Reinhart's Blog

I like to take photographs of Khmer temples and note down their story.

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About me

Reinhart in Angkor Wat
Reinhart in Angkor Wat

In October 2000, when all Cambodia was under water, I made my first 7-days visit to Angkor. I had not got any useful introduction and I was thoroughly disappointed.

Well, the next year, I had to instruct German-speaking tour guides in Angkor. (Poor guys, I could not teach them so much.)

Any introduction to the “Angkor Archaeological Park” must fail.

But Angkor is the site of an ancient capital, and the temples are to be presented in their historical, cultural and spatial context; that’s the only way of understanding and to make them living.

We can “read” the temples; they will tell us their story. We just need some background knowledge, no further introduction.

My work is focussing on a new introduction to Angkor.

Complementary remarks about Angkorian Temples

Temples, their ruins, reliefs, and inscriptions, are the most noticeable remains of the ancient civilization of Angkor.

Only temples were built of durable materials, brick, laterite, and sandstone. 

Trapeang Phong
Trapeang Phong

3 towers in a row, Bat Chum
3 towers in row, Bat Chum

Tower with cruciform plant, Ta Keo
Tower with cruciform plant, Ta Keo

The tower of Banteay Samré
The tower of Banteay Samré

False door of a fire shrine, Phnom Chisor
False door of a fire shrine, Phnom Chisor

A king prostrates himself in front of a Vishnu shrine, Bayon.
A king prostrates himself in front of a Vishnu shrine, Bayon.

Plant of a simple temple, Prasat Dong Chan
Plant of a simple temple, Prasat Dong Chan

Drawing by Glaize
Drawing by Glaize

Two rows of towers, Preah Ko
Two rows of towers, Preah Ko

Quincunx of towers, Phnom Bakheng
Quincunx of towers, Phnom Bakheng

Mandala of 9 towers
Mandala of 9 towers

Elements of a Temple

Prasat Don Chan shows the essential elements of a simple temple:

  • a (central) tower,
  • a fire shrine, opening toward the tower
  • an enclosure wall,
  • a gate, gopura, in the axis of the central tower.

Each tower sheltered a picture or symbol of a god or goddess.

Towers

The tower consists of a square, or nearly square, chamber.

Above are four false storeys, they show repetitions of the base chamber, in proportional reduction. On top is a crowning element of sandstone.

Arrangement of towers

  • Single tower.
  • Three towers in a row.
  • Two rows of towers
  • Preah KO
  • Quincunx of towers
  • Mandala of nine towers

Doors

Orientated to the cardinal points, the tower shows equal faces in the four directions.

It opens with one, two or four doors. The other sides are walled with false doors, reliefs showing a closed door.

About 1000 A.D. the ground plan gets cruciform by adjoining porches.

On top of a door is a lintel with relief.

The lintel is supported by colonnettes, small octagonal or circular columns.

A pair of pilasters raises a pediment, again adorned with relief.

Space and Time

„The Greek term templum, from which the word temple derives, means a well defined consecrated place ...” (Sahai 2009, p. 74.)

This may seem to be trite.

  • But look at the Phnom Bakheng. The temple was mutilated and reduced to the pyramid.
  • Some ignoramuses try to separate the buildings of Prasat Preah Vihear from its mountain or even from its stairways. But the temple encompasses the entire mountain, not only the summit.
  • If one reduces Angkor Wat to the pyramid or even to its upper tier, the moat and the wonderful avenue will escape one's notice.

There is no ritual in Hinduism to suspend the consecration of a temple.  A temple is a sanctuary for all times.

Buddhism, on the other hand, strictly demands respect of the Hindu gods. It’s hard to explain what befell and still befalls the Hindu and Buddhist temples in Buddhist Cambodia.

“Prasat”

The Khmer term prasat is translated as temple, tower, or sanctuary. But a tower is only a part of a temple.

Galleries

In early temples, halls are hiding the enclosure walls. At Koh Ker the halls are fused to the enclosure walls by colonnades with tiled roofs. Beginning with the Ta Keo and the Phimeanakas there are real galleries

The function of temples

  • State Temples
    Ruling the kingdom on behalf of the God, every new king exerted himself and his kingdom to build a temple for the God and to worship him.
  • Ancestor Temples
    See Prasat Preah Ko and Prasat Lolei.
  • Private Temples, all built in the 10th century.

Temples were abodes of gods. Public religion took place at the premises or outside of the temple.

