Chao Mae Tuptim Shrine (Goddess Tuptim Shrine)
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The Chao Mae Tuptim shrine is located on the grounds of the Nai Lert Bangkok Hotel (Swissotel) on Wireless Road.
Besides Buddhist temples and Buddha Images, Bangkok abounds with numerous small and large spirit houses and shrines to Hindu Gods and animism related deities.
One less visited shrine is located on the grounds of the Nai Lert Bangkok Hotel (also known as Swissotel) on Wireless Road (Witthayu Road).
It is dedicated to Chao Mae Tuptim. A sign at the site indicates that the precise origin of the shrine is unknown. It was likely erected by Nai Lert as a spirit house for the spirit that was believed to reside in the large ficus tree on the spot.
Traditional offerings always included jasmine flowers, incense sticks and lotus buds. However over the years less traditional offerings were given, and now the area around the shrine is occupied by numerous small and large lingams or phallic symbols. As such it is believed the shrine is dedicated to fertility (and good luck).
Chao Mae Tuptim Image (about 20 cm high) located in the spirit house. You will not be able to see this image unless you have a flashlight with you. Flash photography (almost by accident) revealed it to us.
The shrine is not advertised anywhere, and we doubt that even the guests at the hotel are told about its existence. Most likely, 'exhibits' like this are not really politically correct, and not proper for hi-so Thai society. As indicated the place has a lot of lingams, some a few meters long. A lot of the wooden lingams are very brightly colored in red.
The name for the Goddess is not explained. We offer our own explanation here which may be a bit presumptuous. Tuptim (or rather taptim) means pomegranate in Thai language. There is also a local variety of orange (blood orange) that has tuptim in its name, and its pulp has the same color as the pulp of a pomegranate. Interestingly, you will notice that a lot of the wooden lingams around the shrine have an intense red color, resembling the color of pomegranate juice. We surmise that the name Chao Mae Tuptim, is related to the color of the phallic objects. Richard S. Ehrlich, a Bangkok-based reporter and writer offers this explanation for the bright red color of the lingams at the shrine :
Many of the shrine's sex symbols are painted solid red. According to Philip Rawson, who traces erotic imagery to Tantric beliefs within Hinduism and Buddhism, "The most powerful sexual rite, of re-integration, requires intercourse with the female partner when she is menstruating, and her 'red' sexual energy is at its peak. For these reasons, the representations in the art of the female counterpart, or initiator, are usually colored red," Rawson writes in his book, Tantra: The Indian Cult of Ecstasy.
Numerous phallic symbols (lingams) around the shrine. Notice also the figurines in front. The human ones represent the 'Lords of the Land' and are usually found in traditional Thai spirit houses.
To reach the shrine of Chao Mae Tuptim, one has to use the main entrance of the Nai Lert Hotel. We advise to walk straight through the lobby and enter the quite large garden with swimming pool in front. The shrine is not located there (the guest area of the hotel). One has to exit through a gate on the right to enter a service area and parking lot. Exit through the gate and turn right. After about 100 meters you will have the shrine to your left. It is located adjacent to Klong Saen Saeb. Therefore the air is quite foul.
Walkway leading up to the Chao Mae Tuptim Shrine.
Relocation : The Chao Mae Tuptim Shrine has been moved, a victim of progress. The Swissotel Nai Lert Hotel has stopped existing beginning 2017, if we remember well. The area of the hotel has been sold to BDMS, a hospital conglomerate. A wellness center is now operating at the site. As a result of the takeover, the shrine in a reduced and we understand more modest form, has been relocated to the Nai Lert Park Heritage Home. This a certainly worth a visit if you like lush gardens and good food. The Heritage Home can be reached from Wireless Road, and is located behind Central Embassy.
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