Saturday, December 11, 2010

Where time stood still

There is nothing more long-lasting, more well-equipped to stand the test of time and nature’s ruthless phagocytosis, more able to evoke the feeling of curiosity, humble and amazement from within…. than a stone temple. And it’s not just any temple, but the sacred grounds of the thousand-years-old Angkor Wat and associates in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
The majestic Angkor Wat, surrounded by a huge lake, implies the idea of orde kosmos, i.e. that once long ago, the place is considered the centre of the world. It was built in early 12th century by King Suryavarman II dedicated to the Hindu God Vishnu. Over time, the Buddhist influence took over and the Vishnu statue was moved from the centre of the temple to the entrance, and a giant Buddhe statue was placed at the centre. The centre is still considered a sacred place and that day we went there, it was closed for prayers.
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The ‘handrails’ depict a long, looooooong snake called the Naga in Hindu mythology. Naga with the seven heads and is often pictured with many men pulling the snake as shown in the story of Churning of the sea of milk. There are also bas reliefs of the two Hindu Epic, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

  •   Inside the temple

  • A sign you wouldn't see anywhere else!

  • Another picture in the temple

  • Ancient scriptures on the wall, written in Ancient Khmer which no one can read today.

Next off is Banteay Srei, an even older temple built in the 10th Century. The name Banteay Srei meant the ‘Citadel of Women’, and its reddish appearance is linked to its building material, red sandstone. The sandstone is very easy to craft, therefore there are some really astounding stone carvings inside. The temple is dedicated to the God Shiva. Many Hindu Kings pray to the God Shiva because it is known as the God of Destruction, whereby Shiva can destroy the universe or the bad influences in the universe simple just by dancing.
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Angkor Thom was the last and most enduring capital city of the Khmer empire. It was established in the late twelfth century by King Jayavarman VII. It covers an area of 9 km², within which are located several monuments from earlier eras as well as those established by Jayavarman and his successors. At the centre of the city is Jayavarman's state temple, the Bayon, with the other major sites clustered around the Victory Square immediately to the north.
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Many parts of the temples we visit is under reconstruction, mostly by Indian workers. This is due to the change in dynasties in Cambodia, from a King to another. From time to time they will move the capital city to another place, and even Angkor Wat, as venerable as it is, was forgotten at one point and rediscovered by French in the 1900s. By that time, nature has played its role, and many efforts were done to restore the temple to its original glory…. until today.
  Many of these four-faced Buddha statues can be found here. Quite well-preserved, each of the faces seems to show a different emotion.

Over the years, from the early Hindu influence, to the rise of Buddhism, to the Communist influence of the Khmer Rouge, it is amazing that these monuments still stand tall, enduring human and natural destruction to let the future us gaze on relics created once upon a time. Similarly all around the world, nothing goes better to capture a snapshot of the zeitgeist of times than a stone monument!

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