Temples were generally open for everybody. In every village was at least one temple, where people venerated Shiva or Vishnu. 

The Trot or Trotti Dance

This morning, April 12, 2016, Khmer New Years Eve, Trotti dancers showed up at Sala Alemong, our house near Wat Preah An Kau Sa in Siem Reap.

In recent years Trot Dance is becoming popular at the Khmer New Year festival.

The word Trot is from Sanskrit meaning to end, in this case to end the previous year. Trot is a traditional dance performed in an ancient format believed to ward off bad luck from the previous year. It is usually performed before the New Year festival.

Trot is connected to a belief that wild animals that come into the village bring bad luck and misfortune. They created Trot which showcase wild animals, allowing villagers to spray perfume, put on makeup, and tie knots on the animals. Then they pray to the animals for good luck. This serves as prevention against bad luck when wild animals come into the village in the future.

There is also a belief that this dance symbolizes the prayer for rain. In this case, they prefer using the peacock tail to represent the sun. The people pray to the sun asking for rain for their farmlands.

Nowadays, the dance is usually found in Siem Reap and Battambang province. Eventually, additional characters were added--a singer performed as peacock and another singer performed as a spirit with long black nails.

Folktales

Trot is related to two folktales. The first folktale is about a hunter.

Once upon a time there was a hunter named Bun who lived with his wife name Ubma in Savchey district. One day, the hunter went to hunt as usual but he could not find a single animal. He thought that maybe the forest spirits prevented him from finding the animals, so he prepared an offering and prayer to spirits to help him find animals. Suddenly he came upon a golden deer with golden yellow fur and antlers made out of shiny precious stones. He then shot and killed the deer. Upon retrieving the animal, he realized how beautiful it was and decided to offer it to the king. The king was delighted with the gesture and granted the hunter a rank as the district head. Afterwards, Bun created the Trot dance as a remembrance by making offering to the spirit of the forest.

Another folktale is related to Buddhism. Before Buddha attained enlightenment, he first became a monk. As he was on his way, an evil appears as a golden deer blocks his path. Buddha started to pray to an angel. The angel came down and appeared as a hunter to kill the golden deer and accompanied Buddha on his way to becoming a monk

Performance

The front performer holds a kangcha which is a pole about 2.5 meters in height with the top portion shaped like a fork. The tips of the head are tied together by a string and decorated with dry fruit balls (Angkugn) with metal pieces inside which make noise when the pole is thumb on the ground. This performer provides the beat to the music with other musicians who use drums and two Tros (Tro Ou and Tro Saur - type of instruments used in classical Khmer music).

  • All performers start by first praying to the teachers.
  • The forest people come out running left and right in confusion outside the circle, typically in front of everyone else. Their bodies swing with the beat of the drum.
  • The hunter wears a banana trunk around his waist.
  • The person wearing the antlers represents the deer and dances in a similar fashion to the hunter and the forest people. His hands sometimes hold the antlers and sometimes hook to the front like the deer legs. He hops according to the beat swinging his head and sometimes run out of the circle.
  • The main character dancers wear colorful clothes and head dresses holding the tail of the peacock. The other two dancers dance very fluidly.
  • The girl with black nails helps to sing the song and also makes clicking sounds with her nails. The musicians with instruments swerve their bodies according to the beats.

The Trot song can be heard here: (http://www.cambodianview.com/audio/khmer-traditional-music-robamtrot.rm)

Another song with Trot style sang by Samouth Sin can be heard here: (KamplungLengTrot_Samouth.mp3).

Source: http://www.cam-cc.org/calendar/newyear_trot.php

 

Trotti Dancing 2017

A Dancing Male Figure at the Bakong

He is the oldest dancer in Angkor and male, late 9th century.

Female dancers, Apsaras, will show up att Angkor Wat only. Early 12th century.

I took this Photo in 2005, at a stairway of the pyramid, as I remember.

I have looked for it and could not find it again. Please help me and look around.

Dancing Figure, Bakong
Dancing Figure, Bakong

Symbols, Gestures and Fuss at Preah Vihear

Is there really a conflict?

Preah Vihear from south-west. Photo courtesy of Dave Taylor.
Preah Vihear from south-west. Photo courtesy of Dave Taylor.

Though its beauty and significance may be compared with Angkor Wat, Preah Vihear has got famous only as the point at issue of a continuous border conflict between Cambodia and Thailand.

