Monday, February 16, 2009

Forest by name and nature

The tall central sanctuary tower of Preah Palilay, no longer in competition with the trees
A time-weathered lintel showing Varuna on three small hamsas over a central kala
Continuing my recent Angkor adventures: After the solitude of Preah Pithu, I crossed the Royal Square and headed into the farthest reaches of the city of Angkor Thom by paying a visit to Preah Palilay, which was named after a forest. On my last visit the central sanctuary was festooned with tall trees standing higher than the sixty-two foot high tower, but to my surprise the trees had been cut down leaving their stumps looking like giant hands and the site under a blanket of wood chippings. The tree-pruning had certainly robbed the temple of its secluded atmosphere and I was further disappointed when a young monk offered to pose for photos for a small fee. I asked him to leave me in peace - which was a weird role reversal - as I climbed the tall terrace to scramble inside the main sanctuary, noting a couple of lintels still in situ. The sandstone entrance gopura to the east on the other hand was in good nick with a feast of carvings, which because they were not defaced in the early 13th century have prompted scholars to suggest the date of construction was later that century and early next. The pediments and lintels of the gopura are Buddhist by their themes and numerous in number. Further east is a long causeway with lions and nagas as well as a large modern Buddha, that lead onto another terraced site, Tep Pranam.
A cracked lintel of Indra on three-headed Airavata over a grinning kala in the central sanctuary
The remaining tree stumps look like giant hands walking through the picture!
This is a pediment fragment of Buddha in meditation
The reassembled modern Buddha on the terrace in front of Preah Palilay
The hand of Buddha, palm pointing to the ground and facing inward denotes the attitude of Calling The Earth to Witness
One of the wide-mouthed lions on the Preah Palilay terraceA naga balustade in good condition covered in lichen

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andy, in khmer, the term "preah" commonly mean "godly" as in the God-kings culture. So, Preah palilay, doesn't mean forest of pallilay. In Khmer, Preah Pallilay has more to do with the Royal Palace structures at Angkor. And in Khmer the term "prei" or "prey" as in Prey Veng, means forest, not "preah". If you want to check to make sure, please ask any monk or any educated Khmer in Cambodia about the different Khmer terms, and I'm sure they could tell you correctly. Thank you.

February 17, 2009 at 3:01 AM  
Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

Dear Anon, thank you, you are correct. Its good to know you know your Khmer. Prei = forest, well done.
However, the tone of your message is a bit sharp and I hope its not intentional. By the way I would've asked the monk who was there but he'd already demanded money for photos, so your idea isn't such a good one afterall.

February 17, 2009 at 8:53 AM  
Anonymous Eric said...

Andy, question...
Why do some people who think they know it all want to make anonymous comments?
They fear something...?
BTW, great and useful explanations of the carvings of the east gopura of Preah Pallilay...

February 18, 2009 at 12:32 AM  
Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

I don't mind comments and suggestions especially if they shed more light on a subject, but that one rubbed me up the wrong way as you can see from my response. I must learn to count to 10.

February 18, 2009 at 12:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andy, I don't mean to sound like I rub you the wrong way with my comment, here. I just feel like I don't have time to elaborate too much. In fact, I enjoy your postings a lot, and I have nothing against you, anyway. I think you're one of the people who really know a lot about Khmer history, etc... Please don't get me wrong. And remaining anon is my choice as I'm not afraid to reveal myself either, it's just my choice. I think sometimes I get frustrated from seeing or reading other people who write somethings about Cambodia that seemed biased and wrong, and all I'm trying to do was to correct them. But again, sometimes the way i approach them may make them think otherwise. Sorry if I get off the subject, here. Lots of thanks, Andy.

February 18, 2009 at 2:27 AM  
Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

Dear Anon,
thank you for your further comments. As I said I need to count to 10 sometimes rather than react too quickly. You were correct in your original advice and next time I'll take it on the chin. The written word doesn't always fully express the spirit in which a comment is made or received - so lets put it down to experience. I thank you too for your kind comments. If you feel I am wrong in the future, let me know. Healthy debate is good for the soul.

February 18, 2009 at 8:43 AM  
Anonymous Gunter said...

I've visited Preah Palilay in it's full glory in july 2007 and it's heartbreaking to see what they did with the trees. But that won't stop me from visiting Angkor again this year. Looking forward to get back to Cambodia. And thanks a million Andy for keeping me up to date here, your doing a great job!

February 19, 2009 at 7:05 AM  

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