Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mystery Photo 8: Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

     I apologize that I left you dear readers hanging for almost a month regarding Mystery Photo 8, but I imagine you all have figured out where this place is. I now owe you some more photos of this amazing place. And I owe you an explanation for my absence. I have just returned from a trip to Israel and Turkey. I had thought I would be able to enter a post from some nice friendly Internet Cafe along the way, but the Turkish keyboard was just too much for me. Anyway, we are back home and I have much more grist for future photo blogs. You will be hearing more about this recent trip in the near future.

    Back to Siem Reap and its many many temples. I had always wanted to see Angkor Wat. I had read about the place in National Geographic, but I had no idea of its extent. The complexes of temples near Siem Reap in Northern Cambodia, were built over about 600 years, from 800 AD to 1400 AD by various rulers of the Khmer Dynasty. These were quite large and well developed cities. But the housing and other buildings were made of wood and possibly thatch and disappeared long ago. Only their temples were constructed of stone. And they were constructed mightily with beautiful stone work and very intricate carving and frieze work. Each emperor wanted to outdo his predecessor so he would move his capitol down the road a bit and build an entirely new royal temple. The temples were not meant to shelter a large group of people while worshiping as we are accustomed to with our synagogues and churches. Instead, the temple was to house the deity to which it was dedicated. Any reverence paid by the people was paid outside the temple from a distance. In fact in many of the temples, only royalty were allowed to approach. For most of these regimes, the religion was Hindu so temples were built to the Hindu gods, Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma, Indra, and Ganesha. But at times a Buddhist influence crept in and sometimes a Hindu temple was converted to Buddhist. There are over 100 temples scattered over the Siem Reap province. In spite of the ubiquitous heat and humidity that occurs in this area year round (we tried to pick the coolest time in November), in three days we were able to visit the highlight temples and get a very thorough feeling about this wonderful place.

 What I found the most magnificent was the frieze work. These often completely encircles the "porch" of the temple, and tell the whole story of that particular ruler and his exploits. Here are some photos and some brief comments about them.

                                Look at this stone work. So intricate and so beautiful

Promenade guarded by demons leading to south gate of Angkor Thom

The dozens of demons tugging on Naga and stirring the Milk of Creation, the Khmer Creation Story

Closeup of one of those demons

This is Bayon Temple inside Angkor Thom, famous for all its carved faces.

Look at the calmly smiling faces all around you.

All around the outside wall of Bayon are friezes showing the life of the Khmer royalty.

Getting ready for a major battle.

Shows all the preparations and support that needs to accompany the military.

Here a woman carries a turtle for food, and it bites the slave in front of her. Note the dirty look. They had a sense of humor.

Elephant Terrace in Angkor Thom. This was a long review stand for parades.

Seven headed Naga helps guard the terrace.

Angkor Wat, the largest religious structure in the world, reflects in its moat.

"Library" probably housed monks in the outer courtyard of Angkor Wat.

More than 300 types of apsaras (dancing deities) decorate the temples here.

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