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Insights of an Outsider. Stories about hidden places.

Angkor - Kings, Queens and People: The Temples Bakong and Preah Ko

Cover
Cover

In this paper, I try to answer some questions.

  • Why the kings built temples.
    What was the point of their excessive efforts?
    How about the Queens?
  • The relation of kings and gods.
    What Shiva was good for.
  • How the temples were designed and built.
    The basic patterns of Angkorian temple architecture.
  • The function of state and ancestor temples.
    How kings and people act in a temple, what has happened there.
  • The relevance of the first temples and capital.
    Without the Bakong, there would be no Angkor Wat.
    The second capital, Yasodharapura, is an expanded copy of the first one, Hariharalaya (Roluos).   
  • The meaning of the legends of the Naga King.
    Meet the sacred ancestor of the Khmer.

 

At AKADEMIA.EDU. PDF, free download

The Hidden History of Angkor

Angkor still needs to be reappraised as a place where people actually lived.” Roland Fletcher.

I Why did the Kings build temples?

Bakong
Bakong

Jayavarman II (790–835) had unified the country rather “relatively bloodlessly, through marriages with women who symbolized the land in [at least seven] places.” (Jacobsen, p. 28.)

As their wives owned the Earth, the territories, the kings had to install the World to rule on behalf of Shiva, the exclaimed Overlord of the World.

Three Functions of a state temple

  1. The temple is the residence of Shiva.
    To entice Shiva to take residence in it, the temple had to outdo everything else; its construction was never completed. Whilst building the temple, the king was valuated by Shiva for his effort
  2. The pyramid is an image of the Mount Meru. His five summits loom into the Heaven. Here is the residence of the Gods.
  3. The avenue is the route of the king’s visit to Shiva in a magnificent procession. (A temple without an avenue would be like a pan without a handle.)

References

  • Zhou Daguan, A Record of Cambodia, Chiang Mai 2007.
  • Trudy Jacobsen, Lost Goddesses: The Denial of Female Power in Cambodia History, Copenhagen 2008.  

Further Pyramid Temples

     

  • Phnom Bakheng
    Phnom Bakheng
  • Pre Rup
    Pre Rup
  • Ta Keo
    Ta Keo
  • Baphuon
    Baphuon
  • Angkor Wat
    Angkor Wat

The Hidden History of Angkor

II Craftsmen and Artists

31 - Burst brick tower, Bakong
31 - Burst brick tower, Bakong

When the job is done, and the wall is plastered, the artisans leave the scene. We will have a look at their doing.

Works at Bakong and Preah Ko

11 Pyramid

Before the Bakong, there were small brick pyramids at Ak Yum, now West Baray, and Rong Chen, Phnom Kulen.

The construction of a pyramid in this size was unprecedented.

12 Brick towers

13 Doors and Devatas

14 Dvarapalas

15, 16 False doors

17 Stucco

18 Inscriptions

19 Lion statues

20 Nandi staues

21 Windows with balusters and mitred frames at the outer gate of Preah Ko.

   

   

   

   

   

  

   

Issues

To build the Bakong, stone masons and brick layers had to overcome some unheard-of tasks.

The errors they made show us how difficult their job was. Eventually, they tackled all issues.

The Wall Issue

A nearly universal rule in brickwork is that perpends should not be contiguous across courses (Wikipedia). Curiously, this rule was not followed in Angkor, where vertical cracks are common.

Probably, this problem occurred only after the destruction of the balanced irrigation system, which heavily damaged the ground water level.

31 (on top)

32

The Corner Issue

Monoliths were used to bypass the difficult corner connections.

33 The monolithic angle of a door frame. At a tower in the outer enclosure of the Bakong.

34 A monolithic false door at a tower at the foot of the pyramid, Bakong.

35 The threshold of a sandstone door frame, Preah Ko. The jambs were connected in carpenter style, with mitres, spigots and mortrices.  

The Block Issue

The stone masons had no experience with handling sandstone blocks according to the stratification.

36 Burst lions at the southern stairway of the pyramid, Bakong.

37 Burst step at a tower in the outer enclosure of the Bakong.

Skilled Workers were citizens

They learned their job from parents and ancestors, in family clans, craft guilds, or similar associations. They earned reputation and some wealth: they were citizens.

Photos

    

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The Hidden History of Angkor

III The Sacred Space

Bakong, Map by Lajonquière, c. 1905
Bakong, Map by Lajonquière, c. 1905

Graduation of the sacred space
Graduation of the sacred space

Archaeologists have reduced temples to monuments, but temple means “field”.

The Graduation of the Sacred Space

Outer Enclosure III

The temple is framed by a moat of 950 by 950 m, with causeways in the cardinal directions.

Enclosure II

A moat, 100 m wide frames the middle part of the temple.

41 - The Naga King is fourfold guarding the causeways across the moat at east and west.
He is the ancestor of the Khmer, he owns the land and controls the water. He is the symbol of Earth and nature.
The Naga is grounding the Mount Meru on the Earth.

