Friday, July 17, 2009

Samnang Tasok's magic

The mysterious east face of Prasat Samnang Tasok
Our first look at Samnang Tasok, showing the east face from the broken gopura
Prasat Samnang Tasok brings back memories. Both good and bad. It's one of the nine satellite temples that surround the main central complex of Banteay Chhmar. The first time I went there in November 2o01 I didn't even know the other temples existed. It wasn't until my January 2005 return to Banteay Chhmar that I had my first opportunity to uncover their whereabouts, thanks to the diminuative Sita and my moto-driver Heang. And they were a great find, especially the temples like Samnang Tasok that were essentially gate-towers with Bayon-style faces looking out in all four directions. With the ruined temples covered in vegetation and dense undergrowth, and seeing those faces peering through the foliage above, this was temple discovery at its very best. For its part, Samnang Tasok had a sting in its tail. Here's my text from that first visit to this satellite temple, located to the east of the main complex:
The path into the complex of Prasat Samnang Tasok was fairly straightforward aside from the ferocious red ants, so standing still was asking for trouble. The floor of the site was covered in thick bushes so it was easier to utilise the walls and roof of the outer gopura to make our way to the central sanctuary, which was topped by four more giant faces and other carvings. Like the majority of the temples we'd located, apart from the three of us, not another soul was anywhere to be seen and the only sounds we heard were birdcalls and the occasional rustle of a lizard amonst the undergrowth. On the way out, I was perched precariously on the lintel of a gateway when two red ants bit into my stomach after crawling up my trousers - I managed to keep my balance, though this final warning from the 'guardians' reminded me that temple exploration has a downside!
On my recent return to Banteay Chhmar, we camped out overnight right alongside the moat that surrounds Samnang Tasok. The temple is still in the midst of undergrowth and still retained that magic feeling as we walked through the tree cover and emerged to find ourselves looking at the stone faces in the forest. Here are some of those faces.
On the left the south face and the east face on the right
Buddha carvings at the base of the east entrance to the face tower
Buddha in meditation at Prasat Samnang Tasok
More Buddha in meditation motifs alongside this colonette
A circular doorway medallion with bird motifs in the center
The east face of Samnang Tasok
On the left, the east face and the profile of the north face at Samnang Tasok

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5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW.. Thats kool! Is Prasat Samnang the best preserve temple out of the nine satellite temples? Also, do you think the ancient khmers constructed more stone than the egyptian pyramids!

July 18, 2009 at 11:21 AM  
Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

The face tower of Samnag Tasok is doing okay but the rest of the site is under tangled undergrowth and the gopura is badly ruined. Another couple of the satellite temples are in a similar condition. Prasat Ta Prohm, inside the village of Banteay Chhmar, has been cleared of its vegetation and now stands on an island surrounded by water. Again the face tower is in good condition.
Yes I reckon the Khmers constructed more monuments than the Eqyptians, unless someone can prove otherwise :-)
Andy

July 19, 2009 at 11:37 AM  
Anonymous Bill Rogers said...

Hi Andy, I've read quite a few books on Khmer art and architecture, but found scarce reference to Banteay Chhmar... Could you pls recommend me some book worth reading on this seemingly amazing complex, judging by your blogs and your enthusiasm? Thank you, very much - Bill Rogers

July 19, 2009 at 3:01 PM  
Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

Banteay Chhamr is one of my favourite temples, both for the main complex which has a bit if everything, and the nine satellite temples as well.
The best book is from Japan and its called The Face Towers of Banteay Chhmar, by Baku Saito (photos) and Olivier Cunin (text). Tne publisher is GOTO SHOIN Publishing in Japan. The book came out in July 2005 and I was lucky enough that the publisher sent me a complimentary copy. Its a lovely coffee-table sized book, full of photos of specifically the face towers at the temple and its satellites.
Its the only book I know that is about Banteay Chhmar. Now that the temmple is under reconstruction, I am sure someone will be writing a book about this temples, as they did with Preah Vihear for example, and the temples of Angkor. The River Books Guide to Preah Vihear comes to mind for example.
If you get the opportunity to visit Banteay Chhmar, take it.
Andy

July 20, 2009 at 2:20 AM  
Anonymous Bill Rogers said...

Thanks a lot for the tip, I'll surely include Banteay Chhmar in my prospective itinerary for next December.
Best Regards, Bill

July 21, 2009 at 9:49 AM  

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