Angkor Temples, Siem Reap
Angkor, the centre of the ancient Khmer empire, is located in Siem Reap province in Cambodia. The Khmer flourished from the 9th to 13th centuries with the use of canals and rice paddies across the plain. Today the only remains of the empire are its impressive temples into whose walls are sculpted scenes of life and legend.
Angkor Wat is the largest, most intact and most famous of the Angkor monuments. It was a royal city and monastery that began as a Vishnuite sanctuary and ended as a Buddhist monastery (wat). Its bas reliefs depict battles, gods and the Churning of the Sea of Milk, a mythological scene from Vishnu lore. The gods and demons use the serpent Vasuki as a cord wound around holy Mount Mandara, which rises from the Sea of Milk. By pulling alternately on the serpent, together they churn the primordial ocean in order to produce amitra, the elixir of immortality.
Angkor Thom was the last capital of the Khmer empire, and is thought to have supported a million people. The king and his family, military officers, administrators and priests were housed within the city walls where stone monuments provide an impression of its past grandeur.
Ta Prohm is notable mostly for the nature of its ruin, literally. Fig, banyan and kapok trees have grown up, around and through the moss covered stone walls and terraces of this temple. Its beauty is striking.
© Elizabeth Willoughby 2012
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