Tuesday, December 05, 2006

ANGKOR WAT by Nelma Ward

(This monthly assignment was to choose from a number of unfamiliar topics and perhaps research them and produce poetry or prose. Topics included: Aurora Australis, Hannibal, Angkhor Wat, Big Toe, Big Ben (i.e. the mechanicism in the Tower of Westminister), cold fusion, Boerwurst sausage.)

Angkor Wat, Machu Pichu and the Egyptian Pyramids. Now there are names to conjure with. I have always wanted to visit these places, and now, this Christmas, I will have the opportunity to see one of them, the magical, mystical Angkor Wat, in Cambodia.

Angkor Wat, the great ancient capital of the Khmer Empire, lay buried under jungle vegetation for many centuries, never quite forgotten, and is now a mecca for over one million foreign visitors a year.

Angkor Wat lays near the modern city of Sian Reap and is of course a World Heritage Site. It is considered to be one of humankind’s most astonishing and enduring architectural achievements, and once the temple and palace complex ruled over an empire stretching from the Bay of Bengal to Vietnam and China.

It was originally a place of Hindu worship, the main god being Vishnu, and was built around the ninth century AD. After the fall of the empire it became a Buddhist place of worship, and this use continues to this day.

In 1586 a Portuguese monk saw the ruins and reported on them, with the next European discovery to be by a French explorer, Henri Mouhot in 1860. The significance of the ruins was immediately understood and the site has been undergoing restoration continuously since that time.

The area covers just over 200 acres, and contains towers, temples (over 100 of them), palaces and moat, and the world’s longest bas relief stretches around the walls, depicting stories from Hindu mythology. Some archaeologists believe that the site is placed with a significant astronomical alignment.

My simple description of Angkor Wat’s history does not even begin to illustrate the wonderful experience I believe I will encounter – the mystery of walking on an ancient site, one that has been walked on for centuries by countless generations of people, the enigmatic carvings, the stone temples which have been reclaimed from the jungle vines, and the sheer joy of seeing, touching, being in a place that portrays the incredible lengths man will go to just to say ‘I am here – I believe in something’.

Angkor Wat, I just can’t wait.

© Nelma Ward