Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Details


Did it ever happen to you to go somewhere, take pictures, come back home only to notice that the photographs don’t capture the feeling? Your mind fills in the missing pieces. But pictures can’t help the ones who didn’t see the real thing. They are just details, photographer’s impressions, that can attract them, or bore them.
How was it to visit the complex of Angkor Wat? There are many temples, but I will tell it like it is only one. Imagine a paved road and on it cars, buses, rickshaws, motorcycles and bicycles, all going in the same direction. Somewhere, way up above, wave the branches of huge trees. You can see their sandy trunks propped by their buttress-roots, like exploding from the red ground.




Suddenly, on your right side there is an opening, with a lake and on the other side an interminably long wall. The road follows the side of the lake and you can see a bridge that ends at the temple. In front of it there are lots of people. And not only here, they’re everywhere! They are tourist, groups with guides, with cameras and demands, talking loudly and brashly. Ignore them.
Look at the banisters, how they resemble the snake with which they milked the sea (I’ll tell you the story, but later). On one side of the bridge there are the gods and on the other, the demons. They’ve lost their heads, or they are in a museum, what you see are reproductions.

You are at the entrance of the temple complex. Walk through that tall gate, with a steep roof. In the beginning it had many sculptures, but now you can’t differentiate them anymore. On the columns that hold the roof, you can see apsaras, dancers. 


Walk further and enter the inner yard. When you pass through that new gate, pay attention to it. On the lintel there is a monster and they say that it doesn’t have the lower jaw (but I found one that still had it).



 His job is to scare away the bad ghosts. And do you see how the sides of the doorway are finely sculpted with a round pattern, like a bird feeding its chick? On the other side is more faded, maybe the wind or the rain are to blame...

In front of you is the temple: a quadrilateral base, on which are layered other platforms, each one smaller than the other.
Be careful on the stairs! The steps are tall, narrow and slippery. They were too sculpted sometime.... I think it’s better to climb on all fours.

Take this hallway! Don’t be afraid, you can’t get lost. It is a secondary one, it lead to a small inner yard, where you will find lots of broken stones.


 Here you can rest a bit. Do you feel the warmth of the stone? And look there, do you see on the columns next to the window apsaras? They don’t look all the same, they have different clothing, different expressions, different dance postures. I like their serene expression....




What are you looking at? You wonder what was here? 


Buddhas. Jayavarman the second was a Hindu, but tolerated Buddhism, and so did the other kings after him (though they were Buddhist and were tolerating Hinduism). But one day came a king who condemned the Buddhist religion and ordered a cleaning, erasing thousands of figurines, from every temple, and beheading the statues. Now you can find them at the intersection of two hallways, or at the entrance, draped in golden silk, with an attendant  close by.

This way is blocked, you have to trace your steps back, but look, nature found a way...

See the lions who are guarding these stairs? 



Or the elephants glued back from shards?


 Climb a little bit more, on the second platform and you will see four gopuras, roofs, one for each corner. In the middle there is a fifth one, with false sculpted doors, framed by octagonal columns. 


Now turn and see the so-called yard... Isn’t it beautiful?

Let me show you what makes each temple different. Bayon has these stone faces that look towards the four horizons. They say it’s Jayavarman’s face...


If in the beginning nature followed the outline of the walls, now it supports them in Ta Prohm. It’s a symbiosis.

Prasat Kravan it’s a Hindu brick temple, with frescoes and bas-reliefs.

Banteas Srey is small, with red stones and delicate sculptures.



Elephants Terrace is like a Roman road that ends next to a wall with three elephants picking some fruit with their trunks.


 Why does it bear this name? You have to see from the side...

And the Leper King’s Terrace is a block of layered sculpture, telling a story.



I’ve let Angkor Wat last with a special reason. It’s doors have different models, depending on how close they are of the inner sanctuary.  


At the first level there is a hallway that goes round the temple. In it you can find bas-reliefs with stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata. You will see battles frozen for centuries. 



But maybe the most beautiful scene is the one with the milking of the Sea (I promised you the story). In the old times no one was immortal, but they wanted to be. And they found out that if they milk the Sea for a thousand years, they would obtain the nectar of immortality. So, they took the Naga serpent and holding it on one side the gods, and on the other side the demons, they started tugging it. From the Sea emerged the elephant with thirty-three heads on which Indra will travel (the one who was going to be the leader of the gods), the horse with seven heads and many other living creatures. Drop by drop the nectar of immortality was surfacing. Lastly, the apsaras raised from the sea, and they were so beautiful that the demons asked to stop for a while so they can admire them. But while the demons looked, the gods shared between themselves the droplets of immortality and in the battle that ensued the demons were defeated and banished.


At the middle level there are columns covered in Sanskrit, 


ceilings sculpted with floral patterns and colored in red,


 altars for Buddha,


 apsaras,




 covered stairs that lead you to the upper yard. 


There you will find a hallway that goes round and round, with windows barred with stone cylinders, all opening toward center, toward Meru mountain, tall and steep. 



Here, only the priests and the king could climb and enter, walking through the four courtyards, only them could bring offerings and prayers to the statue of Buddha. And if you look through a window from the West, you can see the roofs of the other levels, the two ponds, the long street, the exterior wall and behind it, the lake, the jungle and the setting sun.
Let’s hurry up! Say good bye to the garudas who guard the corners of the main sanctuary, from the carved doors, from apsaras, from Vishnu and Hanuman, and lets look at Angkor Wat at sunset.




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