"The 224-year-old pillar has become dilapidated. We can't let this sacred pillar deteriorate like this, so a face-lift is needed now," said Lamom Kongsuwan, director of the Bangkok City Pillar Shrine.
The shrine is operated by the War Veterans Organisation, which has overseen it since 1984.
"We want people to feel fresh when they come to worship and see no spots on their sacred pillar," Lamom said.
The City Pillar Shrine was declared a national historic site in 1975, so experts from the Fine Arts Department must oversee the renovation, and every step of its progress will be reported to His Majesty the King.
The project includes both City Pillars (the second was added by King Mongkut), the shrine pavilion, the statues of guardian spirits and the wall mural in the guardian spirits pavilion. It has a budget of Bt6 million. The area around the shrine is being landscaped at a cost of Bt11 million.
Worshippers have played an important role in the renovation as the budget comes from donations made at the shrine, Lamom said.
The City Pillar Shrine is believed to bring the Kingdom safety, happiness and prosperity. Worshipping the Pillar is thought to rid bad luck, increase good fortune and enhance virtue.
The shrine, situated outside the Temple of the Emerald Buddha near the Defence Ministry building, has incredible symbolic significance as it marks the founding of the capital.
In 1782, King Rama I had the first City Pillar erected in front of the Grand Palace during Bangkok's construction as the new capital of Siam. The City Pillar Shrine was reconstructed by King Rama IV, who added another pillar to the original.
The pillars were last renovated in 1986.
"Gilding on the older pillar had become dirty, while the second was covered with metal in the last restoration 20 years ago and has been corroded by humidity," said Fine Arts Department director general Arak Sanghitkul.
Arak said the pillars would be dried and re-lacquered before new gilding was applied. The metal covering the second pillar will be removed before gilding.
The renovation had originally been scheduled for completion at the end of this month, but work has been halted since the recent political crisis, Lamom said.
"Before the coup, some former political figures ordered an urgent break to the restoration. They believed that the scaffold and blind covering the Pillar caused misfortune to the city," she said, refusing to give names.
Arak said the work would be finished by February.
The City Pillar has been tied to beliefs about the country's stability for centuries, and it is not uncommon to see country leaders, especially military commanders, worshipping at the site.
Shrine officers count the number of daily visitors through the sales of the set of sacrifices: lotus flowers, joss sticks, a candle, gold leaf, colourful fabric and a bottle of oil for filling the lucky lamps.
The daily proceeds are between Bt40,000 and Bt80,000 during the week and over Bt100,000 on weekends. This means more than 1,000 worshippers a day, not including those who bring their own flowers.
Bangkok resident Vilai Sukprasitpridi, 69, who paid homage to the shrine yesterday despite it being closed for renovation, said she believes the City Pillar spirit guards the country and all Thai families.
"I have visited the shrine since I was young, and nowadays my daughter brings me here," she said. "Every time I come, I have always returned home consoled."
Besides renovations to the sacred construction, Lamom said she hoped to systemise flower-vendors outside the shrine who are now a gang who overcharge first-time visitors. Police and Bangkok Metropolitan Administration officers had failed to take action against the vendors, Lamom said. The gang attacked a former shrine director when he tried to drive them out.
The City Pillar Shrine was declared a national historic site in 1975, so experts from the Fine Arts Department must oversee the renovation, and every step of its progress will be reported to His Majesty.Prev：SIZING UP THAILAND Next：The importance of being earnest with Thotsakan's death