#Bangkok blast: the Hindu shrine beloved by Buddhists now Reopend

Hindu shrine
Hindu shrine at Ratchaprasong Intersection.

The Bangkok shrine hit by a bomb blast Monday was originally built to appease superstitious construction workers and morphed into a popular attraction that typifies the kingdom’s unusual blend of Hindu and Buddhist traditions.

Few visitors who make their way to Bangkok’s main shopping mall district fail to notice the Erawan Shrine which sits at the foot of a luxury hotel on one of the city’s busiest intersections.

The smell of sandalwood incense and the jangle of temple music wafts above the din from the city’s gridlocked streets providing a welcome respite for both devotees and curious onlookers.

The shrine itself was erected in 1956 after a string of mishaps befell the construction of a government owned luxury hotel.

An astrologer recommended building a shrine to the four-faced Hindu god Brahma, known locally as Phra Phrom. Local legend states that once the shrine went up, the problems besetting workers stopped and devotees have flocked there ever since.

Such shrines are not unusual in Buddhist majority Thailand, a nation which has forged a syncretic relationship with animist and Hindu traditions.

Shrines to the Hindu gods Ganesha and Shiva can be found just a few hundred metres away from the Erawan while Thais have their own version of the Ramayana epic — the Ramakien.

In recent years Chinese devotees in particular have flocked to the shrine, fuelled by the belief that prayers and donations there will bring them good luck and fortune.

The fervour with which locals treat the shrine is so great that in 2006 a mentally ill man who attacked the statue of Brahma with a hammer was beaten to death by an angry mob.

The shrine has also been witness to key recent moments in Thailand’s febrile political history thanks to its location at the Ratchaprasong intersection.

The key crossing has been taken over by both sides of Thailand’s political divide at various times during recent street protests.

In 2010 much the intersection was the scene of a military crackdown against Red Shirt supporters loyal to ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

When the crackdown finished a large mall opposite the shrine was gutted by fire.

Five years on the shrine has once more been witness to violence in the capital.

Source: BangkokPost  

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Cambodian Khmer Apsara dancers

Apsara - Khmer dansers
Cambodian Khmer Apsara dancers

An Apsara (also spelled as Apsarasa) is a female spirit of the clouds and waters in Hindu and Buddhist mythology.

English translations of the word “Apsara” include “nymph,” “celestial nymph,” and “celestial maiden.”

Apsaras represent an important motif in the stone bas-reliefs of the Angkorian temples in Cambodia (8th–13th centuries AD), however all female images are not considered to be apsaras. In harmony with the Indian association of dance with apsaras, Khmer female figures that are dancing or are poised to dance are considered apsaras; female figures, depicted individually or in groups, who are standing still and facing forward in the manner of temple guardians or custodians are called devatas.

Angkor Wat, the largest Angkorian temple (built AD 1116–1150), features both apsaras and devata, however the devata type are the most numerous with more than 1,796 in the present research inventory. Angkor Wat architects employed small apsara images (30–40 cm as seen at left) as decorative motifs on pillars and walls. They incorporated larger devata images (all full-body portraits measuring approximately 95–110 cm) more prominently at every level of the temple from the entry pavilion to the tops of the high towers. In 1927, Sappho Marchal published a study cataloging the remarkable diversity of their hair, headdresses, garments, stance, jewelry and decorative flowers, which Marchal concluded were based on actual practices of the Angkor period. Some devata appear with arms around each other and seem to be greeting the viewer. “The devatas seem to epitomize all the elements of a refined elegance,” wrote Marchal.
Khmer classical dance
Khmer classical dance, the indigenous ballet-like performance art of Cambodia, is frequently called “Apsara Dance”.

Apsaras were also an important motif in the art of Champa, medieval Angkor’s neighbor to the east along the coast of what is now central Vietnam. Especially noteworthy are the depictions of apsaras in the Tra Kieu Style of Cham art, a style which flourished in the 10th and 11th centuries AD.

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Tourists among 22 killed in apparent attack on #Bangkok shrine


Bangkok, Thailand (CNN)A huge bomb explosion that appeared to target a popular Hindu shrine in central Bangkok killed at least 22 people Monday and wounded about 120 more, authorities said.

Twelve victims died at the scene, and the others died later at area hospitals, officials said.

“It was like this huge gust of wind and debris flying through you,” recalled Sanjeev Vyas, a DJ from Mumbai, India, who was in the middle of the fray. “… And then I see bodies everywhere, there are cars on fire, there are bikes everywhere. People are screaming.”

Police spokesman Lt. Gen. Prawut Thavornsiri Tuesday morning told Channel 3 that at least 22 people had been killed, marking the latest incremental uptick in the death toll.

Foreigners are among the casualties, with the Erawan Emergency Center saying that a Filipino and Chinese citizen were among those killed.

National police Chief Somyot Pumpanmuang said on state TV that Chinese tourists who had traveled to Thailand from the Philippines had been killed. The Chinese Embassy in Bangkok later confirmed the report, telling China’s state-run Xinhua that three nationals had died in the blast, while another 15 Chinese tourists were injured, some seriously.

