Erawan Museum Bangkok – Thailand’s Three Headed Elephant

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Erawan Museum Bangkok – Thailand’s Three Headed Elephant

Erawan Museum Bangkok and it’s enormous Three Headed Elephant statue. The elephant significance refers to Hinduism beliefs.

Erawan Museum Bangkok and it’s enormous Three Headed Elephant statue. The elephant significance refers to Hinduism beliefs.

AIRAVATA ELEPHANT GOD | Sharon Henry

The Erawan Museum Bangkok honours Hinduism beliefs and elephant symbolism with a massive three headed elephant statue. The elephant meaning refers to Erawan of the Hindu Deities – the Elephant God.

The museum also encompasses Buddhist philosophy and Thai culture through a spectacular collection of art and artefacts. Anyone wondering what to do in Bangkok, Thailand will enjoy a visit – we did…

Buddhist Prayer in Progress

Climbing barefooted into the belly of a three headed elephant statue is quite the experience, Bangkok is full of surprises.

We’re following a Buddhist chant, which gets louder the higher we go. A little dizzy from a spiral staircase climb we step into a softly lit temple; a blue astrology mural covers the entire curved room.

Devotees bow in prayer to a Buddha statue standing centre stage. It feels quietly sacred, not just because we’re in the belly of a 3 headed elephant but because this is ‘Heaven’ and the ‘Universe’… No, I’m not on drugs!

Erawan Museum and the three headed elephant. Inside the elephant belly shrine called, 'Heaven' and 'The Universe' according to Hindu traditions.

Erawan Museum and the three headed elephant. Inside the elephant belly shrine called, ‘Heaven’ and ‘The Universe’ according to Hindu traditions.

What Do Elephants Symbolize?

We have ventured a little off the beaten track at the edge of this sprawling city, to Erawan Museum, a colossal monument honouring a mythical Hindu elephant.

It’s a copper and steel construction built in the shape of a three headed elephant, mounted majestically on a pastel pink pedestal.

Erawan aka Airavata, the elephant god served as the god Indra’s mount on his travels to the heavens and on earth where he observed the varying fortunes of mankind.  Elephants represent power and wisdom and are associated with rain and water in the mythology of Indra.  

According to legend the Airavata elephant reached his trunk down into the watery underworld, sucked up the water, sprayed it into the clouds which brought rain, linking the waters of the sky with those of the underworld.

Elephant Trunk Up

With trunks trumpeting high into the Bangkok skyline, Erawan stands 29 metres tall and weighs a mighty 250 tonnes. The combined structure including pedestal, is 43 metres.

The Erawan museum is the private venture of Thai business mogul, Lek Viriyapant, built to house his vast personal collection of ancient artefacts and to preserve Thai art and culture.  Construction started in 1994 and was completed in 2004.

There are three levels inside this museum that is modelled on the depiction of the universe. The first floor is the ‘Underworld,’ second is ‘Earth’ and the top, ‘Heaven.’

Erawan Museum inside Thailand's 3 headed elephant. The ceiling is covered in a beautiful astrology mural. No flash photography allowed.

Erawan Museum inside Thailand’s 3 headed elephant. The ceiling is covered in a beautiful astrology mural. No flash photography allowed.

It would accurate to say, "We're in Heaven!"

A selfie inside the Erawan Museum, although it would be accurate to also say, “We’re in Heaven!”

 

Ancient Buddha Statue Thailand

We’re in ‘Heaven’ right now and have just discovered the chanting sounds are coming from a CD player on repeat. We are quietly told by a guard no photography is allowed of the ancient Buddha statues flanking the room, just the view ahead.

The artistic ceiling mural depicts the cosmos, displaying zodiac constellations, a blazing sun and scatterings of gold leaf stars. The Buddhist chant enhances the room’s spiritual vibe. Darrin and I soak up the peaceful atmosphere, lingering to observe families off the Buddha gifts and pay their respects in prayer.

