Home > Angkor Wat, Travel > The stones of Angkor Wat can speak. But only to those who listen

The stones of Angkor Wat can speak. But only to those who listen

For a guide, Kong Kea was remarkably reticent. As we drove through the
rain, our destination Angkor Wat, he stared straight ahead and said
nothing. It was a mood that suited me. After all, it wasn’t everyday
that one came face to face with the remnants of a long-lost
civilisation. To prepare for those circumstances called for silence.
A moat outside Angkor Wat
When the world-famous ruins finally swung into view, I realised why
he had little to say. In the face of such dignified magnificence, one
could easily get used to a world devoid of language. It took me a few
minutes to find words too.

Despite it being my first glimpse,
their outlines blurry through the rain, the spires of Angkor were
instantly recognisable. They had made their presence felt from the
moment I landed at Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport. They had
stared up at me from my visa, stamped upon my passport by an
expressionless immigration officer. They had looked down at me from
Cambodian national flags fluttering at street corners. They had
beckoned from grocery stores, via gold-coloured rows embossed on cans
of Angkor beer.

Still, to stand before the actual ruins, the pride of the ancient Khmer civilisation, took some getting used to.

Even
Kong Kea ” a man no doubt familiar with the temples since Day One on
planet Earth ” had a look of reverence on his face, mixed with a subtle
pride. And this was something he undoubtedly came across daily.

Stepping
onto the concrete walkway, I began to cross the 190-metre wide moat,
approaching the crumbling archways of Angkor like a pilgrim. The moat
alone, I was told, had saved these ruins from the onslaught of the
jungle. Most other temples ” and there were many, spread across the
400-square-kilometre Angkor Archaeological Park ” had simply been
swallowed, hidden from the eyes of man for centuries, until the slow
process of restoration had begun in our time.

Angkor was made to
represent Mount Meru, home of the Gods. Its walls bore thousands of
stone devtas, or demi-gods, all bearing allegiance to classic Hindu
myth. And although there were other tourists hidden in the temple’s
nooks and crannies, all I could hear was the wind. I stepped through
crumbling windows, onto patches of green, manoeuvring my way through
fallen columns and the occasional stone god.

given the bloody
history of Cambodia, the temples seemed a little out of place. It was
hard to imagine hands beating stone incessantly, carving out lessons in
morality while battle lines were being drawn and redrawn in the world
outside. According to the Cambodian Mine Action Centre, there could be
as many as six million mines and unexploded ordinances in the country
even today.

As I walked passed bas-relief friezes extolling the
wisdom of Hinduism, epitomising the grace of Buddhism, I thought of how
things could possibly have come to this. The devtas, like Kong Kea,
smiled their quiet smiles. They said nothing.

Source: Mid Day News
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Categories: Angkor Wat, Travel
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