Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat Temple image courtsey: impactlab.com

Angkor Wat – the only structure to appear in a national flag.

Suryavarman the great!

Angkor Wat (the largest and best preserved monument of Cambodia) is a typical Hindu temple built by Suryavarman -2 who ruled Cambodia in the early 12th century. Cambodia takes so pride of this temple as much as it has given the image of this temple in its national flag. Once there was a culture based on Hindu mythologies that spanned from Afghanistan in the west and up to the Indonesian Peninsula in the east. The real name of this temple or the town hosted it is not known (Angkor derived from Nokor the corrupt form of the word Nagar in Sanskrit meaning city)


For centuries peasants of Cambodia tell about a legend about the city that became uninhabited and lost in the dense forest and grand parents used to pass the intriguing story about the unknown ghost town lost for ever. It just remained as a nanny’s tale and children alone believed it.

A Fairy tale!

Statues in Angorwat Temple Combodia image courtsey: flickr.com

“Once upon a time there came a Brahmin from distant India (the head office of all mythologies). He stayed in the forests for doing ‘tapas’ (worshipping god observing all the rituals and other paraphernalia). One day an ‘apsaras’ (a form of angel) visited him and they finally became man and wife! When children were born to the couple the Brahmin built a city and made his son its king, thus the Funan kingdom was born.

Legend of Zagab and a foolish king.

Kambuja (old name for Cambodia) was ruled by one young and impetuous king he boasted of cutting out the head of Zagab (king of the neighboring country – Java). News about his prattles reached king Zagab’s ears and he was enraged. Zagab invaded Kambuja got the head of the foolish king and returned, before returning he posted a wise young man as the king of Kambuja. It is this young ruler who became Jayavarman the forerunner of Varman Dynasty to which Suryavarman belonged.

An abrupt end?

The Angkor temple is the old City of Funan that was lost in the forest; as per the legends. It is located about five and a half kilometers from Seam Reap city. Well known for its walls with well decorated and beautiful ‘bas reliefs’ (images which partially project out of a wall or any plain surface as carvings in Indian temples) of goddesses as in almost all ancient Hindu temples. Some of the bas reliefs are incomplete giving suspicions to experts that the king would have died while the works were in progress and would have got stopped at that stage.

Well entrenched.

Angot Wat Temple Combodia image courtsey: hinduwisdom.info

Angkor Wat is construction made as per the typical Khmer style of architecture, was mainly based on sandstone and not on laterite of granite. This temple has a moat (a deep trench dug around as a measure of protection) within it comes the outer wall 1025 meter long and 802 meter broad and a height of 4.5 meters! Entry to inside restricted through a sand-bank from the east and stone causeway from the west. It is a pity that no inscription could be found anywhere regarding the temple.

Antonia da Magdalene a Portuguese traveler of 1586 has written “It is such an extraordinary construction that it is not possible to describe it with a pen, particularly since it is like no other building in the world. It has towers and decoration and all refinements which the human genius can conceive of”. From 14th century this structure was converted for Theravada Buddhist use (Theravada Buddhism is an ancestral school of Buddhism that existed many parts of the world).

Oriented to west.

Angkorwat temple image courtsey: wayfaring.info

This temple is oriented towards west and there are opinions among scholars that Suryvarman has built it as his funerary temple, some tray with ash recovered also added credence to this theory, the bas reliefs were preceding in anti-clockwise direction is said to indicate with funeral ceremonies. There are other schools of thought that in Cambodia there are several temples with western orientation.

Finely balanced elements.

Angkor Wat has many praises to its credit it has been compared to ancient structures of Greece and Rome “Angkor Wat temple attain classic perfection by the restraint monumentality of its finely balanced elements and the precise arrangement of its proportions, it is a work of power, unity and style” Maurice Glaize conservator of Angkor Wat.

Of the style.

Angor Wat Combodia image courtsey: allposters.com

Architecturally the style include the ogival (curved surface like edge of a bullet), towers shaped like lotus buds; half galleries broaden passage-ways; axial galleries connecting enclosures. Most of the visible structures made of sand-stones, laterite used only for outer wall or parts not visible. The binding material not yet identified; may be some resin or soaked lime.

All Epics!

Angkor Wat Temple arieal view image courtsey: wikipedia.org

The outer wall of the temple encloses 203 acres, in it the temple proper stands on a terrace with three rectangular galleries rising to a central tower. The inner wall bears a series of bas reliefs depicting scenes from Hindu Epics like Ramayana and Maha Bharata. The Battle between Sri Ram and Ravana, The Kurukshetra war are only some of the scenes.

The masterpeice!

The Southern Gallery shows the procession led by Suryavarman -2 along with the 32 hells and the 37 heavens as per the Hindu Myths. Where are eastern gallery bears the most beautiful sculpture the churning of the ocean of milk (Palazhi, Pal = milk and azhi = sea), in which 92 demons (assuras) on and 88 demigods (devas) wait on both parts of Vishnu who churn the sea using Vasuki (a giant mythical snake) as rope, while Indra (the chief of the demigods) watches from the top.


Angkor wat image courtsey: earthportals.com

The present government of Cambodia has recognized the value of this structure and its power to attract tourists from all over the world. Hence massive restoration works with experts in the field is being undertaken as previous half hearted attempts with the engagement of poorly skilled agencies have done more damages than repair to those invaluable structures.

A German hand.

At present the ‘German Apsara Conservation Project’ is engaged in the conservation project (Angkor Wat is part of the World Heritage Site established in 1992). As twenty percent of the sculptures is in bad shape their restoration is a daunting task. While the Japanese team has completed the work on the library building on the outer skirts in 2005 creditably. The world has only just begun to recognize the potential of this magnificent temple structure and the influx of tourists has exceeded millions filling the coffers of the government. Let Angkor Wat remain as long as there are the oceans and the mountains!


Supermamsen Green World said...

Hallo India!

Tanks for your visit on my Blogg.

You have a very nice blogg o photos-
Come to Sweden some day -SEE YOU

"" Supermamsen

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Brigetoun said...

désolée i do not speek english. Le a conservation d'Angkor et sa redécuverte d'ailleurs ce fut lontemps l'oeuvre de l'cole française d'orient. Une très belle chose, et il ne faut pas oublier les autres sanctuaires autour si j'en crois ce que m'a dit

Yayo Salva said...

Accurate description of that wondelful historic place. Thank you!
This is a very interesting blog.
Saludos desde España!

Artist said...

Well Going through your blog, I actually Felt that Angkorwat Temple should be given palce in the seven wonders of the world.

Anonymous said...

Great blog. Really nice photos. You picked the really pretty ones =)