Siem Reap IV: Angkor Wat redux

As I mentioned in Siem Reap II, the visit to the National Museum spurred me to return to Angkor Wat. My intention was to view more of the murals that I missed the first time around.

DSC01559

The murals are visible on the exterior of the inside walls of the complex, stretching easily for 200 meters on each side, not counting transitional hallways, etc. That’s nearly 1000 yds of mural carved in sandstone with a scope and precision that is simply breathtaking. The guide books offer much more information about this aspect of Angkor, but I do not own one and will not even attempt that degree of detail.

DSC01555

The basic story is that three sides of this mural recount the Mahabharata, one of the oldest of all human mythologies, the sanskrit epic of ancient India dating back to 800 BC. The fourth side tells of the reign of Suryavarman II himself.

DSC01552

Tales of war are a central part of the mural of course, but there are also portions depicting significant threads of the Mahabharata, such as the eleven heavens (where presumably there is an endless supply of beautiful females) and hells.

DSC01554DSC01558

DSC01556

One of the most significant portions of the mural is the tale of the Churning of the Ocean of Milk. Using the Serpent King, and at the behest of Vishnu to work together, Devas and Asuras (god and demons) churn the ocean of milk to extract the elixir of immortality.

DSC01564

Vishnu

DSC01570    DSC01569

DSC01560     DSC01565

And of course this is happening while a thousand celestial dancers (Apsara) entertain overhead.

DSC01561

900 years ago

DSC01622

Last night

DSC01562   DSC01568

DSC01567

Of course they are successful. And all conflict ever since has been about deciding who controls the elixir. A modern analog of this tale is the illusion of petroleum as the  elixir of never-ending economic growth. But as in the original story, as the gods and demons churned the sea, a terrible poison issued out of its depths which enveloped the universe. Angkor Wat stands as both a 900 yr old piece of antiquity as well as a monument to an age-old human story playing itself out to this very day.

I wonder how it all turns out.

2 thoughts on “Siem Reap IV: Angkor Wat redux

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s