Sunday, February 14, 2010

Taking a walk through Phimai

The Phimai Historical Park welcomes visitors - pity they can't spell
Take a trip with me through the temple of Prasat Phimai in Isaan in northeast Thailand. It's the most important of the Khmer temples in that country so it was first on my list when I visited Isaan for the very first time in October last year. Known as the city of Vimaya when it was originally constructed in the late 11th century, it's orientation is unusual, as it faces south. For many years the temple site was in ruins until the Thai authorities set about conserving it in the 1960s. The mandapa and main sanctuary is highly decorated with numerous lintels and pediments though many have been moved for safekeeping and now reside in the nearby Phimai museum. The main approach is across the naga bridge and through the outer gopura of the second enclosure. Once through that, the causeway is flanked by corner ponds before the inner enclosure contains the central sanctuary, or prang, alongwith three other buildings. As with all of the temples I visited in Isaan, the whole site was almost polished in its appearance, well-tended lawns and no litter. Spoiled by the broken ruins that I've encountered across Cambodia, and the sense of adventure associated with the temple sites, this felt like high-end temple touring for people who don't like to get their feet dirty. A very different feeling from touring temples in Cambodia.
A lintel frieze of eight dancers on the outer southern gopura
Looking through the outer gopura into the inner second enclosure and the prang
A look at the lawns and dry pools that occupy the second enclosure that leads onto the central sanctuary
A lintel with a grinning kala face and Vishnu holding an elephant and a lion in his hands
Monks enter the central prang of Prasat Phimai
Shiva, with 8 arms, dancing on the southern porch of the mandapa. In the bottom right is Nandi, Shiva's bull.
Intricate decorative carving on the side wall of the central sanctuary
A worn lintel of Krishna killing Kamsa above the eastern doorway
The Krishna lintel and a pediment scene from the Battle of Lanka with Brahma present
4-armed Vishnu on a lintel of the central sanctuary, northern face

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