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Erawan Museum - A travel piece

The Erawan Museum is bound to overwhelm the visitor by its majestic grandeur. At its outset you see the majestic and the beautiful statue of the three headed elephant made out of pure bronze. The sight of this massive statue captivates the visitor and holds him spellbound. This famous architectural marvel takes inspiration from Hindu mythology and from Airavata (also known as Erawan), the vehicle of Indra, the God. Before we go any further to dwell in this revolutionary structure, let us try and pay homage to the man who conceived this beautiful museum. Way back in the 20th century, there lived an eccentric Thai businessman named Khun Lek Viriyapant who made quite a lot of fortune by importing Benz Mercedes into Thailand. In that sense, he was a pioneer and a true visionary. But it was his love for his land, its culture and traditions that went on to becoming the soul inspiration for the making of this architectural marvel. Lek Viriyapant was an avid collector of antiques and all kinds of other religious artifacts as he believed that these bring good luck to the place they belong. It was a strong desire to give home to these priceless possessions that kick-started the dream to create the Erawan Museum. It was a chance visit by a foreigner one day that got him thinking to create this exceptional work. The westerner suggested him to create a place in the form of an apple which would house his ancient relics. This suggestion was based on the fact that the Apple in western traditions of belief was symbolic of the starting of humankind and thus would serve as a good theme for the museum. But Lek Viriyapant who was deep rooted in his eastern beliefs and also a spiritual man thought of elephant as a theme as it represented the Airavata which was the vehicle of Lord Indra as depicted in Hindu Mythology. It was his imaginative vision that made him conceive the three headed elephant. The elephant he said would be the symbol of the centre of the universe. Based on this vision he designed the building and gave the design to his eldest son Khun Pagpean Viriyapant to begin construction. Even during the construction phase people would come to offer prayers and this provided impetus to this man’s dream. It took ten years of perseverance to build this outstanding sculpture measuring 43 meters in height. Though the creative visionary, Mr. Lek Viriayapant did not live to see his dream being realized as he passed away in 2000. It was his sons who take this as a duty to fulfill their beloved father’s wishes. The massive elephant sculpture made up of pure bronze is set up on top of a huge round base painted in pastel pink. This awe inspiring museum is home to the long preserved collections of Lek Viriyapant which represented the ancient heritage of Thailand. The Museum inside is based on three levels or three floors and each is revered for its distinct appeal. The three levels take inspiration from the three tiered cosmology of the Hindu-Thai Buddhist concept of Tribhumi. Let us try and take a detour of these three levels individually.

The basement level represents the underworld. Host to a great variety of artifacts ranging from pottery to ceramics to furniture this level also showcases the evolution of this museum through its various construction phases.

The next level depicting the human world is home to exquisite interior decoration synthesizing the eastern and western art. The highlight here is the stained glass ceiling on which the world map and the zodiac are illustrated, the creative design of the German artist named Jacob Schwarzkopf.

A narrow spiral staircase at the right hind leg of the elephant leads you to the elephant’s belly. This level is aptly named Tavatimsa heaven as it truly promises to be one and this is the place where Indra, the God resides. The level has two beautiful images of the Buddha glistening in gold. The most charming feature of this level is its curved wall and ceiling which has been transformed to represent the eternal cosmos with beautiful hand painted patterns. While at this level, one could also take a look at the city from beneath one of the elephant’s tusk.

All in All, the museum promises to be revelation of sorts and is a must visit for a traveler keen on taking a dip into this ecstatic ancient heritage of Thailand. The museum is located 25 km from downtown but is really worth the visit. One could do well to take a walk in the park alongside after this awe inspiring retreat into the museum. The park is also adorned with a multitude of sculptures, thus promising to be a great extension to this magnificent museum. The museum remains open from 8 am to 5 pm and a ticket for the adult costs 300 bahts, which is an amount well spent.

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