Angkor Wat – Angkorian Temple Dedicated to Vishnu
Angkor Wat (អង្គរវត្ត) is the world largest religious monuments which has been treated as the world’s most valuable heritage. Angkor Wat not only attractive to visitors around the world with its beauty, but also its perfection of construction architecture. Thus it has become Cambodia’s most preserved temple which attracted millions visitors every year. Angkor Wat represents the highest level of Khmer architecture and it has become a symbol of Cambodia, the only element appearing on the national flag of Cambodia.
Angkor Wat was built in the first half of the 12th century since the beginning of King Suryavarman II’s reign (1113-1150). It was built as his state temple and capital city. ‘Angkor Wat’ simply means ‘Temple of the capital’ which ‘Angkor’ is derived from Sanskrit meaning ‘city or capital’. ‘Wat’ is Khmer word for ‘temple’. Angkor Wat was originally built to dedicate to Hinduism, mainly Vishnu. It’s believed that Angkor Wat temple was designed by Divakarapandita, the chief adviser and minister of the king who was a Brahman with divine honors.
Angkor Wat’s orientation is different from other temples in the area which the main entrance is at the west, rather than the east. The bas reliefs are arranged for viewing from left to right which is a practice used in Hindu religious ceremonies for tombs. Because of this J.Przyluski, who studied about Angkor Wat, concluded that Angkor Wat is a tomb. For G. Ceodes, other researcher, claimed that Angkor Wat might be a tomb because of its main entrance is from the west, but Angkor Wat is no difference from other temple that it is the home of the king’s statue in the form of divinity. However, his conclusion was strongly claimed that Angkor Wat was funerary temple or mausoleum. In generally, Angkor Wat is accepted as a temple where the king worshiped to his Hindu gods and it was also a mausoleum for the king after his death.
Following the completion of decades-renovation project named as the world’s largest puzzle, the 11th century Baphuon temple was re-opened to the public on Jul 3, 2011 under a ceremony highly attended by Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni and French Prime Minister Francois Fillon. We are as Cambodians would like to express our profound gratitude to France for completing the renovation project of Baphuon temple which had spent 10-million-euro funded by France.
Located at 400 meters northwest of Bayon temple, inside Angkor Thom, Baphuon temple was built in 1060 AD as the state temple of King Udayadityavarman II. Baphuon temple faces east in a direct line with the Elephant terraces at the north side, laying within a long enclosure of 425 m x 125 m, and borders the Royal Palace to the north. From the East entrance, Baphuon temple shapes like a big round mountain, while it’s a 37 meters mountain-temple (Prasat Phnom) with five levels. The fifth level height is 24 meters above the ground level. Each level had Gopuras at the cardinal points and has a corner tower at each sub-direction. Since it’s mountain shape, Baphuon was first built to symbolize mount Meru and house a Shivalinga for Hindu religious rituals of the King.
Zhou Da Guan, the Chinese diplomat who visited Angkor at the end of 13th century, has also described about Baphuon temple in his words that: ” North of the Golden Tower (Bayon Temple) at a distance of about two hundred yards, rises a Tower of Bronze, and even higher than the Golden Tower, a truly astonishing spectacle, with more than ten chambers at its base.”
According to the stone inscription found around the temple said that, King Udayadityavarman II had constructed a golden mountain in the middle of his capital, and built a gold temple on it to house Shiva linga.
As long as we step in the temple from the east entrance, we would feel this temple is extremely unique from others. Visitors would walk on a raised causeway toward the temple. The raised causeway is supported by round pillars arranged in three rows, each row has 125 pillars and each pillars was made from a piece of big stone, without any joint. The whole causeway measures 172 meter, and about one meter raised from the ground. Walking on the raised causeway, though it’s just one meter high, I have got the feeling of great pleasure, in which I’m in a high position or a special person who have been admired or respected. The feeling of congratulating from people around who were walking on the ground.
Lord Vishnu helps Gajendra Moksha – the elephant king
Kajendra Moksha is also one of Hindu mythology story which related to Lord Vishnu helps the elephant king, Gajendra Moksha. This story also has been depicted as decoration carvings of Khmer ancient temples in Siem Reap. The story goes that…
Trikuta was a beautiful mountain with thick forest, which was home of a group of elephants led by elephant king named Gajendra Moksha. One day in the hot season, a group of elephants with Gajendra Moksha to bath in a lake in order to release hot. Suddenly, a crocodile who lived in the lake bit Gajendra’s leg, caused him get stuck in the lake. He tried hard to rescue himself until he became weak, even with help from other’s elephant, he still couldn’t detach from the crocodile. Gajendra was hopeless and thought that he would die soon. Suddenly, he remembered Lord Vishnu and called out to him for help.
