The Erawan Museum
The Erawan Museum stands as a landmark in old Sukhumvit Road on the stretch leading out from Bangkok to Samut Prakan, a huge 30 m high three-headed elephant atop a domed building with elaborately carved gables and ringed in by a white wall that looks more like the ramparts of a fort.
This unusual structure is the brainchild of Khun Lek Viriyapant who had a vision of preserving his personal collection of Thai art for posterity by retaining Buddhist and other relics within the country to foster cultural tourism with the most unusual architecture.
Construction of the Erawan Museum started in 1994 and was only completed in the early 2000s. The centerpiece, of course, was the 250 ton three-headed elephant called Erawan to be hoisted on the domed roof. What is the allure of Erawan?
The legend of Erawan
Erawan is the Thai name for Airawata the holy elephant which emerged from the Garuda's egg shell as Brahma read the holy hymns. This great white elephant with 4 tusks and 7 trunks became the steed of Indra, the god of thunder and war.
Thais believe that Erawan has 33 heads. For practical purposes and simplicity, the statues of Erawan are shown with three heads. However, there is no mention in Hindu mythology of the elephant having 33 heads or even three.
But it's on record that Indra is also chief deity or the lord over 33 gods. Could this be the source of the belief as the mythology passed from one culture to another?
The Erawan Museum mustn't be confused with the Erawan Shrine in downtown Bangkok. That shrine is dedicated to Brahma. The shrine was named after the old Erawan Hotel (currently Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel) which built the shrine to ward off bad luck.