Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Cella at Wat Han Chey

A reclining Vishnu minus Ananta at Wat Han Chey, north of Kompong Cham city
Phnom Han Chey lies 20kms north of Kompong Cham city, on the banks of the Mekong River and boasts an interesting collection of ancient prasats and modern-day pagoda buildings. On my recent visit the whole area was heaving with people celebrating the P'chum Ben festival, having travelled from far and wide to join in the ceremonies. My presence was warmly welcomed as the only barang in their midst. The site is also known as Chey Kiri mountain and for the energetic there's a 295 step climb to the top, or for the older visitors like me, there's a couple of drivable roads to the top. Next to the main vihara at the pagoda of Wat Han Chey, sat on the summit of the mountain and surrounded by gorgeous views of the Mekong, is an unusual square sandstone cella with a series of well-defined carvings. Above the only door to the cella is a narrow lintel which shows two images of the reclining Vishnu, though surprisingly there's no Ananta, the snake on which Vishnu usually lies. the two images are arranged as decorative elements alongwith three medallions on what is believed to be a pre-Angkorean structure, most likely from the 7th century. At the foot of the cella are miniature stylized representations of a larger temple, almost in the style of the 'flying palaces' of Sambor Prei Kuk, where a similar cella resides. Other imaginary animals appear in a decorative frieze around the base too. A larger stupa-styled concrete pinnacle has been added to the top of the cella. Altogether an unusual and interesting 'find' at Wat Han Chey. There are other historical elements to Han Chey, as there are more modern and garish monuments. More soon.
The square sandstone cella with concrete pinnacle at Wat Han Chey
The reclining Vishnu lintel and colonettes at Wat Han Chey
A reclining Vishnu and medallions on the Wat Han Chey lintel
A stylized 'flying palace' at the base of the cella at Wat Han Chey
The doorway and modern shrine inside the square cella
Imaginary monsters on a decorative frieze around the bottom of the cella


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