Friday, March 5, 2010

Koh Ker's heritage

The temple pyramid known as the Prang of Prasat Thom at Koh Ker, when the top was still accessible in 2001
As promised, I've had a longer peek at the annual report of the JAYA Koh Ker Project and it makes very interesting reading. As I said a couple of days ago, the idea is to develop a master plan aimed at putting the Koh Ker complex of temples up for world heritage status. The Hungarians are working in tandem with Apsara on creating this master plan which will see more than just a few temples to visit, with sustainable tourism at the forefront of their thinking and the involvement of the local communities. First things first though, they have to properly demine the whole area, which will take a while. Then they have to consider any urgent steps that are needed to prop up some of the monuments that are currently falling down, complete an inventory of all the temples and other sites of interest in the area - they are still uncovering temples such as Prasat Trapeang Russei which came to light last year - appraise the 66 inscriptions they've found on temple walls and doors and lots more besides.

Koh Ker means 'island of glory' though it was formerly known by the name Chok Gar Gyar ('the koki-tree thicket') and even Lingapura when Jayavarman IV proclaimed himself 'supreme king of the Khmer kings' at Koh Ker in 928. Knowledge of this king's early days are scratchy, but what is known is that he commenced and completed an incredible array of over 40 temples during a frenzied twenty year period before his death in 940 and a return of the royal court to Angkor a few years later. The first man-made creation at Koh Ker was the baray, known as Rahal. The most memorable of the monuments is the Prang of Prasat Thom, a 32 metre high temple-pyramid, the largest ever built, rising over seven levels and originally crowned by a giant linga more than a metre in diameter. The linga disappeared long ago. The prang is no longer accessible by visitors for safety reasons. The five unique temples, some 750 metres east of Prasat Thom, each contained a massive linga on its yoni pedestal, each linga estimated to weigh some fifteen tons, some carved from a single rock. Inscriptions abound at Prasat Krachap, with over a thousand lines of script, a huge statue of Ganesha is known to have been stolen from Prasat Bak after the civil war, Prasat Chen produced the famous monkey brothers statue that is housed at the national museum, whilst Prasat Thom gave up the colossal garuda that stands at the entrance of the capital's museum. The rock carvings at Ang Khna, dotted around the pond known as Trapeang Khna, contain a variety of reliefs depicting deities and animal shapes, including a monitor lizard and a pair of freshwater dugongs. There's a suggestion that these sacred carvings were made by hermits at a later date. One other noteworthy monument is Prasat Andong Kuk, which is the last temple to be built and has been identified as one of the hospitals created by Jayavarman VII and shows that the city was still active as late as the 12th century. There is still so much to uncover about Koh Ker. It still holds many mysteries but the completion of a master plan will set the wheels in motion for those investigations to take place. We await the results with great interest.
This is a 2007 map of Koh Ker's temples from the EFEO
The green type and shapes surrounding the pond of Trapeang Khna denote carved rocks which include lingas and animals



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vintage Andy! Thats why I count myself among your readers. Now u can resume with the footy madness (for a time). Cheers, Gerrick

March 6, 2010 at 9:07 AM  

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