Friday, September 7, 2012

Decorative panels aplenty

On the east gate, Shiva and Arjuna are both shooting arrows at a boar, the demon Muka
The Baphuon, often called the world's biggest jigsaw puzzle, is now welcoming visitors once again inside the ancient city of Angkor Thom in Siem Reap, after being closed to the public since the 1960s, when the EFEO experts decided to take it apart, piece by piece. Unfortunately, work on its restoration had to be abandoned in the 1970s and it wasn't until 1995 that EFEO resumed their work. The temple was finally reopened in the spring of 2011 revealing unique mythological scenes decorating the gates of the temple, particularly the second level, that have not been seen for decades. Much of the Baphuon dates from the middle of the 11th century though additions were made in later years. The decorative panels tell many stories and the Baphuon was the first temple to carry these narratives from the Ramayana and others. To reach these extraordinary panels, the steps to the 2nd enclosure are pretty steep so be prepared. And whenever you encounter an entranceway (gopura), keep your eyes peeled for the finely carved panels which are often overlooked by most visitors. I've waited a long time to visit the Baphuon and I wasn't disappointed. I'll post a few of these panels with brief explanations to identify some of the characters over the course of the next few days.
In a scene from the Ramayana, Rama is on the chariot Pushpaka on his way back to Ayodhya

The figure on the left is Krishna and this is a scene from his youth when babies were exchanged, on the right

More decorative panels on the 2nd enclosure alongwith a decorative tourist, Rumnea

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