Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Elephants at East Mebon

Back down the road towards Angkor Wat is East Mebon. Where once there was a huge expanse of water called the Eastern Baray there are now dry dusty roads, rice planted fields and tall trees hiding an orchestra of crickets currently engaged in full midmorning song. Measuring two kilometres north-south and seven kilometres east-west, this vast, three meter deep, reservoir served to regulate the flow of the river and irrigate the surrounding plain. The baray was enclosed by an earth embankment and East Mebon itself, could once be reached only by boat. Now, with no watery skirt, there stands what looks from the tuk tuk to be a huge stage presided over by life size elephants on each of the four corners. Our tuktuk driver dropped us off to scout around the exposed and very very hot raised temple while he went and slept in the shade...Clever man!

The temple, again like many other temples we had already explored built to symbolise sacred Mount Meru, was at the centre of the baray. The main entry pavilion of the Royal Palace and the Victory Gate of Angkor Thom are thought to have been, subsequently, aligned along this axis.

Once up on the landing you find yourself inside a double walled area with the remains of long buildings close to the outer wall, evident. The use of these edifaces that run continously along the perimeter is unknown but they are thought to have once had a wooden roof.

The second tier, too, has two meter high elephants on each corner and is sufficiently high to mask the true extent of the quincunx of towers and the central temple prasat on the upper tier.

(Looking towards the centre of the temple mount)

The gopuras are set back, double walled and watched over by Khmer lions.

(Looking back towards the outer wall and landing stage)

Several inscriptions found in the vicinity as well as the foundation stele describe the placing of the linga of several gods including Shiva and Parvati 'in the likeness of the mother and the father' and Vishnu with Brahma. Eight linga of the god in eight forms were also said to have been placed in the eight small towers of the surrounding court.

Eight prasats, eight linghams dedicated to the eight aspects of murti; sun, moon, wind, land, water, fire, ethereal space and atman or soul.

This one houses M :).
He didnt realise at the time but apparently the Mebon belongs to a group of temples consecrated to the memory of deified parents.

The five prasats on the upper terrace, like the previous eight prasats, are made of brick and are significantly larger than the lingham houses. Open to the east they each have three false doors boardered by finely carved figures.

All the brickwork appears heavily pitted but hammer marks and very obvious round holes in an intriguingly uniform pattern. It turns out the walls were originally covered with a lime based plaster, similar to our modern stacco, which required this intricate preparation for it to successfully stick.

Like many of the other temples in the Angkor complex this temple is still curently in use albeit in the form of Buddhist worship instead of its intended Hindu tradition.

Five hundred meters south of East Mebon, following the road back to Angkor Wat, is Pre Rup which Cambodians have always regarded as having funerary associations.

1 comment:

Toaf said...

I really enjoyed this post. Nice work.