Angkor Wat Temple – Khmer Ancient Heritage

Angkor Wat Temple

Angkor Wat Temple

Angkor Wat (Khmer: អង្គរវត្ត) is a temple complex at Angkor, Cambodia, built for the king Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation – first Hindu, dedicated to the god Vishnu, then Buddhist. It is the world’s largest religious building. The temple is at the top of the high classical style of Khmer architecture. It has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag, and it is the country’s prime attraction for visitors. Angkor Wat combines two basic plans of Khmer temple architecture: the temple mountain and the later galleried temple, based on early South Indian Hindu architecture, with key features such as the Jagati. It is designed to represent Mount Meru, home of the devas in Hindu mythology: within a moat and an outer wall 3.6 kilometres (2.2 mi) long are three rectangular galleries, each raised above the next. At the centre of the temple stands a quincunx of towers. Unlike most Angkorian temples, Angkor Wat is oriented to the west; scholars are divided as to the significance of this. The temple is admired for the grandeur and harmony of the architecture, its extensive bas-reliefs and for the numerous devatas (guardian spirits) adorning its walls.

The modern name, Angkor Wat, means “City Temple”; Angkor is a vernacular form of the word នគរ nokor which comes from the Sanskrit word नगर nagara meaning capital or city. Wat is the Khmer word for temple. Prior to this time the temple was known as Preah Pisnulok, after the posthumous title of its founder, Suryavarman II.

Preah Vihear Temple

Preah Vihear Temple

Preah Vihear Temple

Construction of the first temple on the site began in the early 9th century; both then and in the following centuries it was dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva in his manifestations as the mountain gods Sikharesvara and Bhadresvara. The earliest surviving parts of the temple, however, date from the Koh Ker period in the early 10th century, when the empire’s capital was at the city of that name. Today, elements of the Banteay Srei style of the late 10th century can be seen, but most of the temple was constructed during the reigns of the Khmer kings Suryavarman I (1