Cambodia Part II, Ta Prohm, Mystery, Intrigue and Wonder

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Sunday March 07, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

I must admit, that Ta Prohm was for me the most engaging part of Angkor Wat. True, it was the focal area of the film "Lara Croft, Tomb Raider;" but that wasn't the reason, and the film had taken a lot of liberty with set and camera angles. No, the appeal lay in the fact that it was this temple and its environs that the Ecole Francaise d'Extreme-Orient decided to leave (as much as possible) in the natural state that the whole of Angkor Wat was found in by its 19th century discoverers.

As you wander among the ruins of this temple monastery and its ruins, you marvel that it was built in the late 12th century and that some 80,000 lay people lived in its vicinity to serve the 13,000 some monks, dancers, etc. directly associated with the temple. That was over 800 years ago. Then some 400 years ago it was gradually abandoned and taken over by the forest with its silk-cotton and strangler fig trees. For the trees to grow to the size that they now have would take centuries of neglect. The first eleven pictures of the Ta Prohm subset found by clicking on Cambodia on the left, present this mysterious reality.

A peaceful calm and quiet with occasional "jungle" noises pervades. Many of the trees have so taken over the temple and surrounding structures that to remove them would destroy all. One can sense the awe that must have been felt by the early discoverers and the natural questions that would arise. What caused it all to be abandoned? Where did everyone go? Not just the 80,000 that were around this temple, but the 1,000,000 people that lived around Angkor Wat and its environs.

There are other photos in the subset; one is of a sunset from a rare hill amidst these flat plains. Others are of the mythological and multi-headed Nagas (cobras) found in the Hindu tradition and other relief motifs that competed with and often existed side by side with the Buddhist tradition here. Still others are from temples where the dense jungle undergrowth has been cleared away. Angkor Wat has a lot to see, next will be the major temple and other areas.