The remains of the mighty Khmer empire are there for us to see at Angkor Wat in
As I stand before the magnificent temples I can hardly think of the tumultuous history of the land on which they have been standing for centuries. As if mocking history, they are a reminder of a past splendour that also speaks of what must have been an unrivalled empire spanning across
It seems to have undergone a metamorphosis ever since the miraculous discovery of the temples. The past decade has seen its rapid growth from a sluggish impoverished village to a booming tourism spot. It is brimming with tourists from all round the world and quickly reinventing itself as a sophisticated centre for the new wave of visitors passing through each year. There are 100 hotels and thousand guesthouses and the number is going up every month; restaurants and bars every week.
It is still a small town with all the charm that goes with small towns. Thanks to tourism development the roads are good and the streets clean and oh, the people from old to the young and the very young always smiling and friendly. Who can say that this has been a land ravaged mercilessly in recent history by war and crime? They seem to have put their lives of recent past of terror and trauma behind to revel in the memory of a glorious past, which now remains a source of inspiration and national pride.
The first glimpse of Angkor Wat is indeed staggering especially if you remember what
But meet the man in the street, you will hardly see any rancour towards the evil done. Cambodians have weathered through poverty, bloodshed and political chaos but their smiles have not faded. The tourists that throng and rush to the temple campus in the wee hours of the morning to catch the magnificent view of Angkor Wat at the first light of dawn are not bothered either. Their main worry is the overcast sky that threatens to break into a pouring rain.
As the sun slowly lights up the sky Angkor Wat turns into an ethereal golden hue with its reflection weaving magic in the lily pond. It is like divine inspiration. And yet it is the work of human hands that toiled to create such divinity out of sand stone. It takes some time to see how big the temple complex is.
What is of particular interest to the Indian visitor is the remarkable evidence of the spread of Hinduism and its gods and fables across the seas and the earth more than a thousand years ago. Angkor Wat temples are a celebration and glorification of the Hindu god Shiva and the mythologies of Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Though the lingams are no longer there and stone statues of the Buddha have taken over, the carvings of scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharata on the walls of the long corridors of Angkor Wat have been restored and are intact. Hinduism and Buddhism were both the preferred faiths followed alternately according to the reigning king’s belief. The myth of the churning of the milk ocean by Asuras and Devas seems to have fascinated
Naga worship must have been prevalent as the snake motifs with erect hoods are carved in stone almost in all the temples. In the
So the story goes...
There is an interesting story about the origin of the Indian connection.
The French ‘discovery’ of
In 1907 Angkor, which had been under Thai control, was returned to
Monuments that wow!
At Ta Prohm, the jungle had stealthily made an all out invasion. The huge roots swoop down the monuments as if to devour them and the visual is at once breathtaking and awesome. What is striking about the sculptures is that no structure is made out of single rock boulders like you see in the temples of
The temples of Angkor are the heart and soul of