Krung Thep, the Thai name for Bangkok, is most often translated as City of Angels, but a more literal translation is City of Deities. The sobriquet seems especially appropriate in Ratchaprasong, Bangkok’s best-known shopping area, where elaborate deity shrines stand alongside huge retail malls and luxury hotels. A half dozen shrines here serve a steady stream of devotees who make offerings to the resident divinities in the hopes of improving their fortunes or having wishes granted.
All six shrines pay homage to gods from the Brahmanist pantheon. Thai Buddhism comfortably embraces Shiva, Brahma, Indra, Vishnu, Ganesh and other Hindu deities as guardians of the Buddhist faith as well as divine entities capable of altering one’s luck for the better. While Thais pray to Buddha for better rebirths, they often worship Hindu gods for advancement and good fortune in their present lives.
For international visitors, the shrines offer a fascinating glimpse into how Bangkok smoothly blends ancient and modern cityscapes. The Brahma shrine next to the Grand Hyatt Erawan is the most visited, known worldwide for its colourful kae bon (wish granted) dancers, heaped garlands of yellow blossoms, dripping yellow candles and thick clouds of incense.
Offerings at the other shrines in the neighbourhood tend to be much the same, with one notable exception. At the Trimurti Shrine in front of CentralWorld, instead of yellow marigolds and yellow candles, worshippers choose to offer red roses and red candles. Young couples and young women in particular – along with the occasional elderly person or single male worshipper – kneel with eyes closed, clasping joss sticks in intense prayer. As in many other cultures, red is associated with affairs of the heart, the main theme for all who visit the Trimurti.
Built in 1989, the Trimurti Shrine consists of not just one but three Hindu deities standing cheek by jowl on a raised platform, sheltered by a dome that is supported by four pillars and adorned with elaborately carved gables on each side.
Said to be a latter-day replica of an original Trimurti sculpture that once stood in Ayuthaya, Thailand’s former royal capital, the divine triad consists of Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer. Cast in bronze and fully gilded, the trio of heads sit atop a slender body adorned with detailed regalia and flaring robes. The multiple arms hold the talismans for each deity: a discus for Vishnu, a trident for Shiva and a lotus blossom for Brahma.
In Sanskrit, Trimurti literally means Three Forms. Also known as the Great Trinity, the tripartite figure symbolises the union of all gods. In contrast with the original intended Hindu meaning, the Trimurti in Thailand has come to be associated with the union of couples.
Although originally standing at the Ratchaprasong intersection at the corner of CentralWorld, the shrine was moved to its current position next to a Ganesha Shrine a few years ago when CentralWorld underwent expansion.
The shrine is most crowded on Thursday evenings around 9.30pm, thought to be the best time to ask for help finding new love or patching up a fading romance, because that’s the time of the week the deities are thought to descend from heaven to hear the prayers of supplicants. Devotees typically offer nine red roses, nine red candles and nine incense sticks, three of each in a set to the respective divinities.
Valentine’s Day is thought to be the most auspicious day of all, so if you’re one of the lovesick club, or if you merely want to see the Trimurti completely enveloped by the lovelorn, pay a visit this February 14th around 9pm.