The Erawan Shrine is not old, but it is an interesting testament to the belief in spirits in Thai society. Built in 1956, next to what is now the Grand Hyatt Erawan, it stands defiantly at the center of a busy corner plot and in the shadow of the BTS. In a sumptuous spirit house at the center of this yard, a gilded statue of the four-faced Hindu god of creation, Brahma, named Phra Phrom in Thai, is enshrined. Construction of the shrine is believed to have put a stop to a spate of deaths of workers constructing the hotel site, and due to such mystic powers, it is today one of the most revered spots in the kingdom. Worshipers wafting bunches of incense and praying for success in love crowd the area. Even taxi drivers raise their hands from the steering wheel to give a wai as they pass by.
But the shrine as a long history of misfortune: In 2006, a Thai man with a history of mental illness decided to take an axe to the statue. As a painful testament to the depth of Thais’ devotion to the spirits (and a pitiful lesson in human rights), the onlookers turned on him and beat him to death in broad daylight. In 2010, the Ratchaprasong intersection, where the shrine is located, was ground zero for Red Shirt protesters (for more on that, see p. ###) and again during another coup in 2012. The most tragic example of the shrine’s misfortune came August 17, 2015, when a bomb exploded killing 20 and injuring more than 120 others, an act decried as terrorism by the Thai government. The shrine suffered minor damage and reopened a few days later.