Monday, June 23, 2014

Bangkok - where spirits reside among the living

Bangkok, the pulsating, vibrant city in South East Asia, conjures up images of shopping, food, night markets, foot massages, shopping, food, gigantic malls, Buddhism, shopping, food... it's an endless list

One of my first impressions of the city -
A Man U building wrap.
Over a year ago, I had travelled to Bangkok for a few days. I had hoped to share more details of my trip here. For some reason or the other I had not got around to it. 

One of the most highlights of my trip were the spirit houses.  

Sukhumvit Road, where I stayed, is one of the main streets of Bangkok. It has hotels and malls in abundance. Since I walked to many of the shopping areas on that street, it was an interesting way to really notice the buildings, street stalls, parks etc. 

One of the curiosities that puzzled me were miniature structures in the compound of every building. They seemed to follow traditional architecture but were made of the most fantastic material or had stunning imagery around it. I assumed these were akin to the 'prayer' corners we have inside every home and building in India, but I didn't know what exactly they were. I saw many Thais bowing before the structures or making offerings while passing by. 

Later, when I looked up on the internet, I found out these were 'spirit houses'. Thais are mainly Buddhists, but they believe strongly in the spirit world. According to their belief, every time a new building is constructed, the resident spirits in the old building/ plot of land tend to lose their home. To appease the spirits and provide a new home for them, the miniature structures are built. Failure to do so can cause all sorts of misfortune. 

Different types of structures indicate they are meant to appease different types of spirits. Almost all spirit houses had miniature dancers, elephants, horses etc. around them. All these represent the good-stuff that will keep the spirits happy. Some of the figurines inside the mini-homes resembled Gods and Goddesses from the Hindu pantheon, but I can't say for sure.Thailand is very heavily influenced by Hinduism - history and all - so it's very possible. 

A spirit house with numerous
figurines around its base.

A closer look at the spirit house.

Fully adorned with glass pieces - a stunning reflective effect. 

I have no idea why there were zebras here. Maybe
they are meant to be 'exotic' versions of horses.

Twin houses in a flower market, caught against an evening sky.

A more humble looking spirit house somewhere
in the outskirts of the city.

I am glad that I got more information about the spirit houses and these did not get overshadowed by the more visible and popular attractions of Bangkok. If you ever visit, do take the time to look around you to notice these little houses. 

P.S. I have written about various other sights of Bangkok in separate posts herehere.

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