Sunday, September 12, 2010

The wheel of life

These children pour water over the most sacred linga on Phnom Kulen
On top of Phnom Kulen, at the base of the stairs to the massive stone reclining Buddha known as Preah Ang Thom, are a couple of features that caught my attention the other day. Kulen is known for its linga, a representation of the Hindu deity Shiva, and which can be found carved into the riverbeds on top of the mountain and at nearby Kbal Spean. It was also the site where Jayavarman II was declared a god-king to herald the beginning of the Angkor dynasty in 802 at a site known as Asram Rong Chen. Sitting on a yoni pedestal next to the stairs was a linga that was getting a lot of attention from the Khmer visitors present and I was told that it was the most sacred linga on Kulen, having come from the birthplace of Angkor. I couldn't verify the claim but it was certainly a popular attraction on the afternoon I was there. Five yards away was a very different attraction, described to me as the wheel of life. In fact it's called the dharmachakra (the Wheel of Law) and I'd seen it before, at a monastery in Angkor Thom called Wat Tang Tok. There are only two stone carvings of the dharmachakra in Cambodia and I nearly missed the one carved into a boulder at the foot of Preah Ang Thom. The wheel of law symbolizes the doctrine which the Buddha set in motion when he gave his first sermon on the eternal cycle of birth, death and rebirth and is one of the main symbols of Buddhism. So its a little surprising there are only two in existence in Cambodia.
The carved dharmachakra at the foot of Preah Ang Thom on Phnom Kulen
Cambodia's only other dharmachakra can be found at Wat Tang Tok in Angkor Thom, shown here in January 2009



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andy I want to thank you for all your interesting pictures of temples around Cambodia. In this case I want to ask you how do you know that this is only one of two dharmachakra wheels in Cambodia? What is your source? I ask this because I recently stumbled on a picure of a huge Khmer Dharmachakra that was unearthed in Thailand. So it makes me wonder if dharmachakras are a common feature of Khmer architecture. Cheers,

October 14, 2012 at 1:39 AM  
Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

My source for this information is Vittorio Roveda's Images of the Gods book, published by River Books. Its a goldmine of information.

October 14, 2012 at 12:42 PM  

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