Immediately, Lord Vishnu appeared on his mount Garuda and sent his Chakra to kill the crocodile for releasing Gajendra Moksha. As Chakra was touching the crocodile, it transformed into a Gandharva. Gajendra Moksha was saved. He sent a lotus flower to Lord Vishnu as paying gratitude to him. Then Gajendra Moksha became a human.
In fact, the elephant king Gajendra Moksha was a great king named Indradyumna. He was cursed by hermit Agastya to born as an elephant because the king did not respect him while he was visiting the king. And the curse will be ended only when he meet Lord Vishnu.
In the previous life, the crocrodile was a Gandharva named Huhu. One day, while he was taking shower in a lake, a hermit came to the lake for taking water. And Huhu was kidding with him by pulling his leg. However, the hermit was not ready to be joking with him, so he cursed Huhu to become a crocodile to live in that lake. Huhu asked him for forgiveness, but the hermit refused and told him that the curse will be released as long as the Chakra of Lord Vishnu touches his body.
So in the same time of saving the elephant king Gajendra, Lord Vishnu also helped end the curse of Huhu to finish his life as a crocodile.
Cambodian New Year
Khmer New Year or Cambodian New Year is the most colorful holiday of the year for Cambodia people. Everyone is graceful and prepare grant celebration for it.
Khmer New Year 2012
For 2012 the Khmer New Year Days fall on the 13, 14, and 15 of April. It marks the end of Buddhist year 2555 and the start of new year 2556, the year of Dragon.
The first new year day is on Friday April, 13, 2012. The new year angel of this year is Kemira Tevy (កិមិរាទេវី), the sixth daughter of Kabil Moha Prum. She wears a hairpin of violet flower, carries a sword on right hand and a zither (ពិណ) on left hand. She rides water buffalo as vehicle. The special offering for Kemira Tevy is banana (chek namva). So this year the banana price on the market is going to rise in a few days before new year arrived. Because every house will need banana for offering to new year angel.
Kemira Tevy arriving on April 13, time 07:11 pm. So every house must be ready with the offering table and be gathered burning the incense sticks to welcome and make praying to new year angel for a happiness and successful coming year.
History of Khmer New Year
All nations in the world celebrate new year every year with different date and preparation according to their traditional cultures. Cambodia people also celebrated new year every year since ancient time. It’s among biggest and colorful celebrations of the year. Khmer new year or in Khmer ‘Chol Chnam Thmey’ means ‘entering new year’. And ‘Suo Sdey Chnam Thmey’ for ‘Happy New Year’.
During Angkor era, Khmer celebrated new year based on the lunisolar calendar. According to Chinese diplomat, Zhou Da Guan who visited Khmer empire in 13th century recorded that Khmer celebrated new year in the tenth month of Chinese calendar in the year of his visit, which fell on December or January of Gregorian calendar. And the first month of lunisolar calendar is Mekasay (មិគសិរ) which also falls on end of December or January.
After Angkor period, the new year celebration date has been changed, because Cambodians use both lunisolar and solar calendar. The current new year celebration date was determined based on solar calendar, which typically falls on April 13th or 14th of the Gregorian calendar. And this date is set as official new year days for Cambodians today.
Khmer New Year Legend
Cambodian practice the tradition and reinforce their beliefs about heaven, earth, and hell, good and bad karma, in which the result people got is from their deeds in their previod life. And so this life of living they shall do many good deeds for the next better life. There is a legend related to Khmer new year, that people believe that every new year there is one new angle come to take care the earth and its people. The legend goes that…
Once upon a time there is a young man named Dhammabal Koma (ធ្មបាលកុមារ) who is a son of a rich man. Dhammabal Koma has finished his study of the three Vedas and also can speak the language of all birds. His talent and knowledge made him to be famous through out the area.
One day, Kabil Moha Prum (កបិលមហាព្រហ្ម), who is the king of heaven heard about the cleverness of Dhammabal Koma and wanted to challenge him a test of intellectual ability by asking him to solve three riddles within seven days time. The reward of his winning is the king of heaven will cut off his own head and if Dhammabal Koma could not solve the riddles, he must also cut off his head too.
