Trying To Be A Khmer Priest–Quickflight

by bria4123 on October 3, 2012


I know I look more like a dweeb than an elite Khmer priest conjuring the rains in this shot.


But I had an experience that helped unify the Khmer empire when it was emerging.

I’m standing on top of the other great temple that the first great Khmer builder, King Indravarman I, constructed–the one I just wrote a post about is Preah Ko. This one’s called the Bakong, and Indravarman used it as his royal cult temple. Both monuments became models for Khmer ideas about the world for more than 500 years.

The weather looked innocent before I ascended it, so I didn’t bring an umbrella. But Indravarman built the Bakong as a model of Mt. Meru–the mountain at the center of the universe in the Hindu and Buddhist cosmologies that were being imported from India.

The sky shifted to the dark grey very quickly. I didn’t notice it while I was examining the sculpture at the top. But suddenly the heavens were infused with the power that brings the life force that fertilized the rice fields that the early Khmers were clearing from the jungle.

In yesterday’s post on the majesty of Cambodian monsoons and their importance in Khmer thought, I noted that the weather often changes very quickly during the rainy season. How many priestly ascents up the great Khmer temples coincided with a sudden downpour?

The ancient Khmers must have associated both with each other.

But nobody put a mantle on me  when I got down and took the above picture. Instead, I scurried back to the tuk tuk just in time to avoid getting firehosed–and in awe of how nature and Khmer culture converged to help create thought and art that held a great empire together for more than half a millennium.

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