• Sandra

Cambodia - Siem Reap vol. 2 (World Trip Day 25)

Since I’m really fascinated by the Khmer architecture and arts, I would put up a few write-ups about Angkor. These writings are merely just for me to collect my own thoughts but I’m very happy to share and would appreciate if some of you have the time to read them. Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world. It also represents the apex of the Khmer architectural skills. Built around 1120-1150 by Suryavarman 2, it was a Hindu temple devoted to Vishnu then turned into Buddhist by the successor king.

Our tuk-tuk driver dropped us off at the west entrance. Angkor Wat is the only temple here that’s facing west. Researchers still don’t know why, one of the most accepted guess is because it was a funerary monument for Suryavarman 2, so facing the sunset symbolizes the end of the lifecycle. Once we entered the gate guarded by the seven-headed serpents statues we were on the 472m causeway leading to the center of the temple. The causeway is built of a moat, a symbolic of the cosmic sea. The center tower on the other end of the causeway represents the center of the cosmic world.

To walk to the center tower takes patience and time. Like our spiritual practice, we can not rush but move forward one step at a time. The most impressive Khmer carvings you can find are on the galleries that run along the exterior of the third enclosure wall. It’s like mythological cartoons that depict the epic poems of Ramayana and Mahabharata. It’s unreal that the Bhagavad Gita, a text that was mandatory to read during my yoga teacher training has been carved down 800 years ago and now right in front of my eyes. Another well-known story, the churning of the milky sea is also beautifully shown on the walls after centuries.

(The churning of the milky sea)

(Suryavarman 2)

(Heaven & Hell)

Can you imagine a thousand years ago the original Angkor temples were all painted in colors? Can you imagine the prosperity of the Khmer kingdom during that time? After entering the quincunx towers, the last step is to climb up to the center tower. Now for the safety of tourist, stairs and handles were added on. I remember 9 years ago when I came here, we could only use the original rough walkway which inclines 60-70 degrees up. It has been accidents that tourists fell down from the walkway and died. Because it’s a temple, it requires all the worshippers to come with concentration and a devoted heart.

If you ever have a chance to visit Angkor, make sure you bring a good guidebook. It will add depth to your experience. I look forward to coming back here for the third time in the future. Hopefully with my children and two books, Ramayana and Mahabharata.

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