He escorts the devoted from the Earth to the Heaven, at the same time protecting them from the perils of the water.

Enclosure I

The access to the central part of the temple is limited to the King and his entourage, the priests, and their staff.

The Pyramid

Only the King may climb up the pyramid.

The Tower

Shiva is residing in the central tower. Nobody may approach Him.

Ceremonially Worshipping Shiva

42 - At the east of the temple is an avenue, running c. 2 km straight to the east. Near the outer moat are five pairs of square basins. The supplied the audience with water.

The King approached along this avenue with a grand entourage. (Zhou Daguan describes a similar procession in the late 13th century. Zhou Daguan, p. 82–83.)

In front of the outer east gate of the temple is a wide place, framed by towers in the north and south. The southern is still partly visible, the northern is more ruined and hidden.

Here ended the grand procession. The King descended from his elephant, and the others spread out in the place ceremoniously. 

With an exquisite entourage, the King enters the East Gate, passes the causeway with the Nagas, and heads to the east foot of the Pyramid.

Here was a place, similar to that in front of the East Gate, with brick towers in the north and south. The halls were added in the 12th century. The entourage waits here, whilst the king climbs up the pyramid.

43, 44 - The offerings to Shiva were burnt in the fire shrines.

At the fifth stage, the King prostrates himself in front of Shiva in the central tower.

45 - A similar scene, at a Vishnu shrine, is displayed in relief at the inner gallery of the Bayon.

    

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The Hidden History of Angkor

IV Hariharalaya, the first capital

Hariharalaya(from Angkor Map)
Hariharalaya(from Angkor Map)

Jayavarman II (790–835) founded the Khmer Kingdom and settled down in Hariharalaya, in the south-east of the Angkor area, near the modern village Roluos.

Jayavarman III (835–877) started building temples.

His successor Indravarman I (877–c. 889) nearly finished the capital.

Five days after his coronation, he started the construction of the Baray of Lolei, a rectangular water basin, which finally measures 3.8 km east-west by 800 m north-south.

In front of his palace, he built the ancestor temple Preah Koh, inaugurated 878, and finished the state temple Bakong, inaugurated 881. 

Indravarman’s son, Yasovarman I (889–c. 900) finished the Baray of Lolei and built an ancestor temple, the Lolei, in its centre.

Installing the World

All structures: buildings, temples, towers, walls, dykes, mounds, roads, moats, canals, and water basins were aligned to the cardinal directions, in harmony with the Universe. All secular buildings were made of perishable materials and have now vanished.

The capital was a Mandala, a symbol of the Universe.

Ta Reach in the West Gate of Angkor Wat

A statue of the standing Vishnu with eight arms.

Originally, this image was in the central tower of the pyramid. With the Buddhist takeover of the Vishnu temple, it was banned here, into the West Gate.

Ta Reach, the invisible ancestor spirit and the landlord of Angkor Wat took his place in the image. He is passionately venerated by local people. An Achar, dressed in a white shirt, directs the offering procedures.

This torso in magnificent dress incorporates female ancestor spirit whose name I could not find out.

Women were caressing the splendid legs of this Vishnu statue nearby, emulating Lakshmi who caresses the legs of the Reclining Vishnu. But I could not take a photo.

Three years ago, I watched these girls caressing the legs and after that posed for this photo.

External Link

  • Angkor Wat West Gate 1
    Angkor Wat West Gate 1
  • Angkor Wat West Gate 2
    Angkor Wat West Gate 2
  • Angkor Wat West Gate 3
    Angkor Wat West Gate 3

About the Cult of Vishnu in Angkor

15.07.2017

Vishnu in common Indian Hinduism

In  Vaishnavism, Vishnu is the supreme god. He is in the centre of the Trimurti, Brahma the Creator – Vishnu the Preserver – Shiva the Destroyer.

Figure 1: Vishnu Trimurti (Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica) 

Figure 2: Angkor Wat, view from the balloon in the west

Was Suryavarman II devoted to Vishnu?

By scientific consensus, Suryavarman II turned to Vishnuism, the devotion of Vishnu as the supreme God. (Chandler 1998, p. 49–50.) This may be doubted.

Suryavarman also built Buddhist temples: Thommanon, Chau Say Tevoda, Banteay Samré and Beng Mealea. 
(Freeman/Jacques, p. 12; Roveda 2005, p. 368-371, 391-396.)

He built his state temple in the friendly neighbourhood of the Shiva-Temple Phnom Bakheng.

Figure 3: The pyramid of Angkor Wat, seen from the Phnom Bakheng

Vishnu in the context of Shiva

At most temples with three towers, the central tower is dedicated to Shiva, the northern to Vishnu, and the southern to Brahma.

Figure 4: Prasat Kutisvara, lintel of the northern tower displaying the Churning of the Sea of Milk

At Preah Pithu Temple U, Shiva is dancing between Vishnu and Brahma. 