After six days of considering and finding the answers to the King of Heaven’s riddles, Dhammabal Koma has no any sign about it. He was hopeless and thought that he would have to suffer his life for the King of Heaven tomorrow. So he decided to walk into deep forest and kill himself for his ashamedness. After a long distance of struggling in the forest, Dhammabal Koma arrived a big palm tree. Too tired, he fall asleep under the tree. While he was not deeply in sleep, he accidentally listened to the conversation of a vulture couple. The female vulture was enquired her husband about their food for tomorrow, and the male vulture replied that they will have Dhammabal Koma’s flesh for many days. Because he will not be able to solve the riddles. Curiously, the female vulture asked what the riddles were and her husband replied:
1. Where is the charm in the morning?
2. Where is the charm in the afternoon?
3. Where is the charm in the evening?
The male vulture then continues to tell his wife the answers:
1. In the morning, charm lies on people’s face as they wash their face before starting a new day.
2. In the afternoon, charm is on people’s chests as they bathe to cool their body from the afternoon heat.
3. In the evening, charm is at people’s feet as they clean their feet after a full day of work and get ready for bed.
After listened to the conversation of the vulture couple, Dhammabal Koma quickly recovered from tiredness and rush back to his palace waiting for the King of Heaven to answer his riddles.
As promised, Kabil Moha Prum cut off his own head for he have been defeated. But before doing so, the King of Heaven call his seven daughters to him and advised that his head cannot be dropped down on earth or ocean, if not the earth would be destroyed in fire. His head must be putting on a platter and his daughters must take turn to carry his head for ceremonial circle around mount Someru every year during the Sangkran date, to bring happiness and good weather to the earth, before bringing to keep in Kuntheakmali (គន្ធមាលី) temple in heaven.
Angel of New Year
From this legend, Cambodian believe that every year on the first day of the new year or Sangkran day, there is a new angel comes down to earth (for ceremonial circle around mount Someru of Kabil Moha Prum’s heat). Each angel carries different items, has different vehicle and favor on different foods. The uniqueness of each angel are recorded in Moha Sangkran written by Hora (astrologer). So there will be different new year offerings every year.
Depend on which day of the week that the new year falls, determine which angel being the angel of the new year. Below are the list of seven angels and their characteristics.
Sunday angel is Tungsa Tevy (ទុង្សាទេវី) as the oldest daughter of Kabil Moha Prum, wears a ruby necklace, a pomegranate flower hairpin. She carries a disc (ច័ក្រ) on the right hand and on her left hand holding a shell (ស័ង្ខ). Fig fruit (ផ្លែល្វា) is her favorite food. Her vehicle is garuda (គ្រុឌ).
Monday angel is Koreak Tevy (គោរាគទេវី) wears Angkeabos flower hairpin. She carries a sword (ខ័ន្ធ) with her right hand and a cane (ឈើច្រត់) at the left. She rides a tiger and oil is her favorite food.
Tuesday angel is Reaksa Tevy (រាក្យសាទេវី) wears lotus flower hairpin. She drinks blood. In her hands are a trident (ត្រីសូល៍) at right, and a bow (ធ្នូ) at left. Her animal is a horse.
Wednesday angel is Mondar Tevy (មណ្ឌាទេវី) wears a Champa flower hairpin. Her weapons are a needle on right hand, and a cane on left. She drinks milk and rides a donkey.
Thursday angel is Keriny Tevy (កិរិណីទេវី) wears a hairpin of Mondar flower. Beans and sesame are her favorite foods. On her right hand carries a harpoon (កងេ្វ) and on left hand a gun. Her vehicle is elephant.
Friday angel is Kemira Tevy (កិមិរាទេវី) wears a hairpin of violet flower. She prefer banana as offering. She carries a sword on right hand and a zither (ពិណ) on left hand. She rides water buffalo as vehicle.
Saturday angel is Mohurea Tevy (មហោទរាទេវី) wears a hairpin of Trokeat flower. She favors on deer meat. Her weapons are a disc (ច័ក្រ) and a trident (ត្រីសូត៍). She rides a peacock.
Khmer New Year Celebration
In the ancient time, the new year was celebrated for one month, 15 days before the new year day and 15 days after. During this time people relax and enjoying time together with relatives and villages. Nowadays, in some provinces of Cambodia, people still celebrate new year in such a long time. In the city, the new year is celebrated within three days only. And it’s the national holiday, all public and private sector are closed.
Usually a week before the new year days, Monks are invited to perform a Buddhist ceremony at home, in which people believe that it’s to chase away the misfortunes and miserableness of the old year and asking for blessing of the coming new year with happiness and prosperity.
