The Elephant of 33 Heads: The Erawan Museum

Erawan Museum Bangkok

The Erawan museum in Samut Prakan is someplace I’ve been meaning to get to for some time especially since its creator,Lek Viriyaphant, was the mastermind behind another beautiful work of art, The Sanctuary of Truth in Pattaya.

The elephant of 33 heads, or the elephant of the universe as it is also known, is part of an ancient Buddhist and Hindu myth about the greatest god of paradise, Indre. The myth tells us that wherever Indre goes he mounts his elephant, Erawan, who before each journey transforms himself into a 16,000 meter tall white elephant with 33 heads. Most depictions of Erawan you will see only show him as having 3 heads.

Khun Lek sought to house his rare collection of priceless artifacts safely while still preserving traditional beliefs that the sacred objects housed there would bring blessing and prosperity to the land and its people, and therefore must not be lost to outsiders.

This myth of Indre inspired Lek Viriyaphant to build a museum that is a reproduction of Erawan, and while not quite as big as the mythical beast this monumental museum is still rather large, coming in at 44 meters tall and weighing over 250 tons.

Erawan Museum Bangkok Erawan Museum Bangkok Erawan Museum Bangkok

Khun Lek’s son, Pagpean Viriyaphant, was put in charge of managing the building project and bringing a host of talented artists together to make sure Khun Lek’s vision was brought to life. One of those artists, Rakchart Srichanken, was the creator of the actual Erawan structure while others were in charge of such details as the magnificent stained glass ceiling and carvings throughout the museum.

Khun Lek wanted Erawan to be more of a symbol of the center of the universe than a vehicle for the god Indre. He wanted the Erawan museum to symbolize the spiritual heart of the land where sacred objects could be housed and revered by all.

The museum consists of 3 separate levels. The base of the museum, “Underworld or Naga World”, plays host to an amazing array of ancient artifacts and artwork that dates back to the Ming Dynasty and beyond. Here you will find detailed carved furniture inlaid with mother of pearl as well as Ming vases and rare Chinese porcelain tea sets. There are also ancient Khmer and Thai artifacts. These objects were collected by Lek Viriyaphant and his family over generations. Unfortunately, to preserve the priceless treasures no photography or filming is allowed in Underworld.

Erawan Museum Bangkok Erawan Museum Bangkok Erawan Museum Bangkok

The middle section of the elephant is called “Hall of Earth” and is filled with more rare artifacts such as statues and beautifully made furniture but the real show stopper is the magnificently carved grand stair cases and 4 embossed tin columns with religious reliefs that stretch up to the beautiful stained glass ceiling that depicts a map of the world. Where the 2 stair cases meet at the main landing there is a small shrine to make offerings.

Erawan Museum Bangkok Erawan Museum Bangkok Erawan Museum Bangkok

Erawan Museum Bangkok Erawan Museum Bangkok Erawan Museum Bangkok

Further up into the elephants head is the last level or “Tavatimsa Heaven” where you will find even more rare statues and Buddhist icons in another shrine area that can only be described as stunning. Again, no photography or filming is allowed of the individual artifacts but you may take pictures of the room and shrine.

Erawan Museum Bangkok Erawan Museum Bangkok Erawan Museum Bangkok

Outside the Museum the great elephant is surrounded by a moat of running water where you can make offerings of lotus blossoms that will float around the struc
ture. There is also a large area in front of Erawan where offerings can be made with flowers, incense and bells and gongs that can be rung for good luck.

Erawan Museum Bangkok Erawan Museum Bangkok Erawan Museum Bangkok

Surrounding all of this is a beautiful park filled with sculptures, flowers and streams to wander through and relax. We spent the afternoon into early evening at the Erawan Museum enjoying all the rare pieces of art and the beauty that the whole park bestows on you. I knew this would be a special place just because of the man who created it, Lek Viriyapant, who spent his life creating wonderful places for all people to enjoy and to lift Thai cultural heritage.

Erawan Museum Bangkok Erawan Museum Bangkok Erawan Museum Bangkok

The Erawan Museum is open daily from 8am to 5pm with guided tours every 30 minutes. Admission price is 150 baht per person. More information can be found at The Erawan Museum Website.

You can find even more pictures ( almost 300 ) of the beautiful Erawan Museum and park  in the Thailand Photo Gallery Erawan Museum,Samut Prakan.

Little known fact:

The Erawan Museum is considered the largest elephant sculpture in the world and it took over 10 years to complete.

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    14 thoughts on “In Search of Som Tam or The Ying to My Yang

    1. Well damn me, don’t you just hate it when a Thai girl just jumps in a towel and decides to clean up your room, dressed like that. Fook me but I never get used to it

      Sorry to hear you broke up, did I miss something?

    2. ‘when she says pet nit noi ( spicy a little bit ) she actually means she is calling the gods of hellfire into your food’

      Good for Ying.

      And good for you too Talen

    3. Hi Talen, I couldn’t help looking at the photos before reading your blog entry. As you can imagine I sped through the text trying to find out where you found the half-naked cleaning lady

      I like your pink towel by the way. I know Martyn was talking about metrosexuals in his blog…

    4. I don’t know wether to laugh or cry, next you’ll be telling people she was a virgin or you were her first customer. With stories like that you’ll fit right in with the expat crowd in Pattaya!

    5. Funny story Talen and the comments from Camille and Dave top it off, gave me and my wife a good laugh.

      I wouldn’t say Dave’s comment was cynical, pretty much spot on from a lot of the stories you hear from expats.


    6. Talen, you are going to get all types of comments on your personal blog.

      Time to start screening.

      From you initial writeup, I assumed nothing but all innocent. Not all people will have that point of view.

    7. No Talen nothing infered at all, and I certainly don’t think every Thai women is a liar or a whore. I was just laughing at the obvious!

    8. In Search of Som Tam or The Ying to My Yang… that’s the type of post title I dream of. Excellent.

      Great story and doubly so for me because I know the area you’re writing about.

      The only thing I would add is try Soi Buakhao market and get some shorter towels, a girl can get hot doing all that housework.

      The apartment looks pretty neat. Have fun in the sun you lucky one.

      I’m about to spread my wings and fly.

    9. LOL So the path to a man’s heart is through his tummy, eh, Talen? You are such an easy mark! But hey, if she’s a nice gal, she’s a nice gal.

      Lovely, warm story, and I don’t mean this to be understatement for any other meanings.

      So glad you’re enjoying life there since the “dismissal”. And why wouldn’t you? You’re free to do anything you want.

      BTW, work on your backgrounds as well as foregrounds. Er, um, that pink towel has got to go!

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