Thailand is one of the most exotic countries in South East Asia with their multi-faceted beliefs, cultures and traditions. The main religion in Thailand is Buddhism, with its roots coming from the Hindu and also Chinese versions of Buddhism over the centuries. As a result, much of the deities and Gods that are worshiped in Thailand are very similar to those found in India and China. Stories of the Ramakien were derived from the ancient text of the Ramayana. So it is no surprise to see familiar Gods and Deities often found in other Buddhist worshiping countries, even though these Gods and Deities may have different names but the images are the same.
One such highly revered deity is Pra Pikkanet, or better known as Ganesh or Ganesha. He is difficult to miss and easily recognized with his elephant head and protruding pot-belly. He is also one of the well-loved deities in the Hindu/Buddhist religion. Pra Pikkanet is associated with fortune, success, prosperity, wisdom and intellect. Not only is he considered the Lord of Benevolent Fortune but also the Remover of All Obstacles, be it spiritual or even material. He is established as the patron of education, arts and science.
The story of Pra Pikkanet is believed to have evolved from the story of how the Goddess Parvati wanted a son, which she created to guard her while he bathed. However, Shiva when he returned from his battles, found the boy guarding Parvati and in a rage killed him by beheading the boy. Parvati flew into a rage and to appease her, Shiva ordered his guards to look for the first dead being which happened to be a young elephant. So the dead elephant head was brought back to Shiva who placed it on the boy and breathed life back into him. Thus was born the myth of Pra Pikkanet. Sometimes in the homes of those who worship Pra Pikkanet, you can see that his shrine faces the doorway as he is known for his role as a protector against the undesirable.
The elephant head symbolizes intelligence, wisdom and strength, while his large ears mean that he listens to all who pray and worship him. His favorite mount is that of a lesser mouse. It denotes that nothing is too big or small for Pra Pikkanet and even small things are not insignificant things. It also means that he is able to navigate and remove all obstacles regardless of size or circumstances.
The humble little mouse also plays a significant role with Pra Pikkanet and is often depicted looking up in adoration at Pra Pikkanet. Pra Pikkanet is also often worshiped by those who are in business such as traders and merchants. In Thai Buddhism, Pra Pikkanet is revered as a gentle and benevolent deity which represents the most gentle of all principles and personality that is associated with prosperity and success. Even foreigners recognize Pra Pikkanet probably because of his symbol of the elephant.
One of the places where Pra Pikkanet is worshiped in Thailand is in the district of Chachengsao which is just a short 1.5 hour drive out of Bangkok city. There is a temple here known as Wat Saman Rattanaram which has the biggest reclining statue of Pra Pikkanet at 16m in height by 22m long. The huge reclining pink four armed statue of the deity Pra Pikkanet is resting on top of a platform with 32 iconic forms of Pra Pikkanet at the surrounding the base of the platform.
The Wat Saman Rattanaram is located along the river of the Bangpakong Kaeo Dam Project and the river is known as the Bang Pakong River. The temple also has a huge statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy and several other Buddhist deities.
Also at the base of the huge reclining Pra Pikkanet statue are several of his rat minions which can be seen looking up to Pra Pikkanet in adoration. You would notice that there are little steps placed next to this large rat statues and might wonder what they are for. It is believed that if you whisper your wishes or intentions to the ear of the rat, it will bring your wishes to Pra Pikkanet and have them granted for you.
Next to the Kuan Yin statue is a Dragon Shrine. This shrine is noted to remove all obstacles and bad luck for those who worship it or are born in the year of the Dragon. The ritual is when you donate to the shrine, you will get a set of hell notes (hell money), joss sticks and candles. The hell notes are held in one hand and waved over your whole body from the top of your head to your feet in an outward fanning motion to sort of fan off your bad luck. The joss sticks are placed at the alter while the hell notes are taken to a huge cistern to be burnt.
The temple also has two huge statues of Nagas or Dragons which guard the waterway gate of the temple. These two huge Nagas are in red and green. They are an impressive sight along the river bank. This temple is a busy place during weekends and holidays and one of the attractions is also the floating market and farmer market. There are many food stalls at the floating market which caters to the worshipers who frequent the place. One can get a good variety of local street foods as well as a farmer market. You can purchase cheap fresh vegetables from this farmer market from the many vendors including salted fish, salted and preserved eggs plus a good variety of fresh fruit.
As there are no tours that actually come to this temple, you would pretty much have to find your own way here. If you are driving from Bangkok, these are the GPS co-ordinates that you can use to find your way there by driving – 13.701759,101.141167. Alternatively, you can take bus number 511 from Victory Monument in Bangkok City or Bor Khor Sor bus number 55 from Ekamai Bus Terminal in Bangkok to Chachengsao and then a taxi from Chachengsao bus terminal to the temple. The temple is open daily throughout but the stalls are mostly open from 09.00am to 05.00pm daily and there is no entrance fee to go to the temple. There are very few foreigners who visit this temple but it is an interesting place to make a short visit from the city.