Angkor Wat

We saw an engineering and creative marvel of the world that some say outshines the pyramids of Egypt.  We saw a half a dozen temples among them Bayon, Preah Khan, Ta Prohm and of course Angkor Wat and others whose names I cannot pronounce or have already forgotten.  These temples were devoted to Gods whose names I also cannot pronounce, deities that loomed large throughout the land about 600 to 1000 years ago.

Apparently once a mere mortal became a king of Kampuchea he immediately set out to construct a temple as a self memorial dedicated to a God.  These temples were grand in scope and size and feats of engineering.  Entire economies revolved around the construction of a temple.  Possibly as many as 300,000 people and 10,000 elephants were pressed into service to build Angkor Wat.  Once a temple was completed it was usually soon abandoned.  If a king died in mid construction the project was halted and also abandoned.  One temple was abandoned mid way through construction when lighting struck.  It was seen as a bad omen from the Gods and a clear and direct message to halt construction.

The sheer scope, size and creative design of the temples still evident after 1000 years is impressive enough to take one’s breath away. A main tower originally covered in gold surrounded by 4 slightly smaller ones all carved in the shape of a lotus flower with the face of Buddha  carved on all 4 sides of each spire plus the intricate detailed carvings for hundreds of feet along the exterior walls provides proof of a highly evolved , sophisticated and well organized culture.  Modern man has not been able to construct anything that compares to these massive structures.  Our effort to construct our temples of steel and glass reaching high into the sky has failed to rival the grandeur of these ancient monuments.

Bayon, the first temple we saw made an immediate and powerful impression on me in spite of missing columns and some broken walls as a result of time and marauders. As we proceeded from temple to temple the initial excitement wore off .  One temple looked much like the others already viewed.  Perhaps if I had been an historian or archeologist I would have relished in every different detail of every temple. After the sixth one I began to notice the heat and humidity.  My throat was parched.  I began to think about my creature comforts, a little water, a little food and a little cool air.  What started as the most amazing marvel in the world in some perverse way was beginning to look a bit like a pile of rubble, fine rubble that is but rubble nevertheless, to be appreciated in context and the purpose for which it was created.  It never ceases to amaze me how quickly to extraordinary becomes mundane.  I expect that very soon I won’t even notice the abject, grinding  poverty of the Khmer will phase me whatsoever.

Brian Maan


1 comment so far

  1. Ann DeRooy on

    Extraordinary quickly becomes mundane and routine. How sad but true. Praying that we all open our eyes to the poverty and pain as well as the beauty around us each and every day!

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