walk a-musing

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.



  • At 3:09 PM, Blogger PRIDERA said…

    Very interesting Anu.
    I must admit, I was blissfully unaware that such maginificient work may be found in Cambodia

  • At 5:10 PM, Anonymous Rajani said…

    U must be the first person I know who's visited Angkor Wat ; had only read about it and seen it in one of the Lara Croft movies!
    Thanks for the description and pics. And please keep visiting off-the-beaten-path places like these!!

  • At 8:50 PM, Blogger mysorean said…

    Bronze! :)

    That was a nice description and superb photos I must say. Will wait for the other parts!

  • At 12:54 AM, Blogger Anu said…

    Pridera, not only is there such magnificent work, but the archeological survey of India has done a major part of the restoration work, that too under pretty dangerous circumstances. Perhaps I will put a note on this in the later posts.

    rajani, Haha! Sure will try to visit more, with your good wishes ;)

    adi, only bronze? Angkor deserves a gold ;))
    The others are on their way!

  • At 5:47 AM, Anonymous bru said…

    short, crisp and wonderful description anu. a long awaited one too ;). no need to say, the pictures are superb. eagerly waiting for the next parts.

    It is always nice to read a travelogue with regard to art, architecture, culture etc.

    Hope to read about your experiences in Japan, Indonesia.... and others places too


  • At 3:12 PM, Blogger Bhargav said…

    Interesting!! I didn't know Cambodia had hindu temples. Apart from churning of the ocean, were there any other mythological stories dipicted? Just curious.
    Thanks for sharing your experiences. Keep it going.

  • At 8:38 PM, Anonymous disha said…

    hey welcome back Anu!
    this sounds like a fascinating place..keep posting and do the tag soon
    I am valiantly tryng to keep blogging :D

  • At 1:20 AM, Blogger Anu said…

    bru, hee thanks, will surely make an effort.

    bhargav, I realise that I had to write something about the history of the temples right in the beginning. I assumed that Angkor Wat was well known. I will be doing it in the wrong direction, but after I finish posting the report of my visit, I will write about the history. Apart from the churning of the ocean, the Angkor Wat has detailed bas reliefs of Mahabharata. Glad you enjoyed it.

    Disha, Yeah, will get to it. I am sure your teaching assignment will provide ample material which you will feel like sharing. keep going!

  • At 9:05 PM, Blogger Swathi said…

    beautiful pics, though i am to regain my interests in temples once again.
    there was a time not long ago that i used to love the architecture of old temples and one of my all time favorite is the one at Chidambaram.

  • At 2:14 PM, Blogger starry nights said…

    I would really love to visit these temples some day.the pics are awesome.really worth the visit.


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