 

This little Buddhist and Hindu temple is located directly under the 'Heaven' floor, but still in the main belly of the elephant.

This little Buddhist and Hindu temple is located directly under the ‘Heaven’ floor, but still in the main belly of the elephant.

The spiral staircase is built inside the leg of Thailand three headed elephant.

The spiral staircase is built inside the leg of Thailand three headed elephant.

 

No Shoes Inside the Erawan Museum

We entered the Bangkok museum earlier through the ‘Underworld’ at the base of the pedestal that contains valuable and ancient collections of Ming and Qing dynasty ceramics. It’s a gem for those who appreciate these works of art.

Before entering the middle section we were required to remove our shoes and leave them on a designated shoe rack. I have to admit I am a tad worried if they’ll be there on our return although there’s a watchful ticket collector in the vicinity.

 

Temples in Bangkok do not allow shoes inside.

Temples in Bangkok do not allow shoes inside.

 

Entering ‘Earth’ has the ‘wow’ factor, it’s absolutely spectacular. Such a feast for the eyes, there’s so much to look at and absorb. And it’s so pink! Sun streams through a stained glass domed roof, illuminating intricate ceramic mosaic patterns that glitter in the light. It seems all surfaces are extravagantly adorned with exquisitely molded stucco.

 

Entering the 'Earth' section. Thailand's three headed elephant.

Entering the ‘Earth’ section of Thailand’s three headed elephant. The domed stained glass above us is stunning.

Guanyin, the Chinese Goddess of Mercy.

Guanyin, the Chinese Goddess of Mercy.

 

Climbing The Stairway To Heaven

A white ornamental staircase leads to a wooden statue of Guan Yin, the Chinese Goddess of Mercy. She stands under a pagoda, lotus flowers at her feet.

Sculptures of mystical musicians, deities and creatures show remarkable craftsmanship and detail.

Sweeping stairways lead higher to the platform and the start of the long spiral staircase, up the elephant’s leg, that made me dizzy climbing to ‘Heaven’.

 

Discover what do elephants represent at Erawan. This Airavata elephant statue has so much detail. Notice the ears made of spoons.

Discover what do elephants represent at Erawan. This Airavata elephant statue has so much detail. Notice the ears made of spoons.

Erawan Museum Bangkok. Porcelain bowls and spoons are given another use. Intricate detail to admire throughout the 'Earth' section.

Erawan Museum Bangkok. Porcelain bowls and spoons are given another use. Intricate detail to admire throughout the ‘Earth’ section.

Looking down on the grand staircase and entrance-way to 'Earth' inside Erawan Museum and the three headed elephant.

Looking down on the grand staircase and entrance-way to ‘Earth’ inside Erawan Museum and the three headed elephant.

A Close-Up View of ‘Earth’

There’s an elevator available for the less mobile which opens onto a viewing platform just below the top floor.

We hadn’t fully appreciated the stained glass pedestal roof earlier depicting an abstract world map, its luminosity showcases the building’s contents perfectly.

I’m drawn to the detailed pictures on the pewter pillars supporting the glass ceiling. There are four in total, each skilfully chased, (engraving technique) representing Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and Mehayana Buddhist stories. The mastery is such that it took three years to complete each column.

The stained glass roof of the 'Earth' section.

Erawan Museum – The stained glass roof of the ‘Earth’ section with the four chased pillars.

Intricate designs on the four pillars.

Intricate chasing work on all four pillars in the ‘Earth’ part of Erawan Museum.

 

The inside carvings on the staircase.

The inside carvings on the staircase.

 

Praying at the Erawan Museum

The gardens of Erawan are equally superb as the museum. Tall shady trees offer respite from Bangkok’s sticky heat and the tinkling of water features sets a tranquil mood. We explore the grounds wearing our freshly laced shoes and admire whimsical statues that have spilled out from the museum. It’s so beautiful here, I don’t want to leave. This is one of the most unique places I’ve been.