People prepare their house by cleaning or new painting the wall, changing new curtain, replacing new furniture, kitchen wear which are broken. People make themselves new clothes. All these are activities to refresh the bad feeling in the old year and hoping for a good coming year.
During the three days of new year, offerings for welcoming new year angel are prepared on a table placed in front of the house door. The offering included a pair of slathor (made of young banana stem, decorate with flower, betel leaves, areca nuts), cakes, fruits, water and drinks, flowers. Especially the food which is the favorite of the new year angel is a must have. If the angel drink blood, people would offer red syrup instead of blood. If in any year that the new year falls on Friday, Kemira Tevy, she prefer banana. Then in that year, the price of banana would go up twice, as everyone need banana as angel offering.
The time of the new year angel coming is always different from each year. People based on the time written in Moha Sangkran which is calculated by Hora (astrologer). When it’s the time, at the offering table, people started to light candle and burn incence sticks, praying to the new year angel for health, happiness and wealth. And they will pray like this in the 2nd and 3rd days too, but in the morning or at night.
Traditionally, Khmer new year is celebrated within three days. Day one is called Moha Sangkran (មហាសង្រ្កាន្ត), day two is called Vonnabot (វណបត), and day three is Lerng Sak (ឡើងស័ក). On these three days, pagodas are decorated with colorful religious plags. The pagoda management team prepare some spaces for traditionals games and dancing for villagers enjoy such as Teanh Prort, Vai Ka om, Chol Chhuong, Bos Ang Kunh, Leak Kansaeng, Sdach Jorng, Klaeng Jab Kon Morn, etc.
On these three days, in the morning people prepare food offering for the monks in the local pagoda. They wearing beautiful traditional dress and gathering at the pagoda. This is to let their ancestors to celebrate the new year with them and also for getting the blessing from ancestors. After that people building sand hill with in the pagoda complex. People believe that building sand hill can help them release from sin which they had accidentally did in this life. In the evening, monk is invited for preaching in the Preah Vihea, and mostly only old people would join this ritual. At night, after finished preaching ceremony, there are various activities for young people such as play traditional games, traditional dancing, or watch Khmer drama (ល្ខោន).
According to the tradition of a good Khmer child being, son and daughter must prepare foods and other offering included money for their grandparents and parents and go with them to pagoda. As this is a very good deed, that children should do, so that they will get a lot of merits from the blessing of their elderly. They also have new clothes as gift for their elderly. They also doing charity to the poor. Khmer new year is also a good occasion to visit relatives. In the countryside, people make num ansom, Cambodia sticky rice cake as a ceremony cake and giving away as gift for visitors, whom visited them.
On day three, there is bathing the Buddha statues ceremony. They can join the ceremony at the pagoda or bath for their Buddha statue at home. This is to clean away all the dusts which are believed as bad things and asking for good things indeed when the Buddha statue are cleaned with perfume water. At home young people also bath for their grandparents, parents. This is for the deeds of parents which deserve the children gratitude.
Bang Em San Daek Khiev
Green bean dessert is one of popular desserts for Cambodian. People usually having dessert after their lunch or after they are off from work in the evening. Dessert stalls are common in Phnom Penh and also mobile stalls which selling many kinds of popular Khmer dessert. Most of desserts are easy to prepare that Cambodian people also like to cook dessert at the weekend for whole family serving. Some popular desserts that most often be cooked are Chek Khtis (Banana coconut milk dessert), Bang em la pov (Pumpkin coconut milk dessert), and also green bean dessert which in Khmer we call bang em san daek khiev (bang em = dessert; san daek = bean; khiev = green).
If you also would like to try green bean dessert by your own, you can refer to the recipe below.
Ingredients for 3 servings
- 100 g of green bean: soak it for about 1-2 hours, then wash it well and drain.
- 500 g of shredded coconut meat: we need two kinds of coconut milk, thick and thin. So the first wringing of coconut meat need 250 ml of water, and this first outcome of coconut milk is thick, we keep it in different bow. After that, we will need about 750 ml of thin coconut milk right into the cooking pot. So wring it for several times. To be easy, you can order people to get ready these two kinds of coconut milk for you when you buy coconut at the market. The canned coconut milk is also available, but it’s can replace for thick coconut milk only, and then use pure water for thin coconut milk.
- 100 g of palm sugar or 150 g of refined sugar. If you use palm sugar disc you have to turn it into sugar power. Simply put the sugar disc on the cutting board and use knife to slice it. For Cambodians, we always use palm sugar for all kinds of desserts, because it makes better natural sweet flavor and giving the dessert the great aroma of palm sugar.
- Place the pot of thin coconut milk on fire, just about 5 minutes later, it’s boiling; now add green bean and a little salt, decrease heat to medium. It need about 30 minutes to 45 minutes for the green bean to be soft and break out. So be patient, because too much heat will cause the coconut milk becomes dry before the green been turns soft.
- After the green bean become soft we can add sugar. Do not add all at once, in case it’s too sweet.
- Then add the 250 ml thick coconut milk. Now if you feel the dessert is too thick (less water), you can add some boiling water and adjust your sweet level. Bring your dessert to boiling and it’s done.
Green bean dessert can help reduce the heat inside our body. If we intend to have it for this reason, my mom also added wax gourd in the green bean dessert and they can go well together.
Green bean dessert is also serving with ice and adds some milk. Mostly if you order green bean dessert from the dessert stall you will get this version. So if you cook your green bean dessert at home and want to serve with ice too, your green bean dessert must be sweeter and don’t need to have much liquid.
Samlor Machu Trokuon – Common Soup of Khmer Meals
Samlor Machu Trokuon or Water Spinach Sour Soup is a very common soup of Cambodian daily meals. We cook it very often because it’s easily goes with other foods and always make our meals delicious. The recipe of Samlor Machu Trokuon is very simple. However, the young people of modern days might not know how to cook water spinach sour soup. So if it’s the case, you can refer to the recipe below.
Ingredients for 3 servings
1. Water spinach / Trokuon: two bunches, cut it into 5cm long pieces, take only young parts, wash well and drain.
2. Fish: a small fish of about 300 g (can be trei ros, trei po or trei kae), wash well and cut it into round slices of about 1.50 cm thick.
3. Ripe tamarind flesh which seeds are taken out ready for sour soup tasting. Need only a round piece as big as a small ball of about 3 cm in diameter.
4. One lemongrass stalk, beat it to be a bit flat; a small piece of galangal (mdeng), these are for reducing the smell of fish and increase aroma of herb.
5. Two tbsp sugar, 5 tbsp fish sauce
6. M’orm to top up for aroma
1. Put a cooking pot contains about 750 ml water onto fire. When the water is boiling, add in fish with a little salt, lemon grass stalk and galangal, decrease heat to medium.
2. Put tamarind flesh in a small bowl, take the boiling water from the pot into the bow and start to crush tamarind. Then pour the tamarind water back into the pot, if it’s not sour enough, do it again.
3. By now the fish is cooked, so add water spinach, add sugar and fish sauce. Next taste and adjust to your flavor. Increase the heat and bring it to boiling, then the water spinach is also cooked.
Water spinach sour soup is usually goes well with other dry foods such as fried or grilled dried fish or fried fish.
Depend on the favorite of each person, prohok is also added in Khmer water spinach sour soup. In this case, we will use less fish sauce and more sugar. Prohok will be crush in the same time with tamarind, we will need about 3-4 small fishes of prohok only.
Kampong Kdei Bridge with its original name as Spean Preah Toeus (ស្ពានព្រះទិស – The bridge of Indication) is the best laterite-built bridge of Angkor era which is survived until today. The bridge is located on the main highway of national road no.6 from Kampong Thom to Siem Reap and it used to carry all kinds of transportation of the main highway. In 1965, the bridge has been restored by Bernard Philippe Groslier. Nowadays, Kampong Kdei Bridge is still in good condition, however, the main highway has been diverted since a 1.3 km bypass and a new bridge has been built. Now it’s crossing by villagers who travel by motorbikes and bicycles only.
Located about 60 km southeast of Siem Reap, the Kampong Kdei Bridge is spanning the Chi Kreng River with 86 m long, 16 m wide and 10 m height above the level of the river bed. It has 21 corbel arches between 20 columns. By this the bridge became the longest corbelled stone-arch bridge in the world.
King Jayavarman VII, the greatest Khmer king, had contributed a huge work in building the country’s infrastructure during his reign in the late 12th century. He built temples, royal roads, bridges, hospitals, rest houses throughout his kingdom. Spean Preah Toeus or Kampong Kdei Bridge is the only best survived bridge of his time. It’s an outstanding work of art from Angkor era.
On the way from Siem Reap to Kampong Kdei, there are ten more laterite ancient bridges, however, Kampong Kdei bridge is the longest and the only one with significant decoration of the naga balustrades.
The handrails of the bridge are made of sandstone in the form of the body of the nagas, at their ends each has a nine-headed naga decorated. At its side, there is a boundary stone depicted Deva and Demond which are the architecture of Bayon style.