One of the initial mysterious oddities that puzzles visitors to Thailand is actually one of the very first visible signs of Thai culture new arrivals see. Those apparent oddities of Thai culture are to be witnessed inside a taxi cab, there is nothing odd or strange about Buddha, but why is he sat on the dashboard of the taxi ?, why are the Buddhist amulets and flower garlands swinging from the rear-view mirror ?, why is there a Buddhist Yantra drawn on the ceiling ?. Actually it’s not just taxis which have Buddha and various other charms mounted on the dashboard, virtually every motorist in Thailand has a Buddha or Buddhist amulet somewhere in their car.
Why do Thais Have Buddha on The Dashboard ?
Buddha, the Buddhist Amulets, flower garlands, pictures of prominent monks, even Hindu deities such as Ganesh, but most obviously Buddha are there to protect the vehicle, it’s driver and it’s passengers from danger, to prevent a crash or accident. The use of Buddha figurines and amulets is much more prolific in Thailand’s taxis and buses than it is amongst everyday motorists. The reason being, taxis and buses carry many passengers, and accompanying each passenger is their karma, be it good or bad, so the more Buddhas and lucky charms you have in your vehicle the more protection you have against bad karma. Many Thai taxi drivers position a Buddha on the dashboard facing the road, one facing inside the car, and one on the rear shelf facing the road behind the car, this effectively provides protection from oncoming traffic, karma within the car, and traffic approaching from behind.
The Thais are deeply spiritual and almost insanely superstitious, they believe vehicles carry the spirit of the Journey Goddess (Mae Yanang). Flower garlands are bought from roadside hawkers and hung from the rear-view mirror to appease the Journey Goddess who in return helps to assure a safe journey.
Upon buying a car, most motorists in Thailand will invite a monk or even several monks to bless the car, whilst doing so the monks in-script a Buddhist yant or yantra on the roof between driver and passenger seats. This act is extremely symbolic for most Thai car owners, until this blessing has taken place they may not feel safe in their car.
The photo above is a perfect example of what you could expect to see in the uppermost windscreen of a bus or coach in Thailand, framed pictures of Buddhist monks overseeing the route ahead, averting danger and warding off evil spirits to protect both the bus and it’s passengers from harm.
Can Buddha Protect the Vehicle and Passengers ?.
If you didn’t know already, superstition, spirituality and spirit worship are all deeply ingrained in Thai culture, not to have Buddha, amulets and the various charms adorning the dashboard or rear-view mirror might simply be asking for trouble. They are not there merely as a show of faith, to a believer they could mean the difference between life and death.
It may be somewhat ironic that motorists often steer around corners with one hand so they can stop amulets swinging with the other hand, and maybe it doesn’t really matter too much that they obscure the drivers view.