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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrDistinguished by the massive three-headed elephant statue, the Erawan Museum has become a landmark in its own right. Its scale greatly subdues the human scale by almost 30 times; the building exudes the authority, not only of a statue, but almost that of a temple. The statue is an icon of Airavata in Hindu mythology, the white elephant, transport of the God Indra. In Thai, it is called ‘Erawan’. The image itself is made of copper, weighs 250 tons, 29 meters high and 39 meters long. Combined with the base, the total height is 43.6 meters. As a landmark, the language barrier will not be an obstacle in finding the museum. By showing locals a photograph of the statue, they immediately know where you want to go. It is located in Amphoe Muang, Samut Prakan Province , in the outskirts of Bangkok.
HistoryThe Erawan Museum was built by Lek Viriyaphant , a Thai millionaire, who wanted to preserve and share his antique collection to his fellow citizens. He also spearheaded the construction of another two attractions in Thailand: the Ancient City and Sanctuary of Truth. His collections are valuable as well as sacred, and eventually revered by the townspeople to bring luck and prosperity. The idea of building a structure came from a visitor from the Western world. Though the visitor suggested an apple-shaped building, Viriyaphant transformed it into a mystical edifice, topped with the majestic Erawan. He passed on his design to his eldest son, and the construction was finished by his grandchildren.
Inside the MuseumThe details within the museum are intricately crafted to reflect the symbolism in Hindu beliefs. The museum is divided into three levels: the Chan Badan or ‘Underworld’ at the lowest level, the Mount Meru or the ‘Center’ at the second level, and the Tavatisma Heaven at the topmost level.
The Underworld depicts Naga s or mythological snakes through its winding staircases, with painted ornaments that represent scales. Here, ancient artifacts from China and other parts of Asia can be found. It includes ceramics, porcelain, tea sets, vases, furniture and jade ornaments.
Mount Meru, in Hindu cosmology, is the center of the physical and spiritual universe. It can be reached by climbing the center staircase, where one is welcomed by an icon of Bodhisattva Guan Yin under a niche that is the smaller version of a Wat . Again, tourists can witness the craftsmanship involved, from embossed tin-clad pillars with complex and delicate designs, to Benjarong or ceramic inlays, and stucco and mural paintings.
Gazing above, a skylight made of stained glass lets light pass through. Designed and painted by Jakob Schwarzkopf, it is a representation of the sky, and the stained glass design includes famous ceiling paintings found in cathedrals. Four pillars rise up to the skylight, and they are called the ‘Pillars of the Heavens’.
The topmost level is located within the belly of Erawan, the three-headed elephant. It is the highest part of the cosmos, which is home to the Gods, including Erawan. It has a parabolic-shaped ceiling with hand paintings using tempera, again by Schwarzkopf. The pattern is based on the solar system, with abstracted interpretations of the sun and the planets. Being the most tranquil portion of the museum, it also houses the most sacred images of Buddha that are encased in glass.
From the interior, tourists can seize a time for relaxation in the gardens outside. The garden is filled with tropical plants, palms and deciduous trees; greens that contrasts the grays of more Buddhist statues. There are ponds and fountains, rocks and stone pathways, pavilions and benches for guests to unwind and gather.
Practical InformationThe entrance fee costs ฿150 ($4.65) for locals and children, and ฿300 ($9.30) for foreigners, and it operates from 8:00 AM. to 5:00 PM. Backgrounds about the various antique collections are included in the exhibits for visitors to better appreciate their value. Museum guides that speak Thai and English are also there to give verbal accounts of the thought behind each piece and its significance.
Visitors can choose to only spend time at the gardens for an entrance fee of ฿50 ($1.55). They can also feed carps at the stone pond for ฿5 ($0.16). There are also other activities that tourists can participate in. They can witness the metal working process at the workshop. They can also participate in religious traditions like giving offerings at the shrine or floating lotus leaves on the water.
The most recommended way to reach the museum is to take the BTS SkyTrain, get off at Bearing Station, and then hire a taxi to arrive directly at Erawan Museum. Otherwise, a taxi ride from downtown Bangkok will take 30 to 45 minutes and is more expensive. The museum is not very accessible compared to other spots, so if time is limited, it may not be a priority.
Nearby tourist attractions include: Ancient City (Mueang Boran), Bangpu Recreation Center, Wat Asokaram and Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm and Zoo.
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Author: LisaN505. Last updated: Sep 04, 2014