Your Guardian Angels

Continuing on the theme of Thai taxis, almost all taxis here in Krungthep (and pretty much everywhere else in the kingdom, I’d suppose) are given special protection for their drivers and occupants through a variety of means.

A monk will bless a new taxi, chanting, sprinkling it with holy water, and often marking the ceiling over the front windscreen with various designs and Sanskrit words that are meant to ward off evil, bad luck, and accidents. 

As an extra layer of protection, drivers will decorate dashboards with various good luck charms.  These are usually Buddha statues, statues of venerated monks, amulets, laminated prayer cards, jasmine garlands (plastic or real), etc. 

Occasionally, other things make their way onto the dashboard.

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An example I saw on the way to the Ministry of Labor the other day was this trio of objects.  In addition to the prayer fan with a monk’s image on it (in the foreground), the driver has a naga, a cobra and a model of a THAI Airways Boeing 747.

The naga is a mythical 5-, 7- or 9-headed serpent.  In Buddhist lore, the naga raised its heads up over Prince Siddartha to shield him from the elements as he spent his forty days meditating in the forest until he reached enlightenment and became the Buddha.  One common depiction of the Buddha is with the naga rising up behind him. (example here) You see the back of one of these images in gold, to the right of the cobra.

The model of the plane is actually balanced on its stand and rocks back and forth as the car drives.  Video below.

I wonder what the correlation is between drivers who have more of these good luck charms and their accident rate?  Do drivers with more charms drive more dangerously, assuming they are protected from harm?  Or do they drive more cautiously, the charms being an indicator that they are risk-averse people?

It is worth mentioning that many private cars also have some of these good luck charms and markings, although rarely to the extent that you see in the taxis.  For example, our car just has a couple of Madonna cassette tapes to protect it.

 

0 thoughts on “Your Guardian Angels

  1. Madonna cassettes tapes? They must be melted by now from the heat! I don’t have anything at all in my car. I guess these things can’t hurt. Now I would be a bit nervous if I see them in a Thai Airways cockpit.

  2. I have seen some  interesting things on the taxi dashboard in Asia.  The most surprising one was in Indonesia:  a very real-looking phalic symbol.  The driver must be praying for a son or something, but it can be so distracting, lol. 

  3. LOL @ the Madonna tapes!! Perfect way to close the entry. That’s some interesting “good luck charm” though. That taxi driver was tailing the pickup truck in front! o_O

  4. @ElusiveWords – Funny you should mention that, Matt.  I’ve long wondered whether the cockpits in THAI planes (as well as Bangkok Airways and the other local airlines) have any of those amulets.  I do know that when a new plane is put into service, it is blessed by the monks and they put three small dots (kind of a white paint/paste) on the ceiling of the cockpit.  As for the Madonna tapes, yeah, the voice warbles a bit thanks to the effects of tropical heat.  Usually use an iPod instead.@RedStarr5 – We were actually pulling up to a stop, so not quite as close as it looks.@stevew918 – Did you ask to borrow it?  LOL@murisopsis – Does you son ever try to use the evil eye on you?

  5. what a coincident I also have a Buddha sign and a B744 model on my dash board, but a Cobra? hahahah your blog reminds me those taxi driver in Manila, their dash you may see Rosary Beads, picture of the Holy Mary, Jesus, or a crucifix…

  6. Oh, that reminds me of a driver who has a hand-drawn Buddha image on the ‘ceiling’ of the taxi, that’s very creepy to me! And yes, it’s a BKK taxi. I don’t like to take the taxi in BKK for some various reasons. LOL

  7. That’s a huge mixture of religious story you are telling with Naga…but I thought Naga was suppose to be half man half snake, with the upper body as man or a woman?

  8. Do monks bless the moto taxis not to kill anyone??ryc – no need to move just yet but I might do it anyway and run a parallel blog. Latest pics posted.

  9. @Fongster8 – I can say with great certainty, David, that if the monks have blessed the motorcycle taxis, they need more powerful holy water!@Wangium – My understanding of naga isn’t that it is half-man, half-snake, but rather that it is a snake-like creature that will sometimes appear as a human, according to this Wikipedia entry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N%C4%81gaI do know that when Theravada Buddhists prepare to enter the monkhood, one of the questions they are asked is whether they are human or naga.  Apparantly a naga tried to enter the monkhood and Buddha told him he could not, but then explained how he could be reborn as a human and then reach enlightenment that way.@TheCheshireGrins – Well, so far I haven’t been in an accident!@yang1815 – Doraemon?  No Hello Kitty?

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