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The Chao Mae Tuptim shrine or Phra Mae Tuptim fertility shrine
The Chao Mae Tuptim shrine or Phra Mae Tuptim fertility shrine in the corner of the grounds of the Raffels - Nai Lert Park hotel, Wireless Road or Thanon Wittayu, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330
There is nothing unusual about finding a shrine in Bangkok, except this one. Instead of the usual Buddhist deities, Buddha incarnations or spirits the Tuptim Shrine AKA the Lingam Shrine revolves around something that many will consider quite unholy. This shrine tucked away in a back corner of the Nai Lert Park Hotel, which used to be the Hilton Hotel, sheltered under and behind some trees close to the tradesmens' entrance, you will see brightly coloured swaggs around the trees and a pathway beckoning you towards a traditional Thai spirit house in which a Phra Mae Tuptim image, about 20cm high, is housed covered in offerings and garlands. Nothing unusual? Wrong! On closer inspection the large black pillar standing beside the spirit house reveals the true nature of the shrine. The totem is a giant representation of a penis, the largest phallus symbol, surrounded all around by loads and loads of smaller penises of all shapes, sizes and colours. There are little fat ones, tall thin ones, tall fat ones, small thin ones and some that even have legs!
This is not phallus worship, the history if this shrine revolves around fertility. If you have tried all the fertility treatments and nothing has worked, then it might be time to pay a visit to the Penis Shrine in downtown Bangkok, Thailand.
The shrine was originally dedicated to Chao Tuptim, a female animist spirit who people believe has been residing in the banyan tree next to the shrine for hundreds of years. Unlike many other shrines in Bangkok it is very quiet, so like us you may find yourself alone there, able to pray or give things to Chao Tuptim without being disturbed. It's also very interesting and away from the traffic of downtown Bangkok.
Years ago it is said, a woman came to pray at the shrine asking for help, from Chao Tuptim, to conceive. Nine months later, she gave birth to a healthy chid. She was so pleased that she came back to the shrine and left a large wooden carving of a giant penis in thanks. Over the years others have followed in her footsteps and today, if you visit, you will see literally hundreds of wooden and stone phalus, all different colours and sizes. Some have colourful pieces of fabric tied around them for protection; others are dyed bright red, blue or green. Essentially though they all give off the same message. Offer up a penis to the shrine, and you too may undergo the miracle of conception.
The shrine is not mentioned in any official tourist brochures as most likely, the exhibition of these phalic symbols are not openly acceptable to Thai society. We have not seen the shrine advertised anywhere in Bangkok, and we doubt that even the guests of the hotel are aware of its existence.
The nearest Skytrain stops are Ploen Chit or Chitlom. From the Ploen Chit station walk along Wireless Road about 600m past the British Embassy on your left until you reach the hotel.
To find the shrine at the hotel, as you aproach the main entrance you will see a walkway and steps beyond. Follow the steps down and keeping the hotel on your left walk down the service road and through a car park. The Chao Mae Tuptim Shrine is on the right at the end by the corner.
Tall cylinders of stone linga or lingams are worshipped as the phallic images of a fabled Hindu god, Shiva and as Thailand's modern Buddhism has its roots in India's ancient Hinduism, and many spiritual rituals and symbols are shared by both religions. Thais occasionally dangle a tiny wooden phallus symbols from their belt or necklace, for added protection.
Please treat the Chao Mae Tuptim Shrine with respect, even if you think it is funny please keep your composure and do not take photos if there is anyone else at the shrine.
Items annotated (TAT)
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