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Archive for February 3rd, 2013

Legacy of War and The Museum

Posted by TravellingStrom on February 3, 2013

I was heading to the Angkor Wat museum today, but on the way I wanted to visit a small part of the bloody history from around this region. As you may or may not recall, Cambodia suffered under a despot called Pol Pot, although people still revere him today 😦 He was directly involved in the killing of millions of people in areas called the ‘Killing Fields’ of which there are many. Siem Reap was not spared this. I had been trying to track down this particular Wat over the past few days and although my blue track shows me going a bit out of the way, I eventually tracked it down.

Its name is WAT Thmey and is located at N13.38268 E103.86070 I arrived and proceeded to look around, there were quite a few tourist buses here as well, so it should not have been that hard to find really, maybe next time I will ask a tour guide 🙂

The WAT itself has some very nice murals inside.

But, what I had come to view was the memorial to the past. The following taken from here

Siem Reap suffered horribly under the Khmer Rouge, and the area’s victims are commemorated today in this monastery. A glass-walled stupa on the premises holds a mass of bones belonging to massacre victims. Like its counterpart Tuol Sleng in Phnom Penh, Wat Thmei provides a stark reminder of the insanity that ruled Cambodia in the 1970s.

It’s not all bones and death here, though; the large monastery here houses a good number of monks and orphans under their care. (Wat Thmei is not part of Siem Reap’s unfortunate orphanage tourism circuit – for more on why you shouldn’t patronize the area’s orphanages, read this: Orphanages in Cambodia are Not Tourist Attractions.)

I will be visiting the Genocide museum when I get to Phnom Penh, but this was right here, and Pol Pot was cremated not far from here too, and the mongrel lived to a ripe old age! The Stupa was pretty grim.

After that grizzly memorial, it was time to go more upbeat. Just down the road a way was the
Angkor National Museum N13.36689 E103.86055. I don’t normally do museums, but I thought this one, with its audio guide, would help make me understand what I was seeing out at the temples. It was $12 entry and overall, I guess it was worth about $6, it costs an extra $3 for the audio guide and you cannot take any water or bags inside, or take any photographs for that matter. But, when has that ever stopped me, or the other 50 people doing the same thing, as long as the flash is turned off 😉

The exhibits were arranged in a circular fashion, climbing a ramp to the start then working around and down. It was divided into 6 distinct areas, but I can’t remember all of them, too much information. It started off with the entrance to the room of 1,000 Buddahs which was guarded by a lion. Inside I managed one photo before being busted 😉

The next section was on religion, something I am not into, but there is a lot of Hindu and Buddhist mixture throughout the Khmer period. Elephants get a mention too.

Ganesh is a Hindu God, here is the story of how he came to be and why he is known as the gate keeper.

Lord Shiva, the Hindu God of death and destruction was away at a war. His wife Pavarti, who was a goddess in her own right, wished to bathe. Having no-one to guard the door to her apartments she conceived of the idea of giving birth to a son who could provide this service for her. Thus Ganesh was created, since goddesses have the power to do such things.

Pavarti gave Ganesh instructions that he was to stand guard at the entrance of her apartments and that he was to admit no-one until she gave word that it was OK to do so. Ganesh took up his post and undertook his assignment enthusiastically.

In due course the Lord Shiva returned from his war and went to enter. Ganesh, according to his instructions, forbade him entry. Shiva was enraged by Ganesh’s impudence and drew his sword and cut off Ganesh’s head.

Pavarti emerged to find Ganesh decapitated and flew into a rage. Even though he was immensely powerful Shiva was upset with Pavarti’s rage. He swore to make amends by taking the head of the first living thing he found to replace Ganesh’s head. The first animal he came across was an elephant. Accordingly he took the head from the elephant and placed it on Ganesh’s body.

Thus Ganesh is depicted with an elephant’s head. Because of his role as protector of Parvarti’s door he is associated, in Hindu culture, with protecting entrances.

They must have been on mind expanding substances to think that one up eh 🙂 The next section dealt with the bas relief’s on the temple walls, as well as the carvings on the lintels and other places. Some of them had a great amount of detail.

This explains the causeway statues across the moats leading to the temples.

And one of many Buddha statues around the place, this one protected by a Naga, a many headed serpent

The next section was a multimedia display about the Angkor Wat area itself. There is a cut away replica of the temple as well, quite good, sorry you missed it 😉

The next section was about Angkor Thom

In this diagram, Angkor Thom is bottom centre and Angkor Wat is to the right, the scale of these constructions is huge!!

The next section dealt with the gods and deities. Here is a small selection.

Getting towards the end now, we come to the writing section. They have found many stele with inscriptions carved in them, some boring and mundane information, others more important.

The last section was about clothing, but I was done, so I chuffed off for an afternoons R&R. I was going to go for a ride tomorrow, but that evening I ended up on the booze next door at the Two Dragons, lucky I am not in a hurry to go anywhere hey! But, my time here in Siem Reap is drawing to a close, probably in the next few days

Cheers from Siem Reap

Posted in Around The World, Eurasia | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

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