Friday, March 25, 2011 at 05.00 in the morning I had to get up. Last night after returning from a night market Siem Reap Cambodia, Rin Nom my tour guide promised to pick me up at 5:30. We shall try our fortune, coming to Angkor Wat temple in early in the morning, and watch the sun rise between its Meru. Soon afterI checked out, Rin Nom showed up and was ready to pick me up at Tara Angkor hotel lobby. We were to visit the famous Angkor Wat temple, a symbol of Cambodia and printed out on its national flag, this temple is only about less than 3 km from where we were.
The morning sky was still dark, and moments later we passed a hospital. Surprisingly, there were dozens of little kids lining up in front of the hospital. Rin Nom explained, they were queuing up for medical treatment. In order to get ahead in the queue they started queuing up at the front counter, even before the sun rose. Their chatty voices were quite excited in the darkness of the morning.
A moment later we arrived at Angkor Wat. In the gloom morning, silhouetted against the Angkor Wat, we went through a bridge through artificial moat. This moat was more than 150 meters wide laid surrounding Angkor Wat, built for drainage, as well as defense. Some tourists had arrived. At the mouth of the bridge, an officer asked for admission fee. Fortunately the day before, we had already bought tickets, it cost USD $ 20 each.
We entered through a door where the statue of Vishnu laid. Rin Nom explained the actual statue of Vishnu was located in the middle of Angkor Wat. When Thailand occupied this area, they tried to transport it to Thailand, but they could not brought it because it was too heavy. Finally they left the statue in the entrance gate. There were some people praying right before the statue of Vishnu with burning incense.
We passed the entrance which is located on the first wall. The outer wall 1024 X 802 meters, 4.5 meters high, surrounded by 190 meter wide moat. Overall there are three walls surrounding the central temple. We entered a spacious courtyard. In the middle of the base entrance there were large boulders that must have been very heavy. The raised question was how they brought it to this place? The main road was fenced by the lined shape of a big snake, on the both sides.
We stopped and sat in the ruins of a stone near the main entrance. From a distance the silhouette of the five Meru (peak) Angkor Wat was still dark. Red tinge in the eastern horizon shows longitudinal Angkor Wat is just east to west. Many visitors sat and stayed in the area, all ready with their cameras.
HISTORY OF ANGKOR WAT
While waiting, Rin Nom explain a lot about the Angkor Wat. This temple was built in the 12th century by King Suryawarman II (1113-1150), dedicated to Lord Vishnu, and served as the state temple and the city center.
Angkor Wat is considered one of the wonders of the world. Construction of Angkor Wat took as long as 30 years. Angkor Wat located on the plain of Angkor temples are also filled with beautiful buildings, but Angkor Wat is the most famous temples on the plain of Angkor. King Suryavarman II ordered the construction of Angkor Wat according to Hindu belief that laid the mountain of Meru as the center of the world and is a home to Hindu gods. The main tallest tower of Meru is placed in the centre of the temple.
Mount Meru is surrounded by walls and the moat represents the ocean. Artificial sea is 190 meters thick moat around the temple and is a representation of the ocean. The moat was used as a defense and protection, as well as irrigation and drainage. The main entrance to Angkor Wat is a half kilometer long and flanked by man-made sea called baray. The entrance bridge of the temple gate is called as the bridge of rainbow representing a connection of the world of nature and the nature of gods. The court of Angkor Wat consists of 3 levels, where one is higher than the other.
SUNRISE AT ANGKOR WAT
After waiting for several minutes, thin clouds were still blocking the eastern horizon at the emergence of the sun. Only red light is yellowish tinge to the background peak of Meru. After taking some photos, we started to explore Angkor Wat and move through the main road with approximately 10 meters wide. On either side, each has a small building, a library according to Rin Nom. Looking around, my imagination flew into the past. In the 12th century, this temple must had been wonderful, and great as the center of the Khmer Empire.
We walk straight to the center of the temple; apparently Nom took me off the road and turn left, toward a pond on the left side of the driveway. At first I wondered why we had to go to the pool. After a look around, I just found out that the pond reflected the shadow of Angkor Wat. With a certain angle, the temple shadow fully gets into the pool. So, the famous pictures, a symbol of Cambodia is really taken in this place.
We continue walking and passed through the walls of the second layer. We entered the temple from the northwest side. Going inside into the temple, we passed by the edge of passageways with sufficient space for just 2 people walking side by side. Unlike the temple in Java, these alleys roofed and well protected. The walls are filled with stories and daily life are engraved in details. The King is always described to be followed by his servants, and is characterized by the number of umbrella. If he has 15 umbrellas, sit means he is a king. There is a wall that contains sculptures of the Ramayana story. No wonder many Indians came here. India participated much and provided funds for the restoration of Angkor Wat complex.
