F The City of Temples - jeepneyjinggoy

The City of Temples


Supposed to be the best spot to take a shot. No reflection on the rippled pool. The breeze didn't allow it. Drat.

The first glimpse of this ancient complex was on the pages of a college textbook. Three decades after, I found myself standing in awe before one of the greatest structures ever built in this planet.

The towers seen through the columns of the library.

Walking along the halls and chambers of this man-made wonder, I found truth to what the Portuguese monk, Antonio de Madelena, said of Angkor Wat, “….such extraordinary construction that it is not possible to describe it with a pen….” So does in Henri Mouhot’s, a French explorer, words, “a rival to that of Solomon, and erected by some ancient Michelangelo. It is grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome.” (I’ve seen Rome’s and I agree with him, but I have yet to see the temples of Greece. Judging from what I’ve seen in pictures, I agree with him).

Angkor Wat is indeed magnificent. Built at the Khmer Empire’s state capital, Yasadharapura, this 12th century temple was King Suryarman II’s state temple (and later his mausoleum) that swayed from tradition. First, the temple was dedicated to Vishnu, breaking the tradition of kings of Shaivism—revering Shiva as the Supreme Being; second, the temple’s orientation is to the west, not the east.

It is grand in scale and "a work of power, unity and style," according to Maurice Glaize, a mid-20th-century conservator of Angkor. Angkor Wat is the largest Hindu temple complex in the world, combining two basic plans of Khmer architecture—the temple mountain (designed to represent Mount Meru, home of the devas in Hindu Mythology) and galleried temple (three rectangular galleries, each raised above the next). A quincunx of towers (five towers arranged in a cross representing the five peaks of the mountain) stands at the center (and highest point) of the temple protected by kilometers of walls and moat (representing the surrounding mountain ranges and ocean).

What the temple holds within its complex is even more remarkable. The walls are decorated with extensive stone carvings (bas reliefs) that tell stories -- episodes from the Hindu epics the Ramayana (the Battle of Lanka where Rama defeats Ravana) and Mahabharata (the Battle of Kurukshetra) adorn the walls of the temple; a historical scene of Suryavarma II procession; the 32 hells and 37 heavens of Hindu mythology; the most celebrated scene in Churning of the Sea of Milk, and many more. It’s like a storybook, only the pictures are carved on the walls.

To admire the facets of Angkor Wat will mean staying longer than “a regular tourist’s visit” in Siem Reap. Maybe time was short on this visit but there is always another time to revisit this ancient wonder. The next will be longer for sure.

With good friends & travel mates Goggie & Veron. 

As I exited the Eastern gate of the temple, I felt like I must be one of the most luckiest person on earth to have seen the Angkor Wat.

Fulfillment. Gratitude.

What a coincidence. Browsing my photos of Angkor Wat while I catch National Geographic's is documentary on TV in my Siem Reap hotel room.

For more travel & lifestyle stories, visit http://jeepneyjinggoy.blogspot.com/ and http://apples-and-lemons.blogspot.com/

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on September 06, 2012.