Monday, February 23, 2009

My favourite Chrung

This is the northeast Prasat Chrung with its stele kiosk on the left
Now back to the northeast Prasat Chrung, sitting in isolation in the corner of the walled city of Angkor Thom and only accessible along a shaded track leading from either the Victory Gate or the North Gate of the ancient city. It's my favourite of the four temple shrines, all with the same name, because it appears to be the forgotten shrine of the quartet, it's more compact, it has a strangler fig tree doing its worst and embracing the central tower in a fatal stranglehold, it houses a series of pediments where the iconoclastic furore of the 13th century is clearly demonstrated and it boasts a stele 'kiosk' rarely seen in Angkorean architecture. The track on top of the walled embankment from the Victory Gate to the northeast corner was straightforward and I found the corner temple to be surrounded by trees and in shade. The first thing I noticed was the unusual kiosk at the eastern end of the shrine, with a series of half pediments-cum-lintels that had their Buddha image reworked into a linga, most likely defaced in the 13th century when many of Jayavarman VII's temples were altered. I wasn't clear whether each of the corner shrines, identical in most aspects, originally had such a kiosk, but only the northeast one has it today. The roots of the fig tree have pushed into the sandstone blocks of the main shrine and are slowly splitting the temple apart in numerous places. The devata on the walls are smaller than the other shrines and overall it looks like the temple has been reduced in size. A couple of pediments have been reassembled on the leaf-strewn ground but only one has a recognisable narrative. Continuing my cycle ride along the city walls, I headed for the North Gate.
The shaded track leading to the northeast corner of Angkor Thom. At the base of the wall the moat had turned into rice fields.
The strangler fig tree has the central tower in its vice-like grip
One of the pediment-lintels on the kiosk has had its Buddha image altered to a linga
Another defaced pediment-lintel on the kiosk with a linga flanked by two acolytes
This reassembled pediment on the ground has various figures surrounding a small linga on a plinth, where Buddha would've been sat originally
The northern entrance to the central shrine, which is open, unlike the other shrines
A defaced devata figure on the temple's outer wall

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