Figure 5: Lintel at Preah Pithu Temple U

The Trimurti in Angkor

First, the Blessed was unique.
At the time of the creation of the world,
[He] divided himself into three to take pleasure in the form of
four faces (Brahma ),
four arms (Vishnu ),
and Shambhu (The Being, Shiva).
At the end of the cosmic time period (Yuga), He assumes his unified form.
Homage to Him, Shiva!

 (Inscription of Lolei, 886. by Sahai 2009, p. 96.)

“Shiva the Destroyer”

Shiva’s dance “is … taken as an allegory of Shiva’s five activities: creation, preservation, destruction, incarnation and liberation that typify his superiority over Vishnu who only has creation.” (Roveda 2005, p. 1622–163.)

To call Shiva the destroyer is an oversimplification.

Figure 6: Dancing Shiva, Banteay Srei

Vishnu with eight arms in Angkor and Koh Ker

Prasat Kravan

The standing Vishnu at Prasat Kravan is under the crocodile, “which in Cambodia … is often associated with Shiva [in the Pine Forest]…” (Roveda 2005, p. 51.)

In the same temple, Lakshmi holds Shiva’s trident.

Figure 7: Vishnu at Prasat Kravan

Figure 8: Lakshmi at Prasat Kravan

Prasat Chen, Koh Ker

A statue of Vishnu with eight arms was in the central tower of Prasat Chen, Ko Ker. This temple is the only one dedicated to Vishnu in the capital called “Lingapura”. (Brugier/Lacroix 2013, p. 313.)

Figure 9: Fragments of a Vishnu statue with eight arms in front of the central tower of Prasat Chen, Koh Ker (2009)

Shiva and Vishnu at Angkor Wat

At the West Gate is a statue of the standing Vishnu with eight arms, originally in the central shrine of Angkor Wat
At Angkor Wat, King Suryavarman II is throning on Mount Shivapada. This shows the “predominance of the Cult of Shiva” (Sahai 2011, p. 14–15.)
In the Victory of Krishna over the Asura Bana, Vishnu is paying respect to Shiva. (Roveda 2003, p. 65–66.)

Figure 10: Vishnu statue at the West Gate of Angkor Wat.

Figure 11: Detail of The Army of King Suryavarman II, Angkor Wat.

Figure 12: Detail of the Victory of Krishna over the Asura Bana, Angkor Wat.

Conclusion

In Angkor, there is no evidence for the cult of Vishnu as a supreme God; Vishnu in Angkor is exclusively a manifestation of Shiva in the Trimurti.

References

  • Brugier/Lacroix, Preah Khan, Koh Ker et Preah Vihear, 2013.
  • Chandler, A History of Cambodia, 1998.
  • Freeman/Jacques, Ancient Angkor, 2003.
  • Roveda, Images of the Gods, 2005.
  • Roveda, Sacred Angkor, 2003.
  • Sahai, Preah Vihear, 2009.
  • Sahai, Shivapada in Khmer Art, 2011.

External Link: ACADEMIA.EDU

© Johann Reinhart Zieger 2017

   

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    Figure 1
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    Figure 2
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    Figure 3
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    Figure 12

Angkor Discoveries

Today

  • Trapeang Phong, early 9th century, located c. 3 km south of Bakong.
  • Lolei, 893, located in the north of the Roluos Group.
  • Prasat Enkosei, 2nd half of 10th century, located in Wat Preah Enkosei, Siem Reap.
  • The oldest relief of the Churning of the Sea of Milk, at Prasat Enkosei.
  • At the eastern stairway of Pre Rup, 961, 2.5 km east of Ta Prom.
  • Arjuna in the mythical Battle of Kurukshetra; the charioteer is Krishna, with four Arms. At Baphuon, 2nd half of 11th century.
  • Prasat Suor Prat, about 1000. Twelve laterite towers framing the Grand Plaza of Angkor Thom at the east side.

   

  • Trapeang Phong
    Trapeang Phong
  • Ancestor Shrine at Lolei
    Ancestor Shrine at Lolei
  • Prasat Enkosei
    Prasat Enkosei
  • Reliefs at Prasat Enkosei
    Reliefs at Prasat Enkosei
  • Remains of a Lion, Pre Rup
    Remains of a Lion, Pre Rup
  • Battle Scene, Baphuon
    Battle Scene, Baphuon
  • Prasat Suor Prat, Angkor Thom
    Prasat Suor Prat, Angkor Thom

The Library Rumour

Some buildings in Angkor are called libraries. Don't ask why. Have a look on the photos and you will see that this are not "libraries" but shrines for burning offerings. That's why they are orientated to the central tower of the temple.

There is a real Library at Bagan, Myanmar. 

  • Fire Shrine Bakong
    Fire Shrine Bakong
  • Fire Shrine Bakong
    Fire Shrine Bakong
  • Fire Shrine Bakong
    Fire Shrine Bakong
  • Fire Shrine Bakong
    Fire Shrine Bakong
  • Library Bagan
    Library Bagan

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.

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.

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, Südost-Ecke
    Prasat Tor, Südost-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