walk a-musing

Friday, September 15, 2006

Angkor - Part 3

Next is the 'Ta Phrom' temple. This is the one which has been left to nature, trees growing all over it and around it.
Massive trees draping their fat roots down over the walls, reminiscent of pythons, crumbling walls and collapsed doorways. There weren’t too many people when we went. It was evening time, with long shadows, and quiet, and V wanted to get out of it as quickly as possible. Must have felt eerie. I would have liked to sit quietly and absorb the atmosphere, but no way. (Some of the photos which would have showed the atmosphere better, had us in their center, and hence I havn't posted them here.) A fantastic place. Again, I tried to imagine the first people who 'rediscovered' this place....how they might have felt.

There were many other temples, in various stages of ruin. One temple, with one part dedicated to Shiva, another part to Vishnu and another to ancestor worship.
There was one tiny temple with beautiful brick sculptures of Vishnu and Lakshmi.

There were a few hilltop temples which were wonderful at sunset.
There was one which was in the middle of a pond, except that there is no water now.

If history fascinates you and it is not clear, written, history and leaves room for a lot of speculation, WOW, this is a wonderful place. Who were these kings, why do they all have Indian names, how many were actually Indians, and how much of it was Indian influence on local people, why did they build such astounding temples and why did they finally abandon them? How could the people in the region have forgotten all about them within 200/300 years? (The first records talk of a king of Cambodia 'discovering' these temples in the 15th century, when the temples were built between 8th and 12th Century). All along history, people have been re-rediscovering them, but it took this French guy with influence among the British who finally got the world's attention on it. The books talk of 'Sanskrit' engraved on temple walls, but to us it didn’t look like Sanskrit. It looked like a combination of south Indian scripts and Sanskrit. What was this language? Perhaps there are known answers to many of these questions, but I still havnt found them. Most intriguing.

Other things about Cambodia: Naturally, the country side and vegetation reminds us much of India. And watching all the people, one wonders at the life in the same place 2 or 3 decades ago, during the Polpot era. You see very few old people. All taken care of by Polpot. The population is very young. All shops seem to be managed by really young girls.
Something that disgusted me: The trafficking. It is sickening. There are ads every where saying 'abuse children here, go to jail in your own' and such. There was a place selling tiny brass figures of Hindu gods, and among them were various obscene figures. It is really shocking.
Something that impressed me: The little children. They do most of the selling in the streets,: scarves, bangles, small artifacts... In spite of all the poverty, they seem to be so cheerful and happy. There was a little girl in one temple who brought a little paper to me and I thought she was trying to sell me something and I said I didn’t want it. She indicated that she wanted to give it to me and when I took it she smiled and ran away. She had drawn a flower and leaf on it! I felt so ashamed and also sad that I couldn’t give her anything in return.
Something that inspired me: I saw so many elderly people, many of them rickety, from all over the world come to see the temples . They braved the sun, the heat, and climbed hillocks to see a pretty sight. With walking sticks or someone for support they were walking all around the temples and admiring them. Really impressive.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Angkor - Part 2

for some reason, I can't upload more than five photos per post. Does anyone have any idea why this is? So I have to cut the posts really short in order to get the descripton and the related photo in the same post.
Continued ofcourse, from Part 1:

Apart from Angkor Wat, there is the enclosed city of Angkor Thom with the temple 'Bayon'.

This is the one with all the towers having the four faces of Avalokitheswara gazing down upon you.

This temple has some of the best bas reliefs, mostly depicting the kings and the battles they fought, and daily life of 'Angkorians'. These are truly faaantastic. (At its prime, the city of Angkor housed more than 80,000 people.)

This depicts the naval battle on the river Tomle Sap just south of Seam Reap, between the Khmers (the people of Angkor) and the Chams (their enemies from neighbouring Vietnam.)

(This is my favourite. Do you notice the corn on the cob, the food being cooked and served).