After walking around the hallways, we climbed into the courtyard to the second layer that was located higher than the first layer. Here there are four ponds available, but is now dry. According to Rin Nom long time ago, the pool contained holy pure water used for religious purposes. There are 4 ponds that surrounded the Main peak of Meru. Formerly the pool contains holy water. The question is how had they filled ponds with water in this height? Certainly the water is not from the rain, because the holy water usually comes from the deep soil. There must be ways, to fill the pond at this altitude with holy water.
Some Buddha statues are placed here. The successor of the King Suryawarman II is a Buddhist. Thankfully the king did not destroy the relics of the Hindu temple of Angkor Wat, and only completed with statues of Buddha. Large Buddha statues located in the middle of this courtyard. We spent quite a long time here, because to climb up the temple was not allowed before 09.00 am. The temple guards watched and forbid us to go up by then. We had to climb up a steep staircase to reach the place. In the court of some young people with traditional clothes ready to photo poses for sum of payment. They dressed in very special traditional representing Hindu’s philosophy, such as: Hanuman, Apsara, God, Asura and Ganesha.
THE MERU PEAK
At the highest level, we climbed through a temporary ladder, made of wood. The stairs are very steep. Unlike in Borobudur, climbed the stairs at Angkor Wat was made difficult due to its steep elevation. This is a metaphor that to climb Meru, to the summit of life is not always easy. It takes determination, perseverance and strength of mind and body to reach it. Under the warm sun of the bright morning, I climbed up the ladder along with dozens of tourists and visitors from various countries. Angkor Wat temple guards warned all of us to be careful. Rin Nom did not go up and waited below.
So here’s it was. There are 5 Merus which had begun to wear from age, wind eroding rocks for centuries but it still shows its strength and beauty. The building is not much different from the level below it. Apsara carvings while dancing in variety of movement forms are scattered everywhere. Apsara is a kind of angel, original creations of Khmer Culture.
Staying 20 minutes at the highest level, then I went down. There were still some temple to visit, Ta Phrom and Bayon. I rushed down the steep stairs yet carefully. Rin Nom showed me the eastern part of the temple which is relatively same as any other part.
We arrived at the South Eastern part, on the wall sculpture is a long big snake pulled by the Devas and the Asuras. Initially I wanted to just skip this section, but Rin Nom stopped and said that it would explain a very sacred and mystical Hindu legend carved on the wall. The Carvings covered an entire wall of the South East side, and the print copy is made of plastic vinyl-more than 10 meters, and fitted lengthwise in front of the wall. This relief engraved and occupied the entire south side of the east wall, was being repaired by some workers.
Rin Nom said that is a depicts the story “The churning sea of milk” and he told me the story.
THE CHURNING SEA OF MILK
Hindu mythology “the churning sea of milk” tells us that once upon a time there were 13 precious objects, of which the herb of immortality had been destroyed in the turbulent sea of cosmic. To find it and raise it again, it would takescooperation between the Devas (gods) and the Asuras (demons). To assist in this effort, a giant serpent Vasuki offered himself as a “stir stick.” This giant snake pulled forward and backward by the Devas and the Asuras.
The head of the giant serpent Vasuki is pulled by 91 giant Asuras, who was led by the the king of the devil Ravana, and its tail was pulled by 88 Devas, under the command of the Monkey God Hanuman.
At the center point of “stir stick” is Vasuki wrapped himself in the Mount of Mandara. In the middle, Lord Vishnu with his four hands, controlling the operation. Above Vishnu stayed the god Indra, god of the sky. At one moment Mount Mandara began to sink yet it was supported by a turtle, as Vishnu’s reincarnation.
The pulling up and down movement between the Devas and Asuras led Mount Mandara and Vasuki to stir the sea into foam, like a giant cosmic blender. This releases the fluid of life, which created the Amrita, the juice of life and eternity; it gives birth to Apsara, or the celestial dancers. Apsara promises fun for those who achieve a perfect incarnation. The tug movement between the Gods and the Asuras are over within thousands of years. At the lake or ocean of milk eternity a lot of fish and marine animals are torn apart, when swimming close to the very strong currents near the “stir stick.”
Rin Nom was so enthusiastic in explaining “the churning sea of milk”, and it made want to deeply understand the background of the Hindu philosophy. A moment later we were walking out of Angkor Wat temple, Cambodia’s temples of pride and a symbol of past glory. The road is flanked by Spung trees around the temple. Outside the east gate of which wss desolate, moat or artificial sea still provided shade, quiet and peacefulness of this complex of Angkor Wat.
Soon after, just like similar places of interest, little kids swarmed offering souvenirs and books about Angkor Wat, and we continued walking toward the temple of Ta Phrom, the site for the film of Tomb Raider was made, starring Angelina Joly star as Lara Croft.