Although Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist nation, statues and shrines to Hindu deities are a common sight in the kingdom. Thai Buddhists routinely pay their respects to these Hindu figures although these deities usually have a different name in Thai compared to Hinduism. One of the most widely seen and easily recognisable is Ganesh (Ganesha), the elephant-headed god usually referred to in Thai as Phra Phikanet..
Statue of Ganesh at Doi Suthep Temple in Chiang Mai
Ganesh is known as the remover of obstacles and it is common for Thai Buddhists to make an offering to a Ganesh shrine when starting out on a new venture such as starting a business, an overseas journey, building a new home or a wedding. Praying at a shrine to Ganesh is also popular with university students before exams. Ganesh is also known for his love of the fine arts and is thought to encourage creativity so is popular with artistic people. For the same reason, an image of the elephant-headed god is incorporated into the logo of Thailand’s Department of Fine Arts. Other attributes associated with Ganesh in Thailand are success, accomplishment, wisdom and wealth so it’s not surprising that this Hindu deity is so popular with worshippers.
Ganesh Shrines and Statues in Thailand
There are a number of Ganesh shrines and statues throughout Thailand. One of the most famous is located in Bangkok’s Ratchaprasong shopping district. The Ganesh shrine is located at Central World in front of the Isetan store on Ratchadamri Road. Popular offerings include models of elephants, fresh marigold garlands, sweets, bananas and sugar cane.
Ganesh shrine at Central World, Bangkok
The Hindu elephant god also crops up on temple murals and outside various businesses, especially those involved in creative industries or the arts.
Statue of a dancing Ganesh outside a business in Chiang Mai
Celebrating Ganesh’s Birthday
The birthday of Ganesh is celebrated by Hindus around the world with the date usually falling in August or September depending on the lunar calendar. In Thailand, two of the biggest events take place at the Shiva Temple in Bangkok and the Utthayan Ganesh Temple in Nakhon Nayok where Thai Buddhists also take part in the celebrations alongside Hindus.