Love prayers: Seeking soulmates at shopping mall shrine (photo essay)

Emerge from Central World in a shopping-weary daze late enough on a Thursday, and you might be surprised by the scene of fervent prayer unfolding near Ratchadamri Road.

Squatting next to the megamall and next to the plus-size Ganesha shrine is the Trimurti Shrine, the most well-known place in Bangkok to ask for some love from the gods.

There’s even a luckiest time: Thursday at 9:30pm.

That’s when hundreds of lovelorn or lonely Bangkokians swarm the place in search of their soulmates.

In the mood for love? Stop by and try. Not everyone praying is an ardent believer, but as one passer-by said as he paused to bow his head, “It can’t hurt, right?”

Approach the shrine with offerings of red candles and drinks, nine red roses or nine red incense sticks. Remove your shoes and recite a traditional prayer asking to be blessed with love. Light the incense or candles, pop open a bottle of red Fanta for Trimurti and leave the roses along the front of the shrine.

You don’t need to come prepared. Vendors sell pre-bundled roses for THB80, and the incense is only THB10 if you are looking for love and cost-effectiveness.

Jun has sold roses outside the shrine for two years.

“This is the main shrine to pray for love,” she explained. “The first time you come asking for love. If you get it, you have to come back to offer the shrine sweets or coconut water to express thanks. If you don’t, the love could be taken away.”

Asked if some she sees frequent seekers return time and again in search of love, Jun nodded and said, “I do see familiar faces.”

On a recent Thursday, I asked people about love their prayers and what they knew about the shrine.

Porntip was with a group of six married women who work together in a nearby office. They decided to get dinner and visit the shrine after work. Why pray for love if you are already married?

“You can also pray to make your husband or wife love you more,” she said. They sat on the pavement at 9:20pm chatting amidst the red roses, drinks and incense. Most people will stand around waiting until 9:30pm in hopes of imbuing their offerings with the most luck.

Why 9:30? “It’s the golden hour,” Porntip said.

Kiss was visiting the shrine with her sister and teenage daughter. All are single.They came from Nonthaburi to pray at the shrine.

“My co-worker came here to pray for love. I wasn’t sure about it, but three months later, she got engaged to a foreign man. That’s why we came. For some reason, this shrine can bring luck if you want to marry a foreigner.”

So did Kiss want to marry a foreigner?

“I don’t know,” she laughed. “Maybe? Why not?”

Not everyone interviewed knew much about why they were there or the history of the shrine. Some walked out of the mall and were drawn to the big crowd, bought some offerings and prayed for luck in any form before moving on.

Most people agreed the offerings are red because it is the favored color of Trimurti and because it represents love. Others suggested they are offered in multiples of nine because of the luck associated with the number, gao, which sounds similar to “progress” or “forward movement” in Thai.

One woman, Wee, seemed to know quite a lot. She had written a long, heartfelt love letter to leave at the shrine alongside her flowers and incense.

“My letter is asking him to come back to me,” she said. “We were dating, but he called it off and said he was not ready to commit. I heard about the shrine on TV and that it worked for many people. So, here I am.”

When asked if she was afraid that strangers might read her personal letter, she said that she didn’t care, she just wanted her boyfriend back.

“Most people that come here, they have a certain person in mind that they want to fall in love with or who they want to come back to them. People aren’t usually here hoping to just fall in love with anyone. Also, most people here are looking for a serious relationship, not a fling. Thai people are looking for a husband or wife.”

I mentioned to her that many people at the shrine did not seem to want to talk about their prayers.

“No one here wants to talk,” she said, “Everyone has a broken heart.”


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