Bangkok's best known Hindu temple
Built in the 1860s by immigrants from Tamil Nadu in Southern India, Sri Maha Marriaman is an important Hindu temple that grabs the eyes of anyone walking down Silom Road.
Known to many Thais as Wat Khaek (khaek being a Thai catch-all word for people of South Asian descent), the temple anchors a part of the Silom area that can be thought of as the city's second Little India, distinct from the predominantly Sikh community at Pahurat. Indian music often pumps from footpath vendors as Indian shopkeepers sell sweets and statuettes of Hindu gods.
The temple's outer towers and walls display an elaborate intertwining of deities including Brahma, Indra and Vishnu. Unlike the Thai-style representations of these icons which are commonly found at Thai Buddhist temples, the style of imagery here comes straight from India. It will remind some travellers of a temple with the same name down in Singapore.
The central shrine holds a small image of Maha Mariamman, the Hindu mother goddess associated with fertility—especially in the form of rain—and curing disease. Every day, white-robed Brahmans accept offerings from those who revere the goddess, including many Thai Buddhists. The holy men recite a blessing and place a red splotch, or bindi, on the foreheads of all who give offerings.
It's quite an experience joining a queue that leads into the smoky inner chamber; expect to be ushered through so quickly that you'll barely grab a glimpse of the sacred image. While most visitors offer only flower garlands and fruit presented on round trays, those making bigger wishes may include a whole pig's head. In a continual fluid motion, a team of Brahmans take in hundreds of offerings each day.
The temple holds special ceremonies in accordance with the moon, and each year in late October the Maha Mariamman image is paraded through the streets during a colourful festival named after the goddess. The temple is considered very sacred—photography is strictly prohibited inside the walls and proper attire is required.
Afterwards you could grab a meal at one of the many Indian or Chinese-Thai vegetarian eateries that line the road, and then pop across the street to check out the photo exhibition along with books and gifts with a South Asian theme at Kathmandhu Gallery. If you're interested in seeing Hinduism in action in Bangkok, also plan a trip to Dev Mandir and Erawan Shrine.
On the corner of Silom and Pan Road, about a five-minute walk from either Surasak or Chong Nonsi BTS stations.
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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