The writer, in this part, narrates the significance of the Bayon, Ta Phrom and the Banteay Srei temple: that sum up to the magnificence of the incredible Angkor Wat. Notably, the writer’s experiences remain no less significant.
By Sudeepa Roy
Our venue, the next day, as a visitor to Angkor Wat, was the Ta Phrom temple- situated approximately 1 Km from the main Angkor temple. While retaining its originality as an excavation ruin from the forest., the temple generates a magical feeling on its own. The curvy concrete pathway leading to the tomb adorns abandoned piles of stones and rocks lacing the edges. A cloud of shadow shroud the temple throughout, and tall banyan trees with broad trunks and artistic branches fabricates an ambience. Often called the “Tomb Raider Temple”, after the famous Hollywood movie –Tom Raider, it is as scintillating and boldly as Lara Croft enacted by the charming actress Angelina Jolie. In all its significance, the film lures the visitors curiously to spot the different regions of Ta Phrom featured in the movie. Embosomed in the clutch of the vast root systems that still reclaim the original features of the jungle, the temple is plausibly the most atmospheric ruin at Angkor Archaeological Park. The occasional appearance of the saffron-clad monks strolling gracefully in its vicinity adds to the serenity of the temple and heightens its dignity. Due to safety concerns, modern-day visitors are discouraged from climbing onto the crumbling galleries of its 39 towers. Nevertheless, encompassing a route around the varied structures, courtyards, and tapering corridors sprouting with lichen, moss, and creepers is one of the most enthralling and adventurous experiences at Angkor.
The magnificent Bayon temple –a little distance further in the same premises made our next destination. A glimpse of it, and we were left spellbound, all in all. We gazed at the faces (carved out on the four top surfaces of each pillar) with equal astonishment and disbelief. Large faces with a broad forehead, sleepy stretched eyes, wide nostrils, and plumpy lips looked eerie, yet not less appealing. Each face held a slight grin which prompted the viewers to decipher its meaning in their broad liberal minds. The unique feature of this temple is, it has no surrounding wall or moats. Unlike Angkor, it does not enjoy a spacious luxury; instead, it appears enclosed in a frame that is too tight for it to fit. The Bayon was the last state temple built at Angkor and the only Angkorian temple built primarily to worship Lord Brahma. Many scholars conclude the faces to be the representations of King Jayavarman himself, owing to the similarity of the 216 gigantic faces on the temple’s towers to other statues of the king in the Angkor monument.
Later, on the same day, we visited the famous Banteay Srei Temple, situated 29km northeast of Angkor Wat. It is considered ‘The jewel of Khmer Art” and truly stands as significant as its name. The name Banteay Srei means “Citadel of the Women”, and is believed that the intricate carvings could have been done only by women. The Redstone component of the architecture gives the building a characteristic pinkish hue and is often called the pink temple. The Redstone also bears the property of being carved like wood. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple’s surroundings are uniquely picturesque. As the visitors walk across the different sites, photography bursts in numbers outrageously as the various buildings and structures with their detailed artistic work provide an excellent podium for photoshoots.
Getting to see and feel Angkor Wat is no less than a privilege. Gratitude and contentment overwhelm whenever my mind harps for the sight and touch of the porous sandy monument, long after I can see it no more. My mind often wonders at the circumstances that led to the discovery of this famous historical site. Was the temple ever really abandoned?. Or, all that it went through was desuetude and despair?. Nonetheless, it remains as an architectural marvel since time immemorial. Its rediscovery in the 1840s by the French explorer Henri Mouhot, a French naturalist, established its popularity widely. Publication of his travel notes, drawings popularised the ruins amongst the western and non-western readers. Japanese and Chinese explorers discovered the area long before him, but none received adequate attention due to the absence of publicity and supporting scriptures.
The impressiveness of the Angkor Wat remains as prominent as the Egyptian Pyramids and its distinctiveness as wondrous as the world-famous Taj Mahal. Perhaps, Angkor Wat is the only memorial globally that holds the power of romanticizing imagination beyond any limitations. Indeed, lost and primitive places exert a strong pull on our imagination. With time these abandoned structures get old, rifted and splotched to become more and more enticing and captivating. The older these monuments get, the more providential and adventurous they appear. Above all, such megaliths stimulate passionate, imaginative meanderings amongst the explorers, eventually turning them into sophists and storytellers.
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Sudeepa hails from North-east India and settled in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She has a masters in Life Science from Assam University and holds an HR-management diploma from IMT, Ghaziabad. She has worked in management and business development sectors.