Monday, January 17, 2011

Under Cambodian Skies

Making palm sugar

I just returned from a trip to Cambodia - the country torn asunder by violence time and time again, which rises phoenix like each time, scarred but vibrantly alive.
Lotuses on the moat surrounding Angkor Wat

What draws me to Cambodia is partly its present - the gentle people aspiring for happiness in their own ways, the countryside untouched except for de-mining operations that still go on and also, to a great extent, its past.  Angkor pulls me towards it every few years- it whispers and beckons and I happily agree to visit it once more.  There are innumerable temples built from the 9th century onwards by the Khmer Hindu Devarajas ('God-Kings') that still remain.  Many still exude a sense of power and strength countered only by the unmatched force of natural elements that threaten to tear them apart stone by stone.  But Angkor Wat remains unrivalled - a creation of such stupendous artistic beauty that words and pictures do not do justice to it.  At least, that's what I feel.  I know that not everyone shares this view; I have heard many people saying, "What's the big deal?  It's just another temple."

I sit and think about what it is about Angkor that moves me.  And I think I'll write about it when I have tried to find words to describe my feelings, perhaps in the next article.  The closest that comes to capturing the spirit of Angkor is John Mcdermott's recently published book, Elegy : Reflections on Angkor, which captures the beauty of the temple and its surroundings in black and white.  (A few of his pictures are shown in the link below.)
But, for the remaining descriptions of my trip, I'm afraid my very ordinary pictures will have to do.

Avalokiteshwara looking benevolently on Angkor Thom (the Great City)?

The Asuras (Demons) contest the Devas (Gods) while churning the Ocean of Milk

Garuda (mythical vulture on which Vishnu rides) supports a temple

Nagas at the entrance to a wing of Angkor Wat

Scene from the Ramayana - defeat of the monkey king Vali, Banteay Srei

Just in time!

Stone carving (probably Shiva dancing his cosmic dance) broken off by tree roots, Beng Mealea

Prasat Thom, a giant pyramid above which stood a huge linga

Chan (our driver) buying fried crickets - a local favourite

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