Monday, August 16, 2010

Causeway uncovered

The best preserved of the naga and garuda balustrades at Banteay Chhmar
The three naga heads at the base of the balustrade end
The remote temple complex of Banteay Chhmar is slowly giving up its secrets to the renovators from the Global Heritage Fund. Never fully researched, Banteay Chhmar dates from the 12th century and whilst some sections of the temple have fallen prey to thieves, other sections, such as the eastern naga causeway, have been hidden from view for centuries. Lying under the top soil and slowly revealed by the GHF team of excavators over the past two years, the well-preserved naga and garuda balustrades look as fresh as the day they were created. The naga, a many-headed cobra with an outspread hood, is associated with water, its natural habitat. It appears principally in the form of a naga balustrade along access causeways or around the terraces besides the entrance to the monuments. It is often associated in Khmer art with its hereditary enemy, the garuda, a mythological animal that is half-man and half-raptor. During the Bayon period (1181-1219) of sculptural construction, the ends of naga balustrades underwent a major change. At the bottom, one naga, usually three-headed, is straddled by a garuda controlling a second naga, with six heads, whilst more heads decorate the backside of the hood. The balustrade ends at Banteay Chhmar are supported by blocks of sandstone carved with kalas and lions. Almost identical replicas can be found at other temples in the same time period, such as Preah Khan of Kompong Svay. The eastern causeway at Banteay Chhmar has now been reconstructed and adorned with its naga balustrades though work is continuing, as it is throughout this complex.
This naga and garuda hood has suffered some slight damage
A great view of a 3-headed naga on the eastern causeway at Banteay Chhmar
This balustrade end has required renovation efforts of the Global Heritage Fund team
Up close and personal with a garuda, half-man, half-raptor
This is the backside of a balustrade end with naga heads present
The afternoon sun spotlights one of the recovered naga and garuda balustrade ends
Looking east from the restored causeway towards the main entrance and rest-house on the left
The eastern causeway at Banteay Chhmar with its naga and garuda balustrades

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Anonymous Sergio Franco said...

Hi Andy
is there any effort under way towards restoring Preah Khan of Kompong Svay? I've been there a couple of years ago and, of course, was saddened by the degree of destruction and sacking this gigantic, beautiful temple complex suffered.
On a more (tragi)comical note, I remember my host at the tiny village of Ta Seng invited his friends to dinner with me on the first of two nights I spend there. We sat on the ground in a circle and my host served the delicious palm-sugar wine together with fish and rice, and we went chatting and drinking into the night. At one point, I consulted with my guide whether he thought it convenient to ask them what seemed to me a rather delicate question: had the village suffered too much under Pol Pot? and the guide replied, theres no problem. They were all in their 50s, like me. Then the guide inquired them, they exchanged quite a few words between them and the guide said, addressing me: "Not at all. In fact, Pol Pot was a great benefactor for this village and the people living here. We miss him and we were much better off then", from which I assumed (with a chill) they were all former Khmer Rouge guerrillas and cadres!!!

August 18, 2010 at 7:48 PM  
Anonymous Sergio Franco said...

I forgot to add I was treated with touching gentleness and hospitality by Ta Seng villagers.
Thank you - Sergio

August 19, 2010 at 1:46 AM  

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