Two weeks ago, I visited the Erawan Museum in Samut Prakan, a province southeast of Bangkok that is also home to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport. The museum was conceived and built by Lek Viriyaphant, a Thai millionaire, and his son, Pagpean. The Erawan, a three-headed elephant from Hindu mythology that was the steed of the god Indra, was the inspiration for the museum. But Lek’s vision was of a Cosmic Erawan that transcended the universe from the underworld, to the human world, and then to heaven.
Construction on the 145 foot tall structure began in 1994 and took over 10 years to complete. The Erawan alone stands 95 feet tall, is 125 feet long and 40 feet wide, and it weighs 250 tons. The statue is cast in bronze, and now has a green patina.
Lek’s collection of antiques and sacred objectives are on display in the basement of the museum, or the underworld; unfortunately no pictures are allowed of these treasures. The main portion of the museum, or the human world, is in the pedestal upon which the Erawan statue is built. At the back of the main level built into the right rear leg of the elephant is a long circular staircase that leads visitors to the upper level, or Heaven, situated in the belly of the beast.
The main level of the museum is a blend of Eastern and Western influences including a centerpiece statue of the bodhisattva, or enlightened being, Guan Yin, known as the Goddess of Mercy. Bright, multi-colored porcelain ceramic, called Benajarong, are found throughout this part of the museum — on the stair rails, the various stucco figures, etc. To make these pieces, enamel paints are applied and kiln-fired, one color at a time. On the ceiling of the pedestal is a magnificent stained glass artwork that shows a map of the world surrounded by figures of the zodiac.
Four tin pillars reach almost to the ceiling, with each representing a different religion — Christianity, Hinduism, Mahayana Buddhism (India, China, Japan, Korea, Singapore), and Theravada Buddhism (Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Nepal). The pillars collectively represent Dharma, or the law that guides people on the path to righteousness. The message from the Christian pillar is that love brings salvation to all mankind. The Hindu pillar teaches that prayer leads to freedom from suffering. The Mahayana pillar instructs that compassion and loving kindness create peace. The Theravada pillar tells us that freedom from continuous suffering is gained only from wisdom and perseverance.
A long circular stairway winds through the right rear leg of the Erawan and leads to the Buddhist Heaven where sacred beings gather. For those unable to make this walk — and it is a long walk — there is a small elevator in the left rear leg, so the upstairs is accessible to all. The main focus of the room is the walking Buddha, although there are several other Buddha images along the sides of this concave room.
Outside the museum is a peaceful garden with small streams, a pond, a waterfall, and numerous statues primarily of mythical creatures. There are paths that meander through this garden and bridges that span the waterways.
I have now been in Thailand for 18 months, the halfway point of my three-year commitment. I sat down the other day and figured out that I have visited 32 of the 77 provinces in Thailand (41%) during this time. Most of the ones that I have not yet been to are small, so it is unlikely that I will go to too many of them during my remaining time here. As I expect you can tell from the postings, I very much like this place. The people are friendly, the food is good, the cost of living is low, and the weather is tropical. I am frequently amused by the way that things are done (or often not done) over here — many rules and regulations and just as many ways to work around them — but somehow it seems to work.
One Month to Fix the Mistake
Investor’s Business Daily artfully debunks President Obama’s economic nonsense:
The American people simply cannot afford four more years of this lazy, disengaged, insipid, community organizer’s failed policies. I apologize if I have offended any (or all?) of my liberal friends, but it is time to stop the excuses and address the unpleasant reality of BHO’s abysmal record in managing the economy.
Kop Khun Krab.
© 2012 Kurt Brown. All rights reserved.