Thailand
BY: STAFF CORRESPONDENT
May 02, THAILAND (THAI DAY) In the early hours of March 21, 2006, the golden statue of the much-revered Brahma creator god was completely destroyed by a mentally disturbed individual. Following the incident, the Erawan Shrine was sealed off. Thailand's caretaker government ordered a swift restoration of the Thao Maha Brahma statue. The restoration effort is being jointly undertaken by the Culture and Interior Ministries, the Thao Maha Brahma Foundation and the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel. The Erawan Shrine re-opened on March 23 to enable the public to pay respects to the remains of the much-revered statue of Brahma, known as Phra Prom in Thai.
The committee overseeing the restoration of the Thao Maha Phrom statue has recently announced that restoration of the statue to its original state is expected to be completed by early May and the fully restored statue will be re-installed at the Erawan Shrine by 10 May 2006.
Every effort is being made during the restoration process to ensure the integrity of the original statue. The original statue of Brahma was cast in gilded plaster. The committee has also decided to reinforce the original statue in plaster with stainless steel for added strength and durability. At each and every step of the restoration, religious principles will be strictly observed. Proper rituals and incantations will be performed by Buddhist monks and Brahmin priests in accordance with ancient customs and traditions.
In the interim, painted images of Brahma have been installed on the four sides of the closed shrine for admirers to pay homage.
Although of Hindu origin, Brahma is much revered by Thai Buddhists as well as Hindus, Buddhists and devotees of various faiths from other Asian countries. The Erawan Shrine is considered to be very sacred and over the past fifty years has played a key spiritual role in many lives. Visitors make pilgrimages to the statue to pay their respect and seek blessings.
When the statue has been enshrined, guards will be stationed round-the-clock and other security measures will be introduced.
The committee overseeing the restoration of the Thao Maha Phrom statue has also taken the opportunity presented by the restoration to commission the production of a new mould for casting a replica of the original statue of Brahma. A new Thao Maha Brahma statue will be a perfect replica identical of the original - but will instead comprise a mix of nine metals, including gold, silver and copper, instead of plaster, is also being cast at the same time. The new statue will serve as a model and style guide for future conservation or restoration efforts. W hen completed, the replica will be housed at the National Museum.
The Erawan Shrine
The Erawan Shrine, better known as the Thao Maha Brahma or Phra Phrom Erawan Shrine in Thai, stands next to the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel in central Bangkok.
The shrine was built in 1956, one year after the opening of the original Erawan Hotel, a prestigious state-owned property named after Erawan, Brahma's 33-headed elephant. The Erawan Hotel was one of Bangkok’s first few international standard hotels. The Erawan Hotel was subsequently acquired by the Hyatt International hotel chain. The property is now known as the Grand Hyatt Erawan.
When construction of The Erawan Hotel was near completion in 1956, the management consulted an astrologer for an auspicious date for its grand opening. As it turned out, the astrologer pointed out that the date when the foundation stone was laid was not suitable, and advised that a Brahman shrine and a guardian spirit shrine should be built to correct the error. The management sought the involvement of the Department of Fine Arts in the original design and casting of the statue of Brahma according to the traditions of the department. The gilded plaster statue was enshrined at The Erawan Hotel on November 9, 1956.
An inscription on a plaque at the Erawan Shrine reads:
“At the end of the year 1955, the union of the Thai Hotel and Tourism Company Limited, the founder of the Erawan Hotel was told by Rear Admiral Luang Suwichanphaet, who specialized on astrology, that the original moment for laying the foundation stone of the Erawan Hotel was not really right auspicious moment, it must be corrected by building a shrine of the Thao Maha Brahma and a spirit house in the area of the hotel. Then a shrine with the image of the Thao Maha Brahma and a spirit house were built followed the advice. The image was a sculpture in plaster covered with gold leaf, which was designed and sculpted by Mr. Chit Phimkowit, a sculptor of the Fine Arts Department. It was brought to enshrine there since the 9th November, 1956. And a worship ceremony of the image has been held on the 9th November of every year.”
To express reverence and devotion to the deity, many Thais offer the respectful wai gesture as they pass by the site.
Those who worship Brahma believe that the deity bestows good fortune and fulfill wishes. When making a request, devotees present ritual offerings consisting of incense sticks, candles, lotus blossoms and colourful floral garlands. Devotees vow to present offerings if the wish is fulfilled.
When the wish has been fulfilled, the devotee returns to the shrine to present the offerings in a ritual called "Kae bon". Ritual offerings typically consist of incense sticks, candles, lotus blossoms, colourful floral garlands, fresh flowers, carved wooden elephants, banknotes, food and fruits, traditional dances and other items.
Failing to do so, the individual risks incurring Brahma’s wrath and revenge.
Ritual Dances for Lord Brahma
Ritual dances performed before the statue of Lord Brahma in Erawan shrine to fulfil such vows are called Ram Kae Bon - a Thai classical dance drama known as Lakhon Chatree. Rarely performed elsewhere, the ritual dances are a tourist attraction.
The dancers, all women, wear glittering costumes. During the four-minute performance, dancers recite the name of the supplicant, who kneels in front of them and faces the Brahma statue.
The Erawan Shrine supports over 50 vendors who make a living and support their families through sales of items for the ritual offering. Donations are managed by the Thao Mahaphrom Erawan Hotel Foundation established in 1988. Part of the money has been donated to more than 300 hospitals all over the country.
The shrine opens from 06.00 - 23.00 hrs daily.