insightsocialstudies Belief and Religion Beliefs in Thailand (2)

Beliefs in Thailand (2)

Thai people are offering to the Brahma; It shows about the belief of Brahma-Hindu in Thailand (Photo from

We talked about the Buddhism which is the main belief or religion in Thailand in Believes in Thailand (1). If you haven’t read yet, you can go to the link I made. In this blog, you will know the other believes among Thai People. Besides Buddhism, Thai people follow Hinduism and Animism.

Both beliefs’ influence have been integrated into Thai Culture since the past. Hinduism has affected the higher-class people and lower-class or general people whereas Animism or superstition has quite affected the lower-class people more than the upper-class people.

According to history, Hinduism was spread out to Thailand around 6 century from Funan, the powerful kingdom and center of Hinduism at that time. However 9th to 15th century was the period that Hinduism affected Thai Culture the most.

At that time the powerful kingdom on the mainland of Southeast Asia was Angkor or Yasodharapura; the capital city of Khmer Empire (Siem Reap Province in Cambodia at the present day).

The King of Khmer Empire expanded the power to the area of Thailand now, especially in Northeast (Southern part) and Central region. It was believed that La-vo (Lopburi at the present day) was the capital of Khmer Empire in the Central Region whereas Pimai (locates in Nakorn Ratchasima at the present day) and Panomrung (locates in Burirum at the present day) was the capital of Khmer Empire in the Northeast Region.

Prasart Kao Panomrung; the Hindu Temple in Northeast Region of Thailand which was built during the Khmer Empire Age (Photo from

The historical ruins representing to the expansion of Khmer Empire’s power at that time was Prang Samyot at Lopburi, Prasart Kao Panomrung at Burirum and Prasart Hin Pimai at Nakorn Ratchasrima. Prasart Kao Panomrung was the Hindu temple. Prang Samyot was the Hindu temple at first but it was changed to be the Mahayana Buddhist temple later while Prasart Hin Pimai was the Mahayana Buddhist temple. All of these places were not Hindu Temple because in the reign of King Jayawaraman VII, he supported Mahayana Buddhism instead of Hindu, some places were changed to be the Buddhist temple by his order.

Prang Samyot at Lopburi; at first this temple was built in Hindu belief but was adapted to Mahayana Buddhist Temple later. (Photo from Hawong)

Lots of Hindu cultures flourished in Thailand during that period because the leaders who were the local people followed Hinduism like the King of Khmer Empire.

Although they changed to follow Buddhism later, some of Hindu cultures or principles were still used and influenced them especially about political idea. This idea was clearly adapted to Thai politics in the fourteenth century in Ayutthaya Period. It was Divine Theory. From the theory, it has been believed that the King is incarnated from Vishnu who descended to help relieve the suffering of humankind. Vishnu is one of the great hindu gods. Hindu people believe that he was the god of world protection.

Vishnu; God of World Protection according to the Belief in Hinduism (Photo from

All of the kings during Ayutthaya period (1350 A.D. – 1767 A.D.), Thonburi period (1767 A.D. – 1782 A.D.), and Rattanakosin period (1782 A.D. – now) adopted this theory to govern the kingdom. After Thailand’s Political Regime was changed to Democracy in 1932 A.D., the Divine theory has been used in some rituals or ceremonies. It was still used to identify the status of the king although the sovereignty has belonged to the people.

Divine Theory also created lots of hindu cultures in Thai such as Hindu royal ceremonies, the principle of giving the King’s name which relates to the Hindu god, the arts, and literatures. In term of the arts, most of them always relate to the famous Indian epic named Ramayana.

One of the Mural Painting at the temple of Emerald Buddha which depicts the story of Ramayana (Photo from

The story of Ramayana was drawn on the mural painting in Thai Royal Temple in order to support the King’s Power and Virtue. The most greatful mural painting is on the cloister in the temple of Emerald Buddha. In addition, some characters like Tosakan (Ravana) or the other demons were always created the guardians to protect the temple. This story has been also adopted to create the noble performance called “Khon”. In the past, the performance will be played for the King and royal family only.

If you are a foreigner and still don’t get insight about Thai culture, it’s possible that you don’t understand why Hindu cultures are found in Buddhist Temples.

The mixtures of beliefs like this have been created since the past because of Thai people’s character, we like to bring received culture to integrate and create it into Thai culture. There is another reason which makes Hindu and Buddhist cultures can combine together. Both religions have the same root and were found in India therefore it’s possible that lots of believes and principles are similar or have a relation in something.

