Phnom Penh (Cambodia), April 29, 2017: Phnom Penh in Cambodia is a place that is synonymous with serenity and conflict. The beautiful Royal Palace, the fluttering robes of monks fill peace in the air of this place. But there is more to the place that meets the eye.
Once the ‘Pearl of Asia’, Phnom Penh’s shine was tarnished by the impact of war and revolution. But the city has since risen from the ashes to take its place among the hip capitals of the region, with an alluring cafe culture and bustling bars.
Apart from all the beauty it holds, Cambodia’s capital can be an assault on the senses at times. Motorbikes whiz through laneways without a thought for pedestrians; markets exude pungent scents; and all the while the sounds of life – of commerce, of survival – reverberate through the streets. With time, it has all become a part of the attraction.
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What’s more surprising is that there is an ancient Hindu temple built in this exotic city. Preah Vihear Temple has the most spectacular setting of all the temples built during the six-centuries-long Khmer Empire.
As a key edifice of the empire’s spiritual life, it was supported and modified by successive kings and so bears elements of several architectural styles. Perched on a hilltop with a commanding view of its surroundings. predating Angkor Wat by 100 years, the history of the temple/fortress is somewhat unclear, but it is known to be dedicated to the god Shiva and thought to have been constructed in the reign of Suryavarman I (1002-50), with further significant additions by Suryavarman II (1113-50). Unlike most Khmer temples, the temple is constructed on a long north-south axis, instead of the usual rectangular plan facing east.
The temple gives its name to Cambodia’s Preah Vihear province, in which it is now located.
Journey inside the temple:
- The fun starts with162 stone steps, a fairly steep climb that will get you warmed up nicely. Your reward is a short set of stairs decorated with nagas and Gopura I, a solitary pavilion with a fluttering Cambodian flag.
- A 500-metre gently climbing avenue leads up to Gopura II, another smallish pavilion, and a large boray (water cistern, #4) to the left.
- Yet another avenue (somewhat shorter this time) leads to Gopura III, but also the first courtyard of the temple and the first point where visitors to Angkor Wat will start feeling a sense of deja vu. Make a detour to the left side of the gopura to see relics of a more modern era, in the form of a rusting artillery gun and a few bunkers.
- A short causeway decorated with nagas leads to the inevitableGopura IV and behind it the second courtyard. On the other side of the courtyard is Gopura V (Galleries) and beyond it the main Sanctuary, the centrepiece of the site which now houses a miniature Buddhist temple.
- But what makes the effort worthwhile lies just outside, so sneak out the left side to find yourself at Pei Ta Da Cliff, with a sheer 500-metre drop and a jaw-dropping vista of the Cambodian jungles below.
Although there are constant conflicts between Cambodia and Thailand but the temple transcends over these “small” issues to retain its glory.
– by Nikita Tayal of NewsGram, Twitter: @NikitaTayal6
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