Friday, July 16, 2010

Deciphering the bas reliefs

These two main figures on a restored section of the eastern gallery at Banteay Chhmar are thought to be Jayavarman VII on the right and his adopted son, prince Vidyanandana. Both are holding bow and arrows with followers paying homage nearby.
In this scene on the eastern gallery, southern wing, the hand to hand combat with spears and shields appears to be between two sets of Khmer soldiers. Probably from an episode of the civil war, though some renegade Khmers also fought alongside the Chams.
The historical narratives on the walls of Banteay Chhmar have yet to be fully researched by scholars, as they have been at the Bayon for example, and as large sections of the walls have been removed or lie fallen in pieces, this research will take a while to complete. Meanwhile, Global Heritage Fund are doing their best to restore and piece back together certain sections, starting with the southern wing of the eastern gallery. Much of this section concentrates on battle scenes in the latter part of the 12th century. The Khmers under King Jayavarman VII against the invading Cham army, on land and at sea, dominates the reliefs. Whilst the carvings at Banteay Chhmar extend over a longer wall surface, they are lower in height and can accommodate only two registers or levels of reliefs, whilst those of the Bayon contain four. It's not yet known which came first, the Bayon or those at Banteay Chhmar. The restoration work now taking place is shredding new light on the narratives as new details are uncovered but there is still much work to be done and the full story remains untold.
More hand to hand, spear to spear combat but this time between the invading Chams and the Khmer army. You can recognise the Chams by their elaborate headwear.
Below a boatful of Chams, fallen comrades fall into the sea which is alive with large fish and crocodiles. You can see one soldier hanging onto the boat for dear life.
Two boats crammed full with the Cham army as they prepare to land and engage in battle with the Khmers
Wouldn't it be great to see more Cambodian youngsters studying the bas-reliefs at Banteay Chhmar, like this young boy from the nearby village

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