Celebrating the Azhwars and the Divya Desams of Lord Sriman Narayana!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sri Vishnu Temples of Cambodia

Siem Reap in the Kingdom of Cambodia is home to several Hindu temples built by Kings of the Khmer dynasty. The largest and most famous of them all is Angkor Wat, built by King Suryavarman II. Angkor Wat was originally a temple dedicated to Vishnu. Even today, in one corner of the temple stands a 3.25 metre tall idol of Sri Vishnu, with eight arms. Angkor Wat is a non-functioning temple, although there are offerings of fruits, money and incense made to the deity.

The style of architecture in the temples of Cambodia bears a lot of similarities to the temples of South India, particularly the concept of the vimAnam above the sanctum sanctorum and carvings on the temple walls.

Another temple in the area dedicated to Sri Vishnu is Prasat Kravan. This temple was built by one Mahidaravarman, who was a minister/official in the Khmer regime. This temple, which is being restored with German assistance, has 5 small separate sannidhis. The central one is dedicated to Sri Vishnu. The one of the right is dedicated to SrI.

There are numerous other temples in the area – some dedicated to Shiva, some to Buddha and some to Avalokiteshwara (not clear if this is the name of a God or a King). Some temples have carvings depicting scenes from various Hindu epics. For example, one of the photos above shows a bas-relief of the vAli-sugrIva battle from the rAmAyana from the temple of BantAey SrEi. Another photo shows Sri Gajalakshmi.

On visiting these temples, I got reminded of our own Sri Tirumangai AzhwAr. Had these temples been built during the lifetime of this indefatigable AzhwAr, he would have most probably visited them! After all, even highly inaccessible (in those days) Divya Desams like sAlagramam and Ahobilam were not out of reach for him.

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