Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Banteay Samre

Last Sunday J was playing golf in Siem Reap. He flew up early Friday morning to get in a day of work before we joined him later that evening. We ended up having dinner at the Victoria (we have stayed here so often now we have our own suite- at least it feels like we do!) by the pool and going to bed early in preparation for an early start the next day.

( This is the room we get each time with a door to an adjoining room just behind the camera-person.)

Despite good intentions and the alarm going off at 6 we didnt get out to the tuktuk until after 8 and it was hot already!

After explaining to the tuktuk driver where in the Angkor Archeological Park we intended to visit we arranged ourselves on the plastic seats of his vehicle and began our day.

We had decided to do the four temples to the east of Angkor Wat beginning with Banteay Samre about 5km through the village of Pradak towards the much further out Bantreay Srei (which would have to wait till another day when we braved the 4 hour plus road trip with the car from Phnom Penh).

Banteay Samre is a small compact temple thought to have been built by Suryavarman II or his successor Yashovarman in the mid 12th century. It is considered to be one of the most significant examples of its period behind the much larger and more famous Angkor Wat. It's name means 'citadel of the Samre' after the people of the same name who lived in the region.

It has been respectfully and extensively reconstructed using a method called anastylosis which involves painstakingly numbering each piece and its components before deconstructing and then reconstructing it like a giant jigsaw puzzle.

Sometimes the carved pieces have been recreated and sometimes simply pieced together. Sadly you can often see where bits, such as a demons head or a particularly expressive part of a lintel storyboard, has been 'harvested' by temple thieves and has probably ended up on someones mantel or been bolted to the outside of a house far away both geographically and culturally from its intended home. Sometimes, as in the picture above, bits have been worn away by the elements and it takes a little guessing or sleuthing to work out what they are. We were amused by this row of little 'heads' that was repeated on many of the building walls and columns. Little halloween pumpkins? Chubby cheeked man-in-the-moon's? After further inspection we thought... lotuses!

These signs are at nearly every temple but even so you often see people wearing sleeveless tops sometimes with plenty of cleavage too. Can you see the little tee shirt in the picture? Come on people, I know its hot but it's not your country, you are guests, these are places of significant religious and spiritual significance and some are still in active use. At least be respectful even if it does result in an unflattering temple tan that starts at the end of your sleeve!

The temple complex at Banteay Samre consists of two double walled enclosures, skinny dark passageways and four small gopuras (gates) facing north, east, south and west separated by a now grassy wider corridor. The inner gopuras are more elaborate and topped with lintels decorated with scenes from the Ramayana and Hindu mythology.

This one has a Hindu god above a fiercesome toothy kala. Scholars think the use of the Khmer inspired kala may have arisen from an earlier period when the skulls of human victims were incorporated into the architecture of the buildings as a protective element.

A scene reminiscent of Durga's great battle with the buffalo demon Mahisha atop the great Mt Meru. The story goes that after every other god had tried to stop Mahisha's destructive rampage, which had already extended across three (of the 9)worlds, Durga confronted Mahisha and threw her arsonal of weapons at him only to watch each one bouncing away with little effect. Finally, frustrated and furious, she dismounted her lion steed and lept onto his back. With her bare feet she kicked at his head and he fell into a senseless heap on the ground. Quickly she raised her trident and plunged it into his heart conquering the unconquerable.

Dont you love a good powerful godess story!

The inner side of the second pair of walls a walkway that circumnavigates the whole area, it's corners framed by naga balustrades. Steps lead down and then back up each of the inner buildings.

You can see the fanned head of the naga just behind the tourist.

Inside the protective walls is a central prasat, the temple, and a series of library buildings their raised platforms lifting them from what was once a monsoon filled moat.

The temple complex would have felt very different its inner sanctums filled with a quiet river of fresh water.

After exploring each building andf taking our fill of photos we made our way back through the series of gopura we had come through to find our tuk tuk driver.

No comments: