Temple of Preah Vihear - one of the most beautiful Hindu temples

Preah Vihear Temple

This is one of the finest memorials of the famous Khmer empire. Located on the edge of a cliff in the Dangrek Mountains, the temple of Preah Vihear is one of the most beautiful Hindu temples dedicated to Shiva - the god of a thousand names, symbolizing renewal, but also destruction.

The Tempie of Shiva was created in the years 893-1200. It was not by accident that the Khmer people chose the edge of a high cliff which offers a majestic view of today’s frontier of Cambodia and Thailand. According to art historians, in the entire 600-year period of the Khmer Empire this is the most beautifully situated temple, whose shape and orientation differs greatly from other buildings of its type. The Khmer temples were usually placed on a rectangular plan with orientation toward the east. Preah Vihear, however, is located on a north-south axis along which it stretches to an impressive length of almost 800 metres.

Subsequent steps lead pilgrims toward the main sanctuary on the top of the cliff. The path leads through the ornate gates called Gopura (one of them still holds traces of the original red paint which once adorned the gate) and the courtyards where there were libraries and smaller sanctuaries. The climbing of the stairs and passing through successive gates and levels were also intentional on the part of the Khmer. This was to intensify the feeling of "cleansing" and "approaching" the abode of the gods.

The construction of the temple of Preah Vihear was supported by successive Khmer rulers, and the long period of construction resulted in several architectural styles, which were distinguished during research in the complex. Stone inscriptions describe the special role in the process of construction of the temple attributed to King Suryavarman II. On the deciphered reliefs, the ruler, covered by parasols, feasts among golden bowls and elephants. The inscriptions also mention the King's personal advisor, Brahmin Divakarapandit, who offered the temple a golden statue of the dancing god Shiva, known as Nataraja.

Over time, as part of the weakening influence of Hinduism in these areas, the temple found itself in the hands of the Buddhists. At the beginning of the 20th century, France set the boundary between its former colony French Indochina French and Siam (now Thailand). According to these maps the temple was on the Cambodian side, which was later confirmed several times, but the issue of the land around the temple has never been clarified. Due to the fact that the only access road leads from the Thai side, this question hangs over the fate of the temple to this day and is a source of ongoing dispute between Thailand (formerly Siam) and Cambodia. When, in June 2008, at Cambodia's request, Preah Vihear was entered into the UNESCO World Heritage List, the dispute became sharper. In October 2008, there was an exchange of fire in the region. At the beginning of 2011 there were two more clashes. Since 2013, the area around the temple has been at peace. As emphasized by the local inhabitants, the quarrel between the two countries does not serve anyone.

The area is not easy and accessible for tourists to this day. To get to the temple from the Cambodian side, you have to cross the border, which means getting a special "ticket" from the army and passing through successive outposts and fortifications. Apparently, in the last century Shiva presented his warlike incarnation. May the 21st century be a time of renewal.

Tags: Thailand, Cambodia