Hindu Gods in Thai Culture

You may certainly have noticed that Hindu gods are very prominent in Thai culture. Thus, there are often images of these gods in Thai temples and shrines. In fact, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are the three most important Hindu gods representing the recurring and continual cycles of birth, life, death and rebirth.

At the Ganesha Park (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

At the Ganesha Park (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

Hindu Gods in Thai Culture

This trinity, along with the god Indra, Ganesha and some enlightened divinities and demons, have been converted to the Buddhist doctrine according to Buddhist belief. Hence, these gods often occur as guardians of temples and monasteries. In addition, they may also be seen attending the Buddha on important events in his life.

Brahma, Hindu gods (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

Brahma, Hindu gods at the Ancient City, Samut Prakan (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

First there is Brahma (in Thai: Phra Phrom) who is the creator in the Hindu trinity. He is commonly depicted having four heads and the book of Vedas in his hand. His female aspect is the goddess of learning, Sarasvadi and his mount is the mythical celestial swan called Hong or Hamsa. Brahma is considered a guard of doors and pediments in temples. Furthermore, he is also popular as a protector of Thai hotels. Thus, in Thai culture, he is a deity of good fortune and protection.

Wat Yannawa Brahma (credit: photo dharma, Anandajoti Bhikku, wikimedia.org)

Wat Yannawa Brahma (credit: photo dharma, Anandajoti Bhikku, wikimedia.org)

In Thai art, Brahma is depicted in attendance to Buddhism along with Indra, at the crucial events in Buddha’s life. Hence, he is also considered to be converted to Buddhism. By the way, Hindu gods might also be the subject of one or the other Thai song. For instance, Noi (Krissada Sukosol), singer of the band Pru, featured a song called ‘Brahma Brahma’. I think this song is from the horror movie ‘Pawn Shop’ (Long Jamnam, 2013).

Another important god is Vishnu who is the preserver deity of the Hindu triad. In his hand, he often holds a disk and a conch shell. His mount is Garuda, the mythical bird that is half-human and half-eagle and the natural enemy of the Nagas. In other words, Garuda can be seen as the vehicle of Vishnu. What is more, Vishnu’s avatar is Rama, the hero of the Ramakien tale. In addition, this god is also associated with Thai royalty since the kings of the Chakkri dynasty have ‘Rama’ as part of their names. Similar to Brahma, Vishnu often functions as a (door) Wat guardian.

หน้าบันรูปพระนารายณ์ Vishnu tympanum (photo credit: กสิณธร ราชโอรส, wikimedia.org)

Vishnu tympanum (photo credit: wikimedia.org)

Shiva is the destroyer and regenerator aspect of the Hindu trinity. He usually has a third eye that is centred vertically on his forehead. Further characteristics are a brahmanical cord across his torso and sometimes a crescent moon which is caught in his tangled hair. Parvati is his consort and his mount is the bull Nandi.

Shiva on the bull Nandi, Prasat Muang Tam (photo credit: Ddalbiez, wikimedia.org)

Shiva on the bull Nandi, Prasat Muang Tam (photo credit: Ddalbiez, wikimedia.org)

The image of Ganesha (in Thai: Phra Pikanet) is also very prominent in Thai culture. For example, there is the Ganesha park in Nakhon Nayok which is considered a tribute to this elephant-headed god who is Shiva’s son. In Thailand, he is commonly seated at temple portals. What is more, he is also the patron of the arts and a protector of business.

Ganesha (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

Ganesha at the same-named park in Nakhon Nayok (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

Finally, we have the god Indra who is the god of Tavatimsa heaven. Hence, he is also the god of weather and war wielding a lightening bolt and riding Erawan, the multi-headed elephant. Indra is a temple guardian of portals and pediments. He is also prominent in the Vessantara story which is the last life of the Buddha-to-be. In addition, Indra occurs on mural paintings where he can be identified by his green colour. Along with Brahma, he is kneeling when attending Buddha during particular life events. Thus, it is indicated that the Hindu gods are subservient to Buddhism.

