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Bangkok was the second stop in our recent trip to Thailand. The Erawan museum is located in Samut Prakan, about an hour by train and taxi  from central Bangkok. We went to see its renowned giant three-headed elephant statute.

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Many of the explanations below came from Wikipedia.

The Elephant of the Universe. This three-headed elephant (Airavata) was the result of the millionaire founder Khun Lek Viriyapant’s ideas and imagination. It was inspired by his wish to preserve his collection of antiques as a contribution to Thai cultural heritage. The founder died in 2000 before the museum was completed.

It is hard to appreciate the scale of this structure without being there.

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The interior of the museum (the pink rounded base under the elephant’s feet), is richly and intricately decorated. Our eyes were constantly zooming in to admire the ornamental details and zooming out to take in the spaces.

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The museum’s three separate floors symbolise the universe and are designed in accordance with the three-tiered cosmology of the Hindu-Thai Buddhist concept.

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The basement level represents the underworld.

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Except the floor, every surface is decorated to the utmost with humanoid and beastly figures as well as abstract patterns.
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Moving up to the next level is the human domain which includes a stained glass ceiling depicting a world map.

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Detailed stucco works were  installed over the sweeping staircases and arches, all decorated with whole as well as fragmented ceramic bowls and spoons.


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An example of the Bencharong ceramics that were used to decorate the stucco figures.

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There were four embossed tin pillars on which are depicted religious tales portraying the four Buddhist principles that sustain the world.

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At the top of the second level looking down at the entrance.

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A narrow spiral staircase passing through the right hind leg of the elephant leads to Tavatimsa Heaven, deep inside the elephant’s belly.

erawan-12The ceiling is painted with motifs, symbols and constellations. While this is not a temple, people came to worship.

erawan-13A very ornate table where people left their offerings (coins) and tried to keep it standing on its edge.

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There are many sculptures scattered around a small pond and around the grounds of the museum. This looks like an upright-standing elephant fighting a big snake (Naga).

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The museum also had an exhibit about the founder’s family which was quite interesting.erawan-16

Another look at the magnificent three-headed elephant.

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