Cambodia – Siem Reap – Angkor World Heritage Site – Part 2

– DECEMBER 03-09, 2015

Our second of three days in the Angkor Heritage Area started off with a site used in the Angelina Jolie move Tomb Raider.

TA PROHM TEMPLE (tomb raider)

The movie “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider“, features several characters visiting Angkor Thom during their trip to Cambodia to recover the first piece of the Triangle of Light.  Although the film took visual liberties with other Angkorian temples, its scenes of Ta Prohm were quite faithful to the temple’s actual appearance, and made use of its eerie qualities.

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TA PROHM TEMPLE (tomb raider) – One of the clips from Tomb Raider where she visits the temple.

Ta Prohm is the modern name of the temple at Angkor, built in the Bayon style largely in the late 12th and early 13th centuries and originally called Rajavihara.  Located approximately one kilometre east of Angkor Thom and on the southern edge of the East Baray, it was founded by the Khmer King Jayavarman VII as a Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university.  Unlike most Angkorian temples, Ta Prohm has been left in much the same condition in which it was found: the photogenic and atmospheric combination of trees growing out of the ruins and the jungle surroundings have made it one of Angkor’s most popular temples with visitors.  UNESCO inscribed Ta Prohm on the World Heritage List in 1992.  Today, it is one of the most visited complexes in Cambodia’s Angkor region.

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PREAH KHAN

Preah Khan is a temple at Angkor, built in the 12th century for King Jayavarman VII to honor his father.  It is located northeast of Angkor Thom and just west of the Jayatataka baray, with which it was associated.  It was the centre of a substantial organisation, with almost 100,000 officials and servants.  The temple is flat in design, with a basic plan of successive rectangular galleries around a Buddhist sanctuary complicated by Hindu satellite temples and numerous later additions.  Like the nearby Ta Prohm, Preah Khan has been left largely unrestored, with numerous trees and other vegetation growing among the ruins.

The temple is still largely unrestored: the initial clearing was from 1927 to 1932, and partial anastylosis was carried out in 1939.  Since then free-standing statues have been removed for safe-keeping, and there has been further consolidation and restoration work.  Throughout, the conservators have attempted to balance restoration and maintenance of the wild condition in which the temple was discovered.  A famous quote from one of the conservators is;

“The temple was previously overrun with a particularly voracious vegetation and quite ruined, presenting only chaos. Clearing works were undertaken with a constant respect for the large trees which give the composition a pleasing presentation without constituting any immediate danger. At the same time, some partial anastylosis has revived various buildings found in a sufficient state of preservation and presenting some special interest in their architecture or decoration.”

Since 1991, the site has been maintained by the World Monuments Fund.  It has continued the cautious approach to restoration, believing that to go further would involve too much guesswork, and prefers to respect the ruined nature of the temple.  One of its former employees has said, “We’re basically running a glorified maintenance program. We’re not prepared to falsify history“.

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NEAK PEAN

Neak Pean at Angkor, Cambodia is an artificial circular island with a Buddhist temple, built during the reign of King Jayavarman VII.  Neak Pean was originally designed for medical purposes (the ancients believed that going into these pools would balance the elements in the bather, thus curing disease); it is one of the many hospitals that Jayavarman VII built.

It is based on the ancient Hindu belief of balance.  Four connected pools represent Water, Earth, Fire and Wind.  Each is connected to the central water source, the main tank, by a stone conduit “presided over by one of Four Great Animals namely Elephant, Bull, Horse, and Lion, corresponding to the north, east, south, and west quarters….The stone conduits in the little pavilions are fashioned to represent the heads of the Four Great Animals…the only exception being that on the east, which represents a human head instead of a bull’s.”

Originally, four sculptures stood on the floor of the lake.  The only remaining statue is that of the horse Balaha, a form of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, saving sailors from the ogresses of Tamradvipa.  The temple on the lake was originally dedicated to Avalokitesvara. Willetts believed that “this is Jayavarman as he would have wished to have appeared to his people”.

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TA SOM

Ta Som is a small temple at Angkor, built at the end of the 12th century for King Jayavarman VII.  It is located north east of Angkor Thom and just east of Neak Pean.  The King dedicated the temple to his father Dharanindravarman II who was King of the Khmer Empire from 1150 to 1160.  The temple consists of a single shrine located on one level and surrounded by enclosure laterite walls.  Like the nearby Preah Khan and Ta Prohm the temple was left largely unrestored, with numerous trees and other vegetation growing among the ruins.  In 1998, the World Monuments Fund (WMF) added the temple to their restoration program and began work to stabilise the structure to make it safer for visitors.

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Day 3 yet to come!

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For more photos of our adventure go to our flickr account here.