The Erawan Shrine, formally the Thao Maha Phrom Shrine (Thai: ศาลท้าวมหาพรหม; RTGS: San Thao Maha Phrom; "Shrine of Lord Brahma the Great"), is a shrine in Bangkok, Thailand which houses a statue of Phra Phrom, the Thai representation of Brahma, the Hindu god of creation. It often features performances by Thai dance troupes who are hired by worshippers in return for seeing their prayers answered at the shrine. A bomb exploded near the shrine on 17 August 2015, killing 20 and injuring 125 more.
The shrine is near the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel, at the Ratchaprasong intersection of Ratchadamri Road in Lumphini Subdistrict, Pathum Wan District. It is near the BTS Skytrain's Chit Lom Station, which has an elevated walkway overlooking the shrine. The area has many shopping malls nearby, including Gaysorn, CentralWorld, and Amarin Plaza.
Five other shrines dedicated to Hindu deities are located in the area as well: Phra Laksami (Lakshmi), Phra Trimurati (Trimurti), Phra Khanet (Ganesha), Phra In (Indra), and Phra Narai Song Suban (Narayana on his garuda).
The Erawan Shrine was built in 1956 as part of the government-owned Erawan Hotel to eliminate the bad karma believed caused by laying the foundations on the wrong date.
The hotel's construction was delayed by a series of mishaps, including cost overruns, injuries to laborers, and the loss of a shipload of Italian marble intended for the building. Furthermore, the Ratchaprasong intersection had once been used to put criminals on public display.
An astrologer advised building the shrine to counter the negative influences. The Brahma statue was designed and built by the Department of Fine Arts and enshrined on 9 November 1956. The hotel's construction thereafter proceeded without further incident. In 1987, the hotel was demolished and the site used for the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel.
Thanakorn Pakdeepol destroyed the statue with a hammer in the early hours of 21 March 2006; he was then beaten to death by angry bystanders. Two street sweepers were arrested and charged with the fatal beating. Witnesses said that Pakdeepol stood on the base of the statue and smashed the hollow statue of Brahma to pieces with a large hammer, fragmenting the four-faced head, torso, six arms, and weapons. Only part of the lap and the base were left intact. The incident occurred at about 1 a.m.
Doctors performed an autopsy of Pakdeepol and found Arabic characters tattooed on his back and arms, prompting police to investigate whether the attack had a religious motive and whether the vandal had ties to Muslim extremists. However, the vandal's father Sayant Pakdeepol said that his son had received treatment for psychiatric problems and that mental illness was the cause of the attack. He described the fatal beating of his son as an "overreaction". "Doing something like this is not the act of people with good beliefs, of those with real faith in Brahma", Sayyant told The Nation newspaper. "Murder is an immoral act and people with morality would not have done what they did".
In the days immediately after the destruction of the Erawan Shrine, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra visited and paid his respects to the broken fragments of the Hindu deity. A white cloth was used to conceal the absence of the statue. Officials later reopened the site to the public, displaying photographs of the statue so that worshippers could pay their respects. At a rally on the following day, government critic Sondhi Limthongkul charged that the destruction of the statue was a plot by the Prime Minister to maintain his political power through black magic. However, Thanakorn's father rejected the claim, telling The Nation that Limthongkul "is the biggest liar I have ever seen."
A new Brahma statue was placed in the shrine on 21 May 2006 at 11:39, the moment when the sun was directly above it. Officials with the Religious Affairs Department and the Maha Brahma Foundation said that it was made of plaster with a mixture of gold, bronze, and other precious metals, along with fragments of the original statue. Another duplicate statue made entirely of metal was cast in the same mold and is kept in the national museum.
On 17 August 2015, at 18:55 local time, an explosive device composed of three kilograms of TNT stuffed in a metal pipe and wrapped in white cloth inside a backpack, detonated near Erawan Shrine, killing 20 people and injuring 125. Bomb disposal units checked two suspicious objects but found no other bombs. An analyst with IHS Jane's hypothesized that the attack had been carried out by the Pan-Turkic Turkish ultra-nationalist organization Grey Wolves in retaliation for Thailand's deportation of Uyghur terrorist suspects back to China instead of allowing them to travel to Turkey for asylum.
The bomb was placed in the shrine grounds next to a metal railing. The statue was slightly damaged. Within two days all repairs had been completed and the shrine reopened. Rather than being commended for the swift reopening of the shrine, the government's actions have been subject to criticism. The government's perceived lack of progress in the investigation has stimulated critics to propose a number of theories as to who is responsible for the bombing, including elements of the government itself.
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