Hong Kong’s Immigration Department reported that three residents were among the injured.

Bangkok on edge after violent blast

It’s too early to say who orchestrated the attack, Somyot said there had been warnings about possible attacks, if not exactly when or where they might occur.

Suspicious items turn out to be garbage bags

The device that exploded was a pipe bomb wrapped in white cloth, Somyot said, according to the state news agency. Police earlier described it as a 3-kilogram “improvised device.”

The Thai police chief told reporters the bomb came from a motorcycle, though the Bangkok Post reported it was fastened to a utility police.

Police have not officially stated whether they believe the bomb had a specific target.

Whatever its intentions, the damage was undeniable. Steve Herman, a correspondent and bureau chief for Voice of America, said he thought it was thunder when the explosion first went off.

He saw six bodies under sheets inside the shrine and one outside of it, Herman said.

Another reporter, The New York Times’ Thomas Fuller, said body parts were scattered around the area. He estimated that several hundred military and police officials, some of them using dogs, were scouring the scene for more bombs.

Police initially sealed off the scene near the popular Erawan Shrine because, they said at the time, a second bomb in the area remained active and needed to be defused. Bomb squad members in blast suits responded, and an officer announced over a loudspeaker, “The situation is still not safe. Please all stay back. There might be another bomb in the area.”

CCN pic

But Somyot said later the suspicious items were not bombs.

“They are just garbage bags,” he said. “Our (explosives) team is still working at the site, and we will close down the traffic around the area until noon tomorrow.”

Maj. Gen. Sirwara Rangsribhramnakul said security was subsequently tightened throughout the city. Asked how many security forces had been deployed, he replied, “As much as we have.”

The blast didn’t cause immediate, rampant panic, as some bystanders were milling around peacefully and a family apparently unaware of the explosion was enjoying a meal at a nearby McDonald’s, freelance journalist Adam Ramsey said.

Vyas, the Indian DJ, said he initially didn’t know what to think of the explosion — thinking, as his ears were ringing, that it seemed like a Hollywood movie or maybe a major car wreck.

“But then I was like, yeah, this has to be a bomb because of the utter scale of devastation,” he said early Tuesday. “I could see it in front of my eyes.”

With school out and many in the city commuting home at the time of the blast, locals were among those caught up in the mayhem. So, too, were tourists there to visit the shrine, shop in the mall or stay in the many area hotels.

“There was traffic, everybody was honking,” Vyas recalled. “It (was) utter chaos and mayhem.”

Along with hotels, there are numerous shopping centers in the area, Google Maps shows, including the Platinum Fashion Mall and Central World, reportedly one of the largest shopping malls in the world. The city’s Skytrain rumbles nearly overhead.

The area was the target of another bombing in February when two explosive devices detonated near the entrance of a luxury shopping mall, Siam Paragon, 2013’s most Instagrammed location in the world. The mall is just over a block away from the shrine. No one was injured in that blast.

Though Buddhism is the predominant religion in Thailand, there are many Hindu shrines in Bangkok, and the Erawan Shrine is the best known among them, according to an English-language website providing news and tourism information about the country.

Streams of people pay respects at the shrine from early morning until late at night. Thais and foreign visitors make ceremonial offerings, ranging from floral garlands and fruits to teakwood elephants in the hope their wishes will be fulfilled, according to another tourist site.

The shrine houses a golden statue of Phra Phrom, the Thai representation of Brahma, the Hindu god of creation. The shrine is so revered that Thanakorn Pakdeepol, a mentally ill man, was beaten to death in 2006 by two bystanders after they witnessed him vandalizing the statue.

Thousands of worshipers visit the site each day, praying for everything from good health to sports results. They light incense sticks and wai (bow slightly with palms pressed together) to each of the four faces of the statue. For extra luck, worshipers pay respect and money to the shrine’s Thai dancers.

Source: CCN

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Temples of Thailand

Wat Saket, Bangkok

White Temple Chiang Rai - 17-8

Chaiyaphum Temple
Temple, Chaiyaphum

Sanctuary of Truth 17-8
Sanctuary of Truth, Temple in Pattaya

Big Buddha Phuket 11-7

Wat Phra That Doi Kham - Chiang Mai

Wat Chaiwatthanaram - Ayudtthaya

Wat Arun, Bangkok

There are a total of 40,717 Buddhist temples (Thai: Wat) in Thailand as of 31 December 2004, of which 33,902 are in current use, according to the Office of National Buddhism.[1] Of the 33,902 active temples, 31,890 are of the Maha Nikaya and 1,987 are of the Dhammayuttika Nikaya orders of the Theravada school, while 12 are of the Chinese Nikaya and 13 are of the Anam Nikaya orders of the Mahayana school. Two hundred and seventy-two temples, 217 of the Maha Nikaya order and 55 of the Dhammayut order, hold the status of royal temple. Royal wisungkhamasima (Pali: visuṃ gāmasīmā), official recognition of a temple’s legitimacy, has been granted to 20,281 temples.

Source: Wikipedia

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