Monday, January 11, 2010

Banteay Srei - briefly

A small diety, probably Vishvakarma, sits atop a grinning kala at Banteay Srei
Banteay Srei is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Angkor group of temples. Over the last few years the sheer weight of numbers of tourists that have descended on this tiny prasat, dedicated to women and uniquely constructed with pinkish sandstone, has seen the inner sanctuary roped off and access severely restricted, compared to the 'good old days' when there were no restrictions. Of course I understand the need to protect the temple but a visit to Banteay Srei isn't what it used to be. I paid a flying visit there a couple of weeks ago with my work colleagues and here are a few photos of some of the carvings and iconography that are viewable. For a detailed look at the reliefs on the inner sanctuary, you'll need a very good zoom on your camera or binoculars. Banteay Srei originally dates from the middle of the 10th century but was added to over later centuries.
This relief seems to show a makara being eaten by a larger makara. That's sea-monsters for you, they'll eat anything, even their own.
Add ImageOne of the most popular scenes, Indra sits on top of the 3-headed elephant Airavata, with a munching kala head below
A pediment on the northern gallery shows the lion-man Narasimha disemboweling the demon Hiranyakasipu (upside down)
Relief detail of a female, judging by the breasts, clutching foliage, next to a finely-carved colonette
I think this is Varuna riding a hamsa (sacred goose) flanked by two lions holding up the foliage
This lintel is located on the ground and shows the abduction of Sita by Ravana
A perfect example of a makara, a sea-monster, with a crocodile head and a long elephant's trunk, that can be found on the end of lintels and pediments at Banteay Srei
At the top of this pediment, Lakshmi (consort of Vishnu) is flanked by two elephants who are pouring sacred water on her. At the bottom, Garuda occupies a place normally reserved for kala.
The western gopura features a duel between the monkey princes Valin and Sugriva on its pediment, taken from the Ramayana epic. On the left Valin is shown dying.
As the monkey brothers duel, left, Rama intervenes with an arrow that kills Valin, right. A good example of the pinkish sandstone used in the construction of Banteay Srei.
The inner sanctuary at Banteay Srei, which has been roped off. The small guardians in front of the prasat are recent cement copies.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Don't be afraid

Don't be afraid, he won't hurt you. He may be an angry looking kala but effectively, his location, on lintels over doorways in Khmer temples is just one of the ways to repel enemies and evil spirits from entering the temple, so he's actually protective in nature. He has no lower jaw and his hands are missing but his trademark bulging eyes and exposed fangs are in full evidence. This mythological monster-cum-lion is also called Reahoo or Rahu on occasions. The above monster is on a lintel at the temple of Banteay Srei and I'll post some more pictures from that temple very soon.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Shower time

Just time for a shower before going out for dinner. Up early for a dawn visit to a completely empty Ta Prohm then onto Banteay Srei, which has changed dramatically since my last visit a few years ago. Now you cannot get near the central structure - before you could clamber anywhere you liked - and the road that passed by the front entrance has disappeared into a brand new car parking and refreshment area. We stopped by the Aki Ra landmine museum on the way back for my first visit there too before I got dropped off at the back entrance of Angkor Wat to visit Now, who was helping her sister sell souvenirs on her day off. After lunch we took our guests to Angkor Thom to visit the South Gate, Bayon and East Gate and then a hotel inspection at Hotel De La Paix before shower-time. They are off to a dance show at La Residence, I'm off for dinner with Now at Shadow of Angkor. More later.

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