The Forgotten History

King Suryavarman I (102-1049) started the temple and called it Shiva Shikhareshvara, Shiva the Lord of the Pinnacle.

It was to Shiva Shikhareshvara, to whom King Suryavarman I let the nobles in his service give an oath of loyalty in 1011. The text is engraved at the wall of the east gate of the Royal Palace in Angkor.

Preah Vihear became a symbol of the unity and power of the Khmer Empire. This symbol is now lost.

In Khmer eyes, the temple is a remnant of a religion that is now replaced by Buddhism. It is called Preah Vihear, “Holy [modern Buddhist] Temple”. (An ancient temple is called prasat.)

For Khmer people, a temple like Preah Vihear or Angkor Wat is just something that can make them proud.

The Thai Flag

The International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled in 1962 that the Thais had to withdraw from the temple, what they did. 

Rather than lower the Thai national flag that had been flying at the temple, Thai soldiers dug up and removed the pole with it still flying. The pole was erected at nearby Mor I Daeng Cliff, where it is still in use.” (Wikipedia)

The general in command is quoted to have said: “There will be no lowering of the flag, for we will have it back in the near future.” – What a theatrically effective gesture!

There is no real intention to alter the border. The Thai government has not commended the action of the general. The threat serves its purpose. It’s a paper tiger, but it can help to justify military efforts.

The Spirit of Ta Di

But Khmer soldiers believe Thai troops will return.

They also believe that the spirit of Ta Di is defending Preah Vihear.

Poeuy Ta Di (“Promontory of Grandfather Di”) is the name of the highest point of the projecting cliff.

By the legend, Ta Di was the general of the Khmer army, which during a war was defeated and worn out by the Siamese. Grieved by the defeat and the loss of his soldiers, he killed himself, his wife and his children by jumping from the cliff.

The place has got his name; visitors pay respect to his spirit and offer to him in a small cave under the rock.

Ta Di is the local Neak Ta, the landlord of the temple.

A Conflict or a Fuss?

Reaping the benefits of the Preah Vihear issue are Cambodia’s army and government; they act the big shot as the defenders of the temple.

References

  • Khun Samén, Prasat Preah Vihear, 2008.
  • Sachchidanand Sahai, Preah Vihear An Introduction to the World Heritage Monument, 2009.
  • Wikipedia, Preah Vihear Temple.

Weblink

Prasat Tor

Der Tempel ist abgelegen; er steht hinter dem Östlichen Baray in der Ecke.

Zwei Türme, nach Osten orientiert, stehen neben einander. Vor dem größeren, südlichen steht ein Mandapa (ein Vorbau).

Es war mit dem Turm durch einen Gang verbunden, von dem noch Reste zu sehen sind.

Das Lintel des südlichen Turms zeigt Shiva über Kala. Kala, die absolute Zeit, die alles verschlingt, ist ein Kopf-Ungeheuer und ein schrecklicher Aspekt Shivas.

Der große Turm hat den gewöhnlichen, abgestuften Aufbau; aber der kleine hat ein altmodisches Tonnengewölbe.

Alles ist aus Laterit gebaut, nur die Tore sind aus Sandstein.

Gebaut wurde der Tempel vielleicht im späten 9. Jahrhundert.

Prasat Tor ist schön gelegen und deshalb einen Besuch wert. In der Nähe steht auf dem Damm des Baray die Ruine eines Stelen-Gehäuses. (Eine Stele ist ein Inschriften-Stein.)

Prasat Tor von Osten. Luftbild mit freundlicher Genehmigung von Dave Taylor.

  • Prasat Tor, Luftbild
    Prasat Tor, Luftbild
  • Prasat Tor von Westen
    Prasat Tor von Westen
  • Prasat Tor, Sdost-Ecke
    Prasat Tor, Sdost-Ecke
  • Prasat Tor, Lintel
    Prasat Tor, Lintel
  • Prasat Tor, Sued-Turm von Nordosten
    Prasat Tor, Sued-Turm von Nordosten
  • Prasat Tor, Blick von Nord-Osten
    Prasat Tor, Blick von Nord-Osten
  • Prasat Tor, Mandapa
    Prasat Tor, Mandapa
  • Stele am Oestlichen Baray
    Stele am Oestlichen Baray
  • Neak-Ta-Schrein bei Prasat Tor
    Neak-Ta-Schrein bei Prasat Tor

Visiting Banteay Chhmar

Banteay Chhmar: "Community"
Banteay Chhmar: "Community"

Community Based Tourism

Banteay Chhmar is more than a "second Angkor"

Banteay Chhmar is a relaxed rural place. Visitors are rare. Visiting the temple you may be alone.

