Bangkokians flock to the Trimurti Shrine to join hearts
Krung Thep, the Thai name for Bangkok, is most often translated as “City of Angelsˮ, but a more literal translation is “City of Deitiesˮ. 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 hope 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 day 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, red candles and red Fanta. As in many other cultures, red is associated with affairs of the heart, and it is for love that Thais pay homage to the Trimurti.
At any time of day or night—but mostly at night—single young women and the occasional single male worshipper approach the shrine armed with roses, candles, and incense. They kneel for several minutes with eyes closed, clasping their hands together as they repeat the mantras inscribed on a plaque in front of the statue.
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 Ayutthaya, 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.
In Sanskrit, Trimurti literally means Three Forms. Also known as the Great Trinity, the tripartite figure symbolizes the union of all gods. In contrast with the original intended Hindu meaning, Trimurti in Thailand has somehow 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 number of years ago when CentralWorld underwent expansion. The worship of elephant-headed Ganesha, the son of Shiva and remover of obstacles, is almost as fervent as that of the Trimuriti.
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.
Valentine’s Day is thought to be the most auspicious day of all, so if you’re one of the lovelorn, or if you merely want to see the Trimurti completely enveloped by devotees, pay a visit next February 14th at around 9pm.