 

Thailand's three headed elephant is 29m tall, 39m long and weighs 250 tonnes.

Thailand’s three headed elephant is 29m tall, 39m long and weighs 250 tonnes.

The gardens around the museum are a peaceful way to conclude a visit.

The gardens around the Erawan Museum in Bangkok are a peaceful way to conclude a visit.

Worship time outside the museum.

Worship time at the shrine outside the Erawan Museum.

All ages make time to offer prayers at the shrine.

After emerging from the Erawan Museum all ages make time to offer prayers.

A walk through the gardens reveals all these hidden delights.

A walk through the Erawan Museum gardens reveals all these hidden delights.

 

Erawan Museum Entrance Fee

As much as Erawan is a museum it’s clearly also a place of worship possibly acting as a Buddhist and Hindu temple. There’s another shrine outside, in front of the elephant where worshippers burn incense, offer fruit and flowers and kneel at the altar.

To get here we took the BTS Skytrain to Bearing station, the end of the train line, then hired a metered taxi to bring us the rest of the way which cost 80 Baht (£1.60).

As foreigners we were charged 400B (£8) each entrance fee to the museum; Thais are charged 200B.

Erawan Museum Bangkok Dress Code

An audio guide is included in the price although a refundable deposit of 1,000B is required. The guide gives general information on the concept and details of the museum.

Visitors are advised to dress modestly, no shorts or revealing clothes. We noticed there weren’t many westerners present during our visit, mostly locals. The Erawan Museum truly does seem off the beaten track.

Audio guides are provided in a range of languages.

At the entry point, audio guides are provided in a range of languages.

Floating lotus' carry hopes in the wishing pond.

Floating lotus’ carry hopes in the wishing pond.

By |2018-10-05T04:23:16+00:00April 11th, 2015|City Life, Thailand, Tourist Attraction|14 Comments

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14 Comments

  1. Sheree Smyth August 24, 2018 at 7:41 pm - Reply

    A+++++, agree with every thing you wrote…. I was there just after 2004, I see by your photos, a few situations have changed, for the better..[ speaking machines ], wondering , did they still have the eatery, with delicious soup ??
    Thanks for a delightful video, and bring back great memories.
    sheree

  2. Patrick G Henry September 1, 2015 at 8:36 am - Reply

    Very interesting, amazingly beautiful place and people.

    • Saints September 2, 2015 at 8:18 pm - Reply

      It really is a very interesting place to visit. Cheers for the comment 🙂

  3. Susan April 25, 2015 at 11:20 pm - Reply

    What an amazing experience – great pictures 🙂

    • Saints September 2, 2015 at 8:19 pm - Reply

      It really was Susan, will never forget it. Thanks for the comment 🙂

  4. Leoni du Preez April 23, 2015 at 11:44 am - Reply

    Wow .. never knew it was there … very special, thank you

    • Saints April 23, 2015 at 12:48 pm - Reply

      Yes Leoni – it’s not one of the most advertised attractions in Bangkok and it’s definitely worth a visit. 🙂

  5. Shirley Gough April 11, 2015 at 11:58 pm - Reply

    Great pictures !Thanks for sharing,

  6. Sinead April 11, 2015 at 9:21 am - Reply

    Wow, loving all your stories & amazing pictures- can’t wait for more. 🙂 Well done & enjoy!

    • Saints April 11, 2015 at 1:20 pm - Reply

      Thanks Sinead – This is such an amazing adventure. 🙂

  7. Alison April 11, 2015 at 7:20 am - Reply

    Sounds like a wonderful experience!

    • Saints April 11, 2015 at 1:21 pm - Reply

      Hi Alison – I thought of you when we were inside – you’d appreciate the religious concepts.

  8. Simon Henry April 11, 2015 at 7:01 am - Reply

    Awesome! makes want to visit 🙂

    • Saints April 11, 2015 at 1:23 pm - Reply

      Thanks Simon – Thailand should go on your bucket list – and include the Three Headed Elephant. 🙂

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