Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The face of the Angkor Empire

The northern face tower of Prasat Samnang Tasok, at Banteay Chhmar
I promised to bring you some more photos from Banteay Chhmar. So here they are. Well actually, they are photos from Prasat Samnang Tasok, one of the nine satellite temples that surround the main complex at Banteay Chhmar. It is one of four standing satellite temples with the Bayon-like faces. The other remaining satellite temples may've had them in the past, but they are now in disrepair and all trace of the faces have disappeared. Samnang Tasok is essentially a gate-tower, such as you'd find at the city of Angkor Thom, standing to the east of the main complex, amidst dense vegetation and undergrowth, with a ruined gopura nearby. In fact we camped next to its moat and you wouldn't have known there was a temple inside the dense foliage until you walked inside and saw the faces peering directly at you. There's something about these giant faces that have captured my imagination since I first saw them at Angkor Thom, oh so many years ago. 1994 to be precise. I truly believe that they belong to the god-king Jayavarman VII. I don't have any evidence, just my gut-feeling. Probably, because I want them to be of Jayavarman. They are an incredible legacy from the Angkor Empire and everything should be done to protect and preserve them whilst they are still in situ. One of the face towers in the central complex has already collapsed, this cannot be allowed to happen again. I'm pleased to see conservation efforts are being undertaken at Banteay Chhmar, there is much to do and I hope one of their priorities is to ensure the stability of all the face towers.
The blind doorway and northern face at Prasat Samnang Tasok
The decoration is still visible around the north face of the gate-tower
The western face is in a much poorer condition and will only get worse without restoration
The doorway and western face of Prasat Samnang Tasok
This is the southern face of the gate-tower
The southern (left) and eastern faces of Samnang Tasok at Banteay Chhmar
A longer shot of the southern and eastern faces at the satellite temple, east of the main complex

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andy! I believe all of these face towers that we see is none the less king Jayavarman himself. I don't know how to describe him! He's just incredible! I and most Cambodians including you are all dying to see a hollywood movie about Angkor in the future or so!

July 29, 2009 at 11:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Andy, I just want to know if beng melea is being under restoration right now. I think beng melea should also be listed as a UNESCO site.

July 29, 2009 at 12:10 PM  
Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

Dear Anon,
Beng Mealea is not under reconstruction (as far as I'm aware), though efforts have been made to make the temple more accessible with the introduction of wooden walkways around certain areas of the temple.
This is to stop visitors having to clamber all over the temple walls and hallways as you used to do when visiting the temple. It takes away the adventurue but is much safer and sensible.

July 29, 2009 at 2:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you very much Mr. Andy for your beautiful pictures of the face of the Angkor Empire from Kampuchea.

July 30, 2009 at 8:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good pictures; they would be even better if in B&W. Most people just don't realize that sandstone, the raw-material used in the construction of Khmer temples, offers the whole palette of greys, ranging from white to black, usually conveyed by the characteristic blots and stains found in these stones. - Lennie

July 31, 2009 at 8:40 AM  
Anonymous Alain said...

Cher Andy,
wooden walkways in Beng Mealea were installed a long time ago to facilitate shooting of a French film - Alain Deverrieux

July 31, 2009 at 9:25 AM  
Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

The walkways at Beng Mealea were put up initially for the film Two Brothers, which was shot there, to make the temple more accessible for the film crew. I believe the walkways have been replaced and extended since then.
I much preferred clambering over the tops of the temple buildings with the old temple conservator Chheng Chhun, back in 1999. It was a real jungle temple at that time. But I appreciate that does not work when you are trying to preserve the temple for the future pleasure of everyone :-)

July 31, 2009 at 5:23 PM  

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