A day at Erawan Shrine

Anybody who has visited Bangkok is likely to have passed by Erawan Shrine, even though they might not have realised.

Erawan sits on one corner of busy Ratchaprasong junction; a relatively small and tranquil spot, nestled between giant shopping malls and luxury hotels.

The shrine is home to a sacred and highly revered Brahmin statue, The Four-Faced God, worshipped by Hindus and Buddhists alike. Greatly respected by Thai people, Erawan is also a popular tourist destination.

Geographically and spiritually, it's fair to say that Erawan lies at the very heart of the city.

At 7pm on Monday, 17th August, 2015, a bomb left in a backpack inside the shrine exploded, killing 25 people and injuring scores more.

 
150824-155517-Thailand-Bangkok-Bomb-Gavin-Gough.jpg

Evidence of Erawan's importance is apparent as you walk around the neighbourhood. Commuters rushing to work on the elevated walkway and on the streets around the shrine will almost invariably pause and offer a traditional "wai" gesture in the direction of the Brahma statue.

 

One week after the bombing, I spent a full day at Erawan Shrine.

Among the first to arrive at 7am are some of the Thai dancers who perform for those devotees who wish to offer thanks for prayers that have been answered.

The presence of a soldier is unusual. The metal barriers and the freshly-painted railings indicate where the bomb was located.

 
150824-074052-Thailand-Bangkok-Bomb-Gavin-Gough.jpg

Inside the shrine, with towering buildings on each side and with the elevated skytrain and walkways, it's easy to appreciate how central this location is.

 
150824-114430-Thailand-Bangkok-Bomb-Gavin-Gough.jpg

One face of the Four-Faced God statue was very slightly damaged in the blast.

On any day, there will be a steady stream of devotees, lighting candles and incense.

 

Devotees will typically pray and offer candles, flowers and incense at all four sides of the statue.

 

One week after the deadly explosion, the presence of soldiers, police and journalists made it clear that this was not an ordinary day.

A presenter from the public broadcasting Thai PBS channel gave regular, live reports during the breakfast show.

Groups from local businesses arrived to make offerings, also giving interviews to local and international TV stations.

Many groups wore shirts bearing slogans such as "Stronger Together" and "Bangkok Strong".

 

In the centre of such a busy, bustling city, Erawan provides a quiet haven for contemplation and prayer.

Many visitors were visibly upset as they offered their silent prayers and several shed tears and they made their offerings.

 

Between the pavement and the shrine, fresh cement and a new pillar indicate where the bomber left the device.

At 8:30am, dozens of staff from the neighbouring Grand Hyatt Erawan hotel arrived, each proudly wearing a "Stronger Together" t-shirt.

Prayers and offerings continued throughout the day. 

 

From 6pm, as the sun began to set, increasing numbers of people arrived at the shrine, gathering at the nearby Amarin Centre.

 

At 6:55pm, exactly one week after the time of the explosion, Buddhist monks led the group in prayer. The Thai national anthem was sung and a minute's silence was observed in remembrance of those killed and injured.

People, almost universally dressed in white, lit candles and offered prayers.

 

Nobody has yet claimed responsibility for the bomb attack.

The bombing was, by any definition, a pointless, senseless act that has achieved no discernible advantage other than to enhance the sense of community in the city's residents.

To me, Bangkok hasn't felt any less safe since the attack but, even if it had, the resilience and resolve found in large numbers of people who are willing to show the strength of their conviction offers great reassurance and comfort.