Because Hinduism is a theism religion, the influence of Hinduism on Buddhism usually relates with the ritual or the creation of auspicious things. Talk about the royal ceremony, one of the greatness ceremony reflecting Hindu culture is the coronation ceremony. The importance of the ceremony is to raise the king’s status from ordinary person to the divine’s king so there are lots of stages in the ceremony to make this. If you are interested about this ceremony and wanna know more, the latest coronation ceremony which was just held in Thailand last year (2019) is the best for learning it.

Coronation Ceremony of King Rama X in 2019 (Photo from

About the auspicious things relating to Hinduism, there are lots of them but the well-known things among Thai people are Holy Thread, Holy Water, and Shrine of Brahma.

In the wedding ceremony, there is the tradition to tie the holy thread for wishing the marriage life be happy

Holy thread is the white thread made by the brahmin. It used for protecting the person who wears it from dangerous things. It’s believed that the holy thread still make people life to be smooth and safe. We also use it in the auspicious ceremonies such as wedding ceremony. This belief can be found in Buddhism too but the person who make it is the monk. It shows the integration between the religions.

Like the holy thread, the purpose for using and the person who makes holy water are similar. There is the creation and use of holy water in Buddhism also.

Shrine of Brahma is built in front of the company or factory. According to Hindu Belief, Brahma is the god of creation so Thai people built it to create the good thing for the place they live. Brahma can still protect them from the dangerous thing like the ghost or evil.

When you read til this paragraph, I think you will understand about Hindu in Thai more. Next, let me tell you about the Animism or Superstition in Thailand.

Thai people had followed this belief before Buddhism and Hinduism were spread to Southeast Asia. It reflected the life of local people which had a bond to nature and the environment. Thai people have believed that there are souls living in everything such as tree, mountain or river. These souls can bless the good things or bring the bad things to Human plus we still believed that the natural phenomenon are originated by them.

The belief like this created the tradition or the ritual for respecting the souls in the nature. The people at that time believed that if they worshipped correctly, they would get the blessing or the good things from these souls, for example, getting rainwater enough for their crops, bringing the safety and peace to their family, being safe when they have to travel especially in forest or mountain, making a high profit in their commerce.

When you travel to Thailand, I think you may have a chance to find the color clothes which are tied with the tree or see the shrine which look like a wood house. These shrines will be placed in front of the house and there are old man and woman inside it. In addition you may see the statue of woman in the posture like she is calling something. All of them tell you about the belief of Animism or Superstition in Thailand.

The tree which is tied by the color of clothes means to respect the angel living at that tree. Thai people will make a wish with this angel to get things they hope.

The colorful clothes which are tied with the old tree means there is the angel living (Photo from

Shrine which is stood in front of the house may be called shrine of household (Spirit Shrine). Thai people built this kind of shrine for hoping the souls who stay inside the shrine will protect the family members from bad thing and make good thing for their home.

Shrine of Household (Photo from

The statue of woman in the posture of calling something will often placed at the shop or the restaurant. (Called “Nang Kwak” in Thai language / Calling Woman in English) Thai people believe she can make a profit to them by calling the customers or a lot of moneys. Normally they will offer her by giving the red water.

Statue of Woman in the posture of calling something; Thai people call “Nang Kwak” (Photo from

Apart from the soul living in the nature or environment, Thai people gave an important to the souls of Ancestors and souls of Heroes. There are lots of traditions or ceremonies which Thai people have inherited until today such as

they raised the status of King Rama V to the deity after he died because he made a great reformation to the nation and showed mercy to the people. Thai people have had a respect and worshipped him like they do with the Buddha Image. They have made a wish on various things with him.

The Photo of King Rama V. After he died, Thai people respected him like a god. (Photo from

Although Hinduism and Buddhism were spread to Southeast Asia as well as Thailand around sixth century, the Animism or Superstition were still given an importance. It was integrated to Hinduism and Buddhism later. Some Thai academicians defy this integration that “the Thai Religion” .

In my opinion,

“I think this definition can tell the belief in Thailand clearly. We can’t tell directly that Thai people are Buddhist because there are lots of believes mixing with Buddhism’s belief.”

If you have a chance to travel to Thailand or stay in this country, you will understand why I say like this.

Thank you for reading until this. Hoping this blog will benefit you when you want to get insight the way of Thai people’s life. I will write lots of blogs to get insight Thai society, please wait to read it!

If you like, please share this!

2 thoughts on “Beliefs in Thailand (2)”

    1. Thank You very much for your interest. I have a new article. It is about the community in Thailand which relates the culture and belief. If you are interested, you can read it. I will update about interesting culture in Thailand through the tourist attraction in the future.

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