The place is in the best sense of the word undeveloped, charming with its naturalness, genuine Cambodian.

Community Based Tourism (CBT) is a great asset of Banteay Chhmar: Visitors are welcomed as guests, and not taken as subjects of exploitation as in Angkor. The money they spend is channelled to the village.

Travelling from Siem Reao to Banteay Chhmar

Taxis to Sisophon start from "near the river", a few meters from La Noria Hotel. For the front seat (which counts for two) you pay $ 10. There are also regular busses running Siem Reap – Sisophon and retour.

In Sisophon you change the taxi at Phsar Thmei ("New Market"), to Banteay Chhmar it is $ 10 again.

In Banteay Chhmar, you head to "Community", the office of CBT.

Back to Sisophon in the afternoon, taxis are at the Bus Station. Have the phone number of your accommodation, as the drivers don't speak English.

References

  • Aymonier 1999, p. 132-145.
  • Briggs, p. 225-227.
  • Roveda 2005, p. 434-444.
    Vittorio Roveda has thoroughly studied and described the reliefs of Banteay Chhmar. (Citations from there.)
  • Jacques/Lafond, p. 239, 246-255.
  • CAC, Groupe de Banteay Chhmar, 2007
  • Jacques/Lafond, p. 235-240, 246-256.

Photo album

External links

Durga - the Hidden Goddess

Durga at Banteay Srei
Durga at Banteay Srei

The Most Dreadful Goddess – Stronger Than All the Gods Together

The great asura Mahisha, a demon had won a great mythological battle against the gods and taken up residence in their heaven after having expelled them to wander homeless on Earth.

Worried about these events, the gods together with Shiva and Vishnu, concentrated their power [and fury] to create flames that took shape first as a ball of fire and the as the goddess Durga. 

She carried Shiva’s trident, Vishnu’s disc, Indra’s thunderbolt and other attributes from various gods.

The Killer of Mahisha

Riding a lion she defeated the armies of the antigods and fought the demon Mahisha.

To disguise himself, Mahisha ha assumed different shapes including finally that of a buffalo, symbolic of death.

But Durga recognised him and pierced his throat with a spear.

Then, when he tried to escape from his animal body, she cut off his head with a sword.  

At last, the gods were vindicated and could return to their heavenly abode.

(Roveda 2005, p. 169.)

A relief at Banteay Srei 

Durga with eight arms, assisted by her lion, is holding the monster's tail. At the moment when she kills the buffalo, Mahisha escapes by his mouth in human shape. A Naga ties him, and Durga cuts off his head with a sword. (This head is eroded.) 
This image of Durga is unequalled.

Located on the west face of the inner eastern gate pavillion of Banteay Srei, it is now within the closed area, and not accessible to visitors. It should be better presented! 

Durga as the wife of Shiva

Durga is regarded as the spouse of Shiva. In India, Durga is mostly venerated in her terrible aspect as Kali, the Black. In Angkor, she turns to the more convenient Uma, “the Favourable”.

Google: Durga Indian Mythology

The Cult of Durga in Cambodia

Google: Durga Angkor

 “When compared to the Indian pantheon, the Khmer version was limited though consistent. Female deities were reduced to the role of partners or consorts of the gods.”
(Roveda 2005, p. 11.)

Several statues of Durga, from the 7th century, were found in different places in southern and central Cambodia. These sculptures indicate a cult of Durga as an autonomous goddess. Three of them are displayed at the National Museum Phnom Penh. (Dalsheimer, p. 80-86.)

At the central tower of the South Group of Sambor Prei Kuk, built in early 7th century, is a relief of a "flying palace" showing an autonomous Goddess in her own Heavenly residence. I dare say; she is Uma.

King Yasovarman I dedicated Huei Thamo, a temple near Wat Phu in Laos, to Rudrani (= Durga) in 893 AD.

  • Indian Illumination, c. 1800
    Indian Illumination, c. 1800
  • Flying Palace at Sambor Prei Kuk S1
    Flying Palace at Sambor Prei Kuk S1
  • Huei Thamo, photo courtesy of Mark Ord
    Huei Thamo, photo courtesy of Mark Ord