Subjects of Wonder: Chapter 3

Now to the mind over the matter, presenting to you, the greatest Vishnu Temple of all time, the Angkor Wat!

Really I wonder if it should be called a temple or a city, because a temple is definitely an understatement.  Spread over an area of 400 sq km it is indeed vast. We began with the morning sun-rise at the Phnom Bak Kheng. Phnomh meaning a hill, so this was a temple on the hill. After about 30 min of hiking up the hill the temple and all other structures below looked quite nice. It reminded me of Hampi, India except for the fact that it was Hampi extrapolated a several hundred times. And instead of the pretty pink boulders of Hampi, it was dense tropical green forests of Cambodia. The setting is indeed beautiful. As we waited for the sunrise, we sighted the hot air balloon rise up. Three other couples sat around as we ate from our breakfast boxes, courtesy the hotel!

Once down, we went on to see Angkor Wat first and then the Angkor Thom.

The Angkor Wat main temple is very interesting. Encircled by a very wide moat the temple was first built for the Hindu deities and then later enshrined Lord Buddha for the last several decades. Since they look very Indian I was intrigued to find out their beginnings. As Indian traders came around to Siam Reap, then supposedly the cultural centre of South East Asia they carried with them tales and umpteen beliefs from their land. While trade flourished so did the culture, from the Golden age of India. Camarrs were the artisan tribe from India, who historians believed were brought to Cambodia. These people built the wondrous temples and apparently dissapeared, or as H says, returned to their homeland.

The Angkow Wat has a 1000 odd apsaras who are now being conserved by the Germany Apsara Conservation Committee. The work is on. But its heart wrenching to see, heads cut off deities and still reverred to just the same. The french in their bid to do good, ended up fixing heads of deities haphazardly such that the face and the bodies of deities completely off. The Angkor Wat has seen acid attacks, bullet-wounds, unstoppable rains, and damage to the sculptures by artisans who try to sell heads of deities. It is tragic and tragedy extols the beauty by several folds.

My favorite of the temples were Angkor Wat, the Bayon temple and the Ta Prohm.

The Bayon temple is like a huge jigaw puzzle that houses the face of Lord Buddha, its not put-together all correctly but I loved the art work of the Buddha on the four sides of the garba-griha. The plan is what I thought was fishy!! There were errors am sure.

The most beautiful temple of the Angkor Wat complex and the most well conserved is the temple of Ta Prohm. I take so much pride in saying that its the only temple conserved by the Archeological Society of India and that they did a marvellous job at it. The skeptics may call it the root strangled temple, while the gamers will relate to it from the game of Tomb Raider, as the movie-buffs will be reminded of Angie and her efforts! Whoever it is am sure will fall in love with this particular temple.

Its an absolute treat to watch the ANgkor Wat in the afternoon, the pink stone turns yellow in the sunlight and resembles gold. This is perhaps the startling factor about these temples.

Scores of tourists, tuk-tuks, hawkers, children playing around, photographers et al make the environs so vivid and buzzing. On a Monday off-peak time the temples were swamped! It is usual, I overhead.

A day at the ANgkor Wat may well, deflate you, if the harsh sun is anything to blame and yes, provide you with bowls of humility!


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