Sunday, March 21, 2010

Closed at weekends

A look at the enormous pyramid at the Baphuon from the northern side
Blah, blah, biggest jigsaw in the world, blah, blah. How often is that quote wheeled out when talking about the Baphuon temple in Angkor. Damn, I did it too. Anyways, I had bided my time to revisit the Baphuon, knowing that lots of progress had been made in the last few years in piecing the temple back together again before taking the plunge to pay a visit last week. Of course, my plan shattered into tiny pieces when I read the sign at the eastern entrance that said access was closed at weekends; it was a Saturday. Bugger it. All I could do was walk around the outside of the central pyramid, though the reconstructed western gopura was accessible so it wasn't a complete wash-out. But I didn't get to see the reassembled reclining Buddha at close quarters (it's hard enough to make it out at a distance, impossible close-up) or more importantly, the panels and bas-reliefs that are the real jewels of the Baphuon. The panels display a range of animals, warrior duels and men fighting animals whilst the reliefs show scenes from the Ramayana. It was a disappointment of course, but there's always another day, preferably during the week. The Baphuon dates from the 11th century and hasn't really featured at the top of the roll-call of important Khmer temples due to its ruined state. But make no mistake, in its heyday it would've been an amazing sight. The 70-metre long Buddha was constructed around the 16th century using stones from other parts of the temple, when the temple was reconsecrated. The jigsaw analogy came during the 1960s when the French took it apart to put it back together again. The Khmer Rouge interrupted that plan and with 300,000 pieces of stone sat on the surrounding grass, the sounds of reconstruction began again in 1995. They are still going on today. But not on a Saturday.
The north and western sides of the Baphuon
Okay, you are looking at the reassembled reclining Buddha, believe me
In the middle of the picture is the head of the reclining Buddha
The elevated causeway that approaches the eastern entrance of the Baphuon
A closer look at the rounded and decorated columns that support the elevated causeway

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