Accessories Make the Elephant: Buddhist Thais Worship Ganesha, Indian-style
Ferguson, J. M., & Ayuttacorn, A. (2021). Accessories Make the Elephant: Buddhist Thais Worship Ganesha, Indian-style. Asian Studies Review. 19 pages. (published online 8 Feb 2021: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10357823.2020.1870212?scroll=top&needAccess=true)
Hindu gods have been worshipped alongside the Lord Buddha and traditional spirits by Thai Theravada Buddhists for hundreds of years. During the past two decades there has been a spectacular boom in new forms of worship of Ganesha, the elephant-headed god of success and remover of obstacles. At these ostensibly religious events and festivals, Thai followers wear Indian clothing and consume Indian foods. Processions incorporate Indian music ensembles and dancers for accompaniment, entertainment and ambience. Through analysis of three Ganesha-sponsoring institutions, together with interviews and ethnography among both institution owners and patrons in Chiang Mai, Thailand, this article examines the role of Indian-tagged symbolic accoutrements as part of a religious experience for Thai people today. As this article argues, while Ganesha is central to the cult, and indeed, the main event, these accoutrements serve the dual purpose of creating a visual/visceral experience of cultural tourism of Indian-ness for Thai worshippers and catering to the needs of Ganesha as an Indian god in the eyes of Thais.