Bangkok Wat Arun Phra Prang, God Indra and the three-headed Erawan (photo credit Tsui, wikimedia.org)

Bangkok Wat Arun Phra Prang, God Indra and the three-headed Erawan (photo credit Tsui, wikimedia.org)

Summing up, we may claim that Hindu gods play a significant role in Thai culture. As a matter of fact, they not only show that Buddhism and Hinduism are intertwined but also represent a subservience of Hinduism to Buddhism. In this context, you might also want to check out my Thai Art Motifs Glossary for more general information 🙂

Yours, Sirinya

(Reference, Carol Stratton, What’s What In A Wat, Silkworm Books, 2010)




Krissada ‘Noi’ Sukosol Clapp: Thai-American Singer, Actor & Hotelier

‘Thai celebrities known for making a mark in both the music and hospitality industries’ (Financial Times about the Sukosol family)

Krissada Sukosol Clapp, born in 1970, is also known as ‘Noi Pru’ or Krissada Terence. He is the youngest child in the Sukosol dynasty’s third generation. His mother is the famous Thai business lady Kamala Sukosol who is the heiress of the Siam City Hotels and Resorts chain. Apart from being an entrepreneur, Kamala Sukosol is also a Jazz singer and entertainer. Noi’s father Terence H. Clapp is American and also worked in the family business.

Krissada ‘Noi’ Sukosol

Krissada 'Noi' Sukosol (photo credit: nationmultimedia.com)

Krissada Sukosol (photo credit: nationmultimedia.com)

Hence, being ‘luk kreung’ (half-Thai) Noi grew up in an international surrounding and he is just as multi-talented as his family’s business dynasty. He has worked as Creative Director of the Sukosol family hotel business thus overseeing the design and concept development for all Siam hotels. At Boston University, Noi also took a major in anthropology and a minor in theatre arts. Thus, Krissada is very much interested in culture, arts and he loves antiques. He is said to have more than 2000 antique collector pieces. Thus, the Siam provides the perfect setting for his collection. In addition, he also tries to incorporates unique Thai characteristics into his family’s individualised hotels.

In 2003, Noi married Melanie Giles who is responsible for the Public Relations Departments at The Siam. In the following clip, they talk about their work for the Siam and Noi compares the quality of the hotel to ‘a good song which has soul, is intangible and lasts forever’.

In point of fact, Noi is very multi-faceted and has worked in many different areas. Hence, he is also known as a popular Thai singer of genres like Indie, Pop and Thai Pop. He is the founder of the band ‘Pru’ which was formed in 2001. His elder brother Kamol ‘Sukie’ is also a member in this band where he acts as a guitarist-producer. Krissada was the lead vocalist of Pru and the band won MTV Asia’s award for Favourite Thai Artist in 2002.

As you might remember, the band Pru also participated in the modern rock version of the Thai Ramakien. It is called ‘Ramakien: A Rak Opera’ (2006). Thai rapper and producer Joey Boy was also among the Thai pop music artist 🙂 However, let us enjoy some more of Pru’s music:

Nonetheless, after managing some obstacles, Noi has also become achnowledged as an actor too. His greatest success was starring the character ‘Jod’ in the 1950s style Thai Gangster movie ‘Antapal’ (2012). What is more, we also know him from comedy movies like ‘The Holy Man 3’ (2010) in which he has the leading role playing the former rock star Noi Wongpru who becomes a monk.

In addition, he has also become recognized as an actor starring in films like The Adventure of Iron Pussy (2003) which is a tribute but also a parody of 1970s Thai action and musical films. Noi also had the leading role in Bangkok Loco (2004) which is a musical comedy.

Noi in 13 Beloved (photo credit: moviepilot.com)

Noi in 13 Beloved (photo credit: moviepilot.com)

In 2006, he was awarded ‘Best Actor’ at the Thailand National Film Association Awards, the Starpics Awards and the Bangkok Crictics Assembly for his impressive and outstanding performance in the movie “13 Beloved” which can be described as an action horror comedy. In fact, there was an American remake of this movie in 2014 titled ’13 Sins’. Well, I find it’s a kind of ‘badass’ story and not really my kind of movie.

However, a versatile man, we may say 🙂 Krissada Sukosol has many talents and he is the singer and actor of the Sukosol dynasty apart from being a devoted art collector. I admire and love him most for his young and clear voice.

Have you met the Sukosol Family yet? 😉

Yours, Sirinya