Monday, March 2, 2009

The earliest Sea of Milk

Two schoolfriends getting ready for class at Wat Preah Einkosei
Vishnu hanging off the pole is the central character of this Sea of Milk lintel
Vishnu, Brahma, Shiva and an asura holding the naga are all shown on the Sea of Milk lintel
Opposite the Angkor Conservation compound in Siem Reap and just across the river is Wat Preah Einkosei. Over the years I've visited the grounds of this pagoda a few times to look at the two Angkorean brick towers that stand to the east of the main vihara. The main point of interest is the version of the Churning of the Sea of Milk that is in situ above the missing Indra on Airavata with two flanking lions lintel. The Churning here is narrow but nicely defined, simple yet detailed. From left to right you can see a four-armed Vishnu, Brahma sat on a lotus plinth and Shiva on Nandi; followed by one asura holding the naga's head opposed by seven devas on the far right, with Vishnu hanging off the pole that is pivoting on Kurma the tortoise. The scene was completed in the mid-10th century and is one of the earliest on record, and very unusual. Above the the two registers of the lintel, a stucco pediment of Krishna Govardhana is all but eroded. The colonettes are decorative and the doorjamb houses an inscription giving details of the temple site. These are all found on the east-facing doorway of the larger of the two towers. In front of them are the remains of a sandstone gopura with its doorways intact but little else. On my most recent visit the area was a children's playground before the bell sounded for the start of classes and became deserted in seconds. Well worth popping into see the lintel if you have time.
The larger of the two brick towers at Wat Preah Einkosei
The double lintel of the Sea of Milk and Indra's mount Airavata
A nicely decorative colonette
The doorjamb inscription from Preah Einkosei
The east doorway of the ruined sandstone gopura at Preah Einkosei
In a corner of the temple grounds was this posh-looking Neak Ta



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