Saturday, December 28, 2013
Cambodia's Wondrous Khmer Temples
Angkor, in Cambodia’s northern province of Siem Reap, is one of the most important archaeological sites of Southeast Asia. It extends over approximately 400 square kilometres and consists of scores of temples, hydraulic structures (basins, dykes, reservoirs, canals) as well as communication routes. For several centuries Angkor, was the centre of the Khmer Kingdom. With impressive monuments, several different ancient urban plans and large water reservoirs, the site is a unique concentration of features testifying to an exceptional civilization. Temples such as Angkor Wat, the Bayon, Preah Khan and Ta Prohm, exemplars of Khmer architecture, are closely linked to their geographical context as well as being imbued with symbolic significance. The architecture and layout of the successive capitals bear witness to a high level of social order and ranking within the Khmer Empire. Angkor is therefore a major site exemplifying cultural, religious and symbolic values, as well as containing high architectural, archaeological and artistic significance.
Built between roughly A.D. 1113 and 1150, and encompassing an area of about 500 acres (200 hectares), Angkor Wat is one of the largest religious monuments ever constructed. Its name means “temple city.”Originally built as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu, it was converted into a Buddhist temple in the 14th century, and statues of Buddha were added to its already rich artwork. Its 213-foot-tall (65 meters) central tower is surrounded by four smaller towers and a series of enclosure walls, a layout that recreates the image of Mount Meru, a legendary place in Hindu mythology that is said to lie beyond the Himalayas and be the home of the gods.
Building Angkor Wat was an enormous undertaking that involved quarrying, careful artistic work and lots of digging. To create the moat around the temple 1.5 million cubic meters (53 million cubic feet) of sand and silt were moved, a task that would have required thousands of people working at one time.The buildings at Angkor Wat posed their own challenges. To support them a tough material called laterite was used, which in turn was encased with softer sandstone that was used for carving the reliefs. These sandstone blocks were quarried at the Kulen Hills, about 18 miles (30 km) to the north, and were likely transported to the site by river.
If you want to visit Angkor Monuments, the best and cheapest way is by the local Tuk Tuk (carriages pulled by motorcycles).Usually, the driver will charge by per Tuk Tuk per day, and each Tuk Tuk can take about 3 persons to be comfortable. The cost per day is quite affordable, and the driver will send you to each of the monuments of your choice, wait for you to hop-on and going to the next monument and so-on. This is a very flexible way to get around, and it is a very good and relaxing experience.
From the early fifteenth century, when Angkor was completely abandoned, until the late nineteenth century, Angkor was kept intact by the Theravada Buddhist monks. It became one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Southeast Asia.
Dating from the 12th century, Bayon Temple is the spectacular central temple of the ancient city of Angkor Thom. The complex is located just to the north of the famous Angkor Wat. Bayon is known for its huge stone faces of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, with one facing outward and keeping watch at each compass point. The curioussmiling image, thought by many to be a portrait of Jayavarman himself, has been dubbed by some the "Mona Lisa of Southeast Asia." There are 51 smaller towers surrounding Bayon, each with four faces of its own.
Ta Prohm, a temple about 3km NE of the main Angkor Wat complex, has been left largely unreconstructed and is being conserved as a partial ruin. This has been intentional, to preserve the photogenic and atmospheric experience so that the tourist may imagine themselves as an early explorer.
Generally speaking, Angkor temples are beautiful.