Monday, October 20, 2008

Haven for Buddhist worshippers

A wall of colourful characters in a shrine at the summit of Phnom Santuk
Phnom Santuk, about 15kms south of Kompong Thom city is a much revered mountain and as such, attracts hordes of Cambodian worshippers at all times but particularly at weekends. My visit was late on a Friday afternoon and the mountain was strangely devoid of visitors except for a few of the members of our FAM trip who had made the exhausting climb to the top. After a dozen or so of the 809 steps I remembered my previous visit in 1999 when I vowed not to take the steps again and use the road to the top instead. But i carried on nevertheless and regretted it at regular intervals during my climb to the top. I feel tired just recalling it. My shirt was drenched in sweat by the time I reached the summit. Anyway enough of my whingeing. Phnom Santuk is a haven for Buddha worshippers. There are two very large reclining Buddhas carved into the rockface, and many others besides, in various poses and in numerous nooks and crannies, not to mention a variety of other Buddhist statues and symbols that make it such a well-established pilgrimage site. I can't find much that is written about Phnom Santuk other than some of the rock sculptures and shrines date back to the 15th century and the combination of reliefs and shrines, mixed with the natural rock formations and spectacular views over the surrounding countryside give the mountain a special significance for Khmer visitors. The modern pagoda at the summit is just one of a number of buildings awaiting investigation, if you still have energy left after the climb. My only regret was not to have a Khmer companion with me on the climb and at the summit, who could explain to me the detail behind the various stautes I encountered.
Two standing Buddhas carved into the rockface
I remembered these 4 statues from my visit in 1999. They are particularly popular.
The head of the largest reclining Buddha at the summit
The main body of the largest reclining Buddha
Another reclining Buddha alongside the largest example. I noticed that all the statues were numbered and somewhere there must be a list of them, with names and important information - anyone have that list?
Inside a small chapel was a large seated Buddha surrounded by ageing wall paintingsOne of the traditional wall paintings inside the small shrine amidst the reclining Buddhas

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