Hinduism in Thailand

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Hinduism is a minority religion in Thailand followed by 0.02% of its population as of 2018.[1] Despite being a Buddhist majority nation, Thailand has a very strong Hindu influence. The popular Thai epic Ramakien is based on the Buddhist Dasaratha Jataka, is a Thai variant of the Hindu epic Ramayana.[2]


The Sukhothai Vishnu at the Bangkok National Museum, circa 14th century, found at the Sukhothai Historical Park.

Although Thailand has never been a majority Hindu country, it has been influenced by Hinduism. Before Thailand was a country, the land that makes up present-day Thailand was under the territory of the Hindu-Buddhist Khmer Empire. In the past, the nation came under the influence of the Khmer Empire, which had strong Hindu roots. Despite the fact that today Thailand is a Buddhist majority nation, many elements of Thai culture and symbolism demonstrates Hindu influences and heritage. For example, the popular epic, Ramakien, based on the Buddhist Dasaratha Jataka, is very similar to Ramayana.[2] The Royal emblem of Thailand depicted Garuda, the vahana (vehicle) of Vishnu.[3]

The Thai city, Ayutthaya near Bangkok, is named after Ayodhya, the birthplace of Rama. Numerous rituals derived from Hinduism are preserved in rituals, such as the use of holy strings and pouring of water from conch shells. Furthermore, Hindu-Buddhist deities are worshipped by many Thais, such as Brahma at the famous Erawan Shrine, and statues of Ganesh, Indra, and Shiva, as well as numerous symbols relating to Hindu deities are found, e.g., Garuda, a symbol of the monarchy. Reliefs in temple walls, such as the 12th-century Prasat Sikhoraphum near Surin (Thailand), show a dancing Shiva, with smaller images of Parvati, Vishnu, Brahma and Ganesha.[4]

The Devasathan is a Hindu temple established in 1784 by King Rama I. The temple is the centre of Hinduism in Thailand. The royal court Brahmins operate the temple, they perform several royal ceremonies per year.

An annual Giant Swing ceremony known as Triyampavai-Tripavai was held in major cities of Thailand until 1935, when it was abolished for safety reasons.[5] The name of the ceremony was derived from the names of two Tamil language Hindu chants: Thiruvempavai and Thiruppavai. It is known that Tamil verses from Thiruvempavaipoet pratu sivalai ("opening the portals of Shiva's home") — were recited at this ceremony, as well as the coronation ceremony of the Thai king.[6] According to T.P. Meenakshisundaram, the name of the festival indicates that Thiruppavai might have been recited as well.[7] The swinging ceremony depicted a legend about how the god created the world. Outside shops, particularly in towns and rural areas, statues of Nang Kwak as the deity of wealth, fortune and prosperity (version of Lakshmi) are found.[8][9]

The elite, and the royal household, often employ Brahmins to mark funerals and state ceremonies such as the Royal Ploughing Ceremony to ensure a good harvest. The importance of Hinduism cannot be denied, even though much of the rituals has been combined with Buddhism.[10]

Thai Brahmin community[edit]

Royal Brahmins performing a ceremony, mural painting from Temple of Emerald Buddha

Thailand has two ethnic Thai Brahmin communities-Brahm Luang (Royal Brahmins) and Brahm Chao Baan (folk Brahmins). All ethnic Thai Brahmins are Buddhist by religions, who still worship Hindu Gods.[11] The Brahm Luang (Royal Brahmins) mainly perform royal ceremonies of the Thai King, including crowning of the king.[12] They belong to the long family bloodline of Brahmins in Thailand, who originated from Tamilnadu. The Brahm Chao Baan or folk Brahmins are the category of Brahmins who are not from a bloodline of priests. Generally, these Brahmins have a small knowledge about the rituals and ceremonies. The Devasathan is the centre of Brahmin activity in Thailand. This is where the Triyampawai ceremony is conducted, which is a Tamil Shaiva ritual. It was built more than 200 years ago. Apart from this there are also Indian Brahmins from India who migrated to Thailand more recently.[13]

Brahmins once conducted the royal ceremony in other South East countries also. The Brahminical rituals were reinstated in Cambodia after the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge.[14][15] The Brahmins of Myanmar have lost their role due to the abolition of monarchy.

Prince historian Damrong Rajanubhab has mentioned about three kind of Brahmins, from Nakhòn Sī Thammarāt, from Phatthalung, and those who originated from Cambodia.[16]

Indian Hindus[edit]

During the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya periods, evidence of the presence of sizable number of Indians in the Thai court is described by a number of western travelers. However most of the contemporary Indians came to Thailand after 1920, and during the first half of the 19th century.[17]

The Mariamman Temple, Bangkok is the first temple built in the South Indian architecture. It was built in 1879 by Vaithi Padayatchi,a Tamil Hindu immigrant.[18][19][20]


Historical Population
Year Percent Increase
2005 0.09% -
2010 0.06% -0.03%
2015 0.03% -0.03%
2018 0.02% -0.01%

According to the Thai Census of 2005, there are 52,631 Hindus living in Thailand, making up just 0.09% of the total population.[21]

According to the 2010 Thailand census there are 41,808 Hindus in Thailand constituting 0.06% of the population.[22] In the 2015 census this population decreased to 22,110 or 0.03%.[23]

However, the Pew research data found that Hinduism constituted 0.1% of the Thai population in 2014 and is also the fastest growing religion in Thailand. The Pew research data reports that the Hindu population is expected to increase from 0.1% in 2014 to 0.2% by 2050[24]

Future Hindu population of Thailand
Year Total Population Hindu population Percentage
2014 68,438,748 68,439 0.1%
2050 65,940,494 131,881 0.2%

Hindu sites in Thailand[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Population by religion, region and area, 2015" (PDF). NSO. Archived (PDF) from the original on 10 December 2017. Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  2. ^ a b Ghosh, Lipi (2017), "India–Thailand Cultural Interactions: A Study of Shared Cultural Markers", India-Thailand Cultural Interactions, Singapore: Springer Singapore, pp. 1–11, doi:10.1007/978-981-10-3854-9_1, ISBN 978-981-10-3853-2, retrieved 2021-01-04
  3. ^ "The concept of Garuda in Thai society".
  4. ^ Sikhoraphum, Thailand, Arts & Archaeology Journal
  5. ^ M. E. Manickavasagom Pillai (1986). Dravidian Influence in Thai Culture. Tamil University. p. 69.
  6. ^ Upendra Thakur (1986). Some Aspects of Asian History and Culture. Abhinav. pp. 27–28. ISBN 978-81-7017-207-9.
  7. ^ Norman Cutler (1979). Consider Our Vow: Translation of Tiruppāvai and Tiruvempāvai Into English. Muttu Patippakam. p. 13.
  8. ^ Ara Wilson (2008), The Sacred Geography of Bangkok’s Markets, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Volume 32.3, September 2008, page 635
  9. ^ Jonathan Lee, Fumitaka Matsuoka, Edmond Yee and Ronald Nakasone (2015), Asian American Religious Cultures, ABC, ISBN 978-1598843309, page 892
  10. ^ "Hinduism Today | Thailand | July/August/September, 2003". Archived from the original on 30 October 2006. Retrieved 3 September 2006.
  11. ^ คมกฤช อุ่ยเต็กเค่ง. ภารตะ-สยาม ? ผี พราหมณ์ พุทธ ?. กรุงเทพฯ : มติชน, 2560, หน้า 15
  12. ^ Thai King Officially Crowned, Cementing Royal Authority, VOA, May 04, 2019
  13. ^ "The new Brahmins". Retrieved 4 March 2020.
  14. ^ Priests Uphold a Unique—and Royal—Tradition By Samantha Melamed and Kuch Naren, Compodian Daily, October 31, 2005
  15. ^ Balancing the foreign and the familiar in the articulation of kingship: The royal court Brahmans of Thailand, Nathan McGovern, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, Volume 48 Issue 2, June 2017 , pp. 283-303
  16. ^ สมเด็จกรมพระยานริศรานุวัดติวงศ์, สาส์นสมเด็จ [Royal letters], vol. 1, 2nd ed. (พระนคร: กรมศิลปากร, 2516[1973]), p. 270, cited in Kanjana, ‘Ways of life, rituals and cultural identity’, p. 65.
  17. ^ "INDIAN COMMUNITY IN THAILAND". Retrieved 3 March 2020.
  18. ^ Sandhu & Mani 2006, p. 978.
  19. ^ Kesavapany & Mani 2008, p. 673.
  20. ^ Manguin, Mani & Wade 2011, p. 475.
  21. ^ http://popcensus.nso.go.th/show_table.php?t=t5&yr=2543&a=1
  22. ^ "Population by religion, region and area, 2010" (PDF). NSO. Retrieved 2 March 2020.
  23. ^ "Population by religion, region and area, 2015" (PDF). NSO. Retrieved 2 March 2020.
  24. ^ "Hinduism fastest growing religion in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia". Retrieved 2 March 2020.
  25. ^ "Hinduism fastest growing religion in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia". Retrieved 2 March 2020.