Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Unseen Angkor Wat

The secluded northern gopura of the 4th enclosure of Angkor Wat
The best of the northern gopura pediments, this one shows Krishna lifting Mount Govardhana with followers and animals in attendance, on the western facade
Thousands of visitors pass through the western gopura, or outer entrance of Angkor Wat each and every day, oblivious to the fact there are three other gopuras, though some see the eastern gopura if they leave by the back door to board their coach. Those two entrances have access across the moat, the north and south gopuras do not and therefore are seen by just a handful of the most devout Angkor Wat brotherhood. I'm ashamed to say that I've been visiting Angkor Wat for fifteen years and I paid my first visit to the north and south gopuras just two weeks ago! Please forgive me fellow members of the AW brotherhood. Hold on, there isn't really a secret brotherhood society, I made that bit up, but you know what I mean. Up until my recent visit I'd always figured these two gopuras were simply too far away to walk, obscured by trees and out of eyeshot, but accompanied by my friend Now, who sells souvenirs in the grounds of the temple, we took her moto to finally complete my visit to all four gopuras of the 4th enclosure fifteen years after it all began.

And I'm glad I finally made the effort. I was rewarded with some new aspects of Angkor Wat that I'd never seen before, some gems that had lain hidden by my past lazyness and two secluded spots where I'm sure I could've stayed all day and not seen another soul, despite the footsteps of thousands just a few hundred metres away. My first stop was at the north gopura, much less complete and decorated than its more-celebrated western cousin, which welcomes all of the temple's visitors each day after they cross the wide moat. It's not stunning to look at and the inside is devoid of decoration but it houses a few carvings of note, though the most suprising omission is that there are no devatas to be seen, anywhere. Angkor Wat is renowned for its regal display of these stunning beauties which decorate its walls and chambers, but there are none at the north gateway. It appears that this gopura was the least important of the four but why? Just one of many mysteries that Angkor Wat throws up. The carvings are on full and half pediments above the doorways and ends of the side galleries and reassembled versions on the ground that leads to the moat. They are mostly incomplete but some narratives are identifiable. My visit lasted no more than fifteen minutes but it was one that I was glad I'd made after all this time.
The portico and entrance chamber to the northern gopura
Facing the sun so the pediment isn't clear but it represents Krishna defeating two asuras on the eastern facade with followers below
A four-armed Vishnu in a fight with an asura on a half pediment above the soutern doorway
There's no devata so how about my beautiful srei motodop, Now, who works at Angkor Wat every day of the year
Two pediments reassembled on the ground just in front of the moat
This pediment shows Vishnu, without body on the shoulders of Garuda
The head of Vishnu and two flying Apsaras
Up close and personal with a flying Apsara
Detail of a naga head from one of the reassembled pediments at the northern gopura



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older