This temple and many others have confusing maze like structures. (books show neat symmetry, but we don’t see it). Some parts of the temple have fallen roofs and some parts are supported with wooden pillars to prevent fall, and dangerous to venture into. I can imagine how the first explorers must have felt when they first came across this temple and found all these faces looking down upon them. Pretty unsettling, I am sure.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Angkor - Part 1


Ever since we moved to Singapore in Dec 2000, H and I wanted to visit Angkor Wat in Cambodia. I kept putting it off because V was still very small and would certainly not enjoy being dragged around ancient temples for three or four days. When we decided to move from Singapore last year, we finally made a trip - in April, the hottest month of the year for Cambodia. Poor V. But I observed something curious. He felt hot, thirsty, and tired when we were in the shelter of trees or temples, but was most energetic and enthusiastic when there was tough climbing to do. Specially when he could prove that he was better at climbing than his parents!

This is the mail I wrote to my brother after the trip. I will post them in parts to accommodate the photos. The notes in italics were added for the blog.


Dear A,
Here is the 'rave' about Angkor I had promised. We visited more than a dozen temples in about 200sq.km around the Siam Reap town. The most impressive being, of course, the Angkor Wat (Wat means temple).
It IS magnificent. Huge. Massive. Grand. First, a low level boundary wall. Then the moat inside it, about 150ft wide. A wide bridge across it. A gate and another enclosing wall with corridors and pillars. Enter that, and you see the beautiful symmetrical outline of the temple in the far distance!

(I just couldn't manage a photograph from this point without a number of tourists in the foreground)

Between you and the entrance to the actual temple, about 4 football fields(?) length. Two small ancient, empty, libraries on either side of the path and then you come to an intersection of roads, and walking further, two huge ponds on either side of the path. You remember the famous photographs of the temple and the reflection in the pond? There is only one pond now and it is dirty.

The temple is extremely well laid out, beautifully planned and symmetrical. There are courtyards inside courtyards and steps taking you up to four different levels. The stairways gets steeper and the steps narrower at each level. The fourth level requires you to climb on all fours! Reaching God is not meant to be easy you see!

There are very neat bas reliefs on the walls and pillars. What impressed me was that these are not rounded or projecting ones like in Belur. They are very thin, (according to some reading that I did on the net perhaps they are described as 'rilievo-stíacciato' -a Tuscan term. I am no sure.) and give a gentle soft appearance and feeling.

In fact, this is so in all the temples in the area. The subject of most of these bas reliefs being Hindu mythology, there is naturally a lovely familiarity for us and fondness. These people were particularly fond of the churning of the sea for Amrita.

In fact, entrance paths to many temples were lined with huge figures pulling the Naga. Added to this is the fact that most temples have a central sanctuary with high rise domes which strongly reminded me of Amma's sakkare acchu( The interesting figures of sugar made by pouring sugar syrup into moulds, during Sankranti). They are supposed to depict mount Meru. Angkor Wat is one of the most intact, best maintained temples in the area, with very little destruction.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Back again, in my favourite corner of the sofa, with my own laptop, aware of not having kept the promise I had made to myself before leaving, So much to share, not a clue where to start......
I had a great trip, though at times I did get a slight doubt that I was mad along with the rest of the world, moving from place to place, through impossible traffic just to spend a few minutes with people with whom I could have had much better conversations over the phone, and eat stuff which my stomach expressly ordered my mouth not to accept and which the mouth heartily disobeyed.....
Mysore was as usual wonderful. Such lovely weather! No need of sweaters, and no need of fans! One of the things I have been raving about is the restoration of Karanji tank by the zoo authority. I had not been there on my previous visits but this time I went for a long walk and came back thoroughly impressed. A neat path around the tank, many variety of trees with small boards telling their local and botanical names, Islands full of hundreds of birds and a viewing tower, a small island with flowering shrubs which attract numerous butterflies, well laid out seating areas.....a visit is a must! A walk here and the customary walks along the Kukkarahalli tank, a few music concerts, a play, good Indian food, company of loving family and friends....and I have come back fully restored!