Thursday, December 24, 2009

Guardian graveyard

The top of the central tower at Prasat Phimai. You can see some of the sandstone antefixes on the lower level.
In continuing my look at Prasat Phimai in Isaan, NE Thailand, which I visited recently for the first time, I went exploring behind the scenes, as I often do, and came across a graveyard of original sandstone dvarapulas. In a workyard where nagas were being fashioned out of freshly-cut sandstone, lines of badly weathered male guardians, or dvarapulas, were gathering dust and are enveloped by weeds in a forgotten corner. Judging by my picture of the very summit of the central tower at Phimai, the sandstone guardian antefixes were decorative elements that adorned the upper levels, though I would suggest that they were removed for safety reasons and simply kept out of sight in this off-limits workyard. Time has not been kind to them. You can still make out their dominant stance and their long club, which would've dissuaded wrongdoers from entering the shrine, but the detail has faded and they've been left to serve their final days out of the limelight.
A veritable graveyard of dvarapulas, or male guardians, out of sight for most visitors
Approximately 100 sandstone dvarapula antefixes occupy one corner of this workyard
The collection of sandstone antefixes are next to the outside wall of the Phimai compound
A weathered male guardian stands upright with his club or long sword
Brand new nagas have been carved from feshly-cut sandstone blocks

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