Bangkok, Sep 25 (EFE).- A demonic-looking statue, representing an ancient master of esoteric magic, has generated controversy in Bangkok between worshipers who leave offerings in exchange for favors and detractors who want it gone.
Pitch black and winged, the figure of Kru Kai Kaew displays protruding fangs and red claws on an altar placed in August by managers of The Bazaar hotel in front of its entrance at a busy intersection in the north of Thailand’s capital.
His followers claim he is a wise man who lived in the court of Jayavarman VII, the first Buddhist king who reigned in the Khmer Empire between the years 1181 and 1218, although some experts claim it is a legend with no historical basis.
Some detractors, mainly a collective called the Council of Artists for the Promotion of Buddhism, are calling for the image to be removed from public view as they believe it promotes black magic and is contrary to Buddhism.
However, followers of Kru Kai Kaew come to the place to leave offerings and pray in the hope that the sinister deity will grant their wishes, in many cases related to economic prosperity.
Awita Lee, a 42-year-old Thai stylist, told EFE that she was in England when she began to see negative comments about Kru Kai Kaew on the social network TikTok, but instead of causing her rejection, she became curious about the deity.
“I just wanna see this guy, you know? Why people disrespect…, well, not disrespect, just don’t like him and give negative feelings about him. So I came” Lee said, after placing some incense sticks before the altar and looking for lucky numbers for the lottery.
She added that she goes to pray and request favors before Kru Kai Kaew, located in a small square under construction attached to the hotel, as she does with Buddha, the Hindu god Ganesha or other deities.
Pichit, another follower of the supposed Khmer guru, also prostrated before the winged figure to pray for good business, while Ratha Srisuk, a 52-year-old saleswoman, said Kru Kai Kaew is not dangerous if one has a pure heart and there are no sins committed.
Ninety percent of Thais consider themselves Buddhist, but many practice a religious syncretism in which, in addition to Buddha, they worship Hindu deities, of Chinese origin, and spirits.
Komkrit Uitekkeng, professor at the Faculty of Philosophy at Silpakorn University in Thailand, told EFE that, while Thais have long venerated guardian spirits, the worship of figures such as Mae Nak (the spirit of a woman who died giving birth) or Kru Kai Kaew are more recent.
“Kru kai Kaew is sacred for – and revered by – a specific group of people. Kru Kai Kaew is created from a personal belief of the late (astrologer) Suchart Ratanasuk,” Komkrit said.
The professor said the image of the Kru Kai Kaew is not based on traditional statues or idols and that, in his opinion, it resembles the gargoyles of Gothic churches, but it is not now possible to confirm whether the late master was inspired by these figures.
“I think the main reason why many people oppose Kai Kaew is because of his appearance, which does not follow tradition,” Komkrit added, referring to his demonic appearance designed by Suchart.
The professor that others relate the deity to an ancient prophecy that said evil spirits from the forest would take over the city and expel the protective angels or even attribute to it an anti-monarchical meaning.
In any case, there are replicas of the image in various places in Thailand and many devotees go to ask it to grant their wishes, including winning lottery numbers.
“Thai society gives importance to the cult of wealth. The society is oriented towards prosperity,” says Komkrit, although he clarifies that this economic variant must have been born after Suchart’s death.
Although visible from the street, the demonic statue is located on the hotel grounds and it will be difficult to remove it from there, despite its sinister aesthetics, because it is private land. EFE