Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Troubled Times For Temples

Temples are built for many reasons; ideally they symbolize an external means to express an inner dream of peace and love.  With the passing of years, many of them get enmeshed in power play and several become financially lucrative for the people running them.  Once a temple is acknowledged as being holy or having the power to bestow things on people, its ruin has almost certainly begun.  For peace, though it abides everywhere, cannot easily withstand the assault of hopeful or desperate masses, and it often slips into the background and is shadowed by more visible or audible rituals.  (It is for this reason that I prefer visiting ancient, unused temples to the more frequented ones.)

It is no surprise then that recent clashes on the Thai-Cambodian border over Preah Vihear, the beautiful Khmer temple, have restarted, with terrible consequences. 

This part of Cambodia has periodically been under attack from Thailand, more so once Preah Vihear became a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Thailand has claimed much of the surrounding area, making access to the temple extremely difficult from the Cambodian side.  Indeed, this temple was on our list when we planned our recent visit, but we eventually could not visit it.  Initially, our hotel informed us that the roads were not motorable at this time.  On reaching the adjacent area of Koh Ker, we discovered that people were able to reach the temple, but it was a long and arduous path.  We finally decided against it when two of our group of three came down with minor problems of head and stomach.

Now, people are unable to visit once more due to the the current fighting.  This time, it has also resulted in physical damage of a part of the temple.  Who knows how much more destruction will occur before people realize the irony of fighting over temples?

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