The Erawan Museum in Samut Prakan
The Erawan Museum is located on Sukhumvit Road in Samut Prakan province, south of Klong Samrong, Thailand. In fact, it is a museum and a temple combined created by Khun Lek Viriyapant (1914-2000) who is also the architect of the Ancient City (Mueang Boran). Thus, it can be considered a place preserving Thai heritage through visual arts and religion. In addition, the museum is surrounded by an amazing tropical garden including some unique Thai sculptures.
The Erawan Museum
Even though this place is outside Bangkok, it is merely a few kilometres away from Bang Na BTS station. This museum is famous for its gigantic three-headed elephant which is 43,6 metres high and weights around 250 tons. There are Hindu gods in Thai culture and Erawan is the vehicle of Indra, the god of Tavatimsa heaven which is located on top of Mount Meru in Buddhist cosmology.
In fact, the inside of the museum is constructed to represent the Hindu image of the universe. Hence, there is the underworld (1st floor), earth or human world (2nd floor), and heaven (top floor). The latter is located in the elephant’s belly whereas the other two are inside the pedestal.
The first floor or the basement section, which is supposed to stand for the underworld, contains a private collection of ceramics and art belonging to the museum owner Lek Viriyapant. Hence, there is a great collection of Chinese vases from the Ming and Qinq dynasties and a history and overview of the museum’s construction in the form of photographs and wall placards.
In the second floor that represents the earth, there are precious arts and antiques stored. Among the collector pieces there are also European ceramics. What is more, there is Guanyin, the Chinese Goddess with a thousand arms, who is the female representation of Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of compassion. This floor includes also the area around the rounded staircase and the stuccowork.
Indeed, the cream and blue colours are reminiscent of an Italian or more specifically, a Venetian design 🙂 This impression is reinforced by the stunning rounded stained glass window which was created by the German artist and glass painter Jakob Schwarzkopf (1926-2001).
The top floor representing the Tavatimsa heaven is rather cool, dark and cave-like. There is a Buddhist shrine which reaches towards heaven, some Buddha relics and old Buddha images from different eras like Ayutthaya, Lanna, Lopburi and Rattanakosin. There are paintings on the wall depicting the cosmos which were also designed by the German artist Schwarzkopf.
I think this is an amazing but also versatile place. Hence, apart from the museum, you can also enjoy a stroll around the marvellous tropical garden.
Summing up, we can say that the Erawan Museum with its three-headed elephant is one of the most unique and awesome places to visit near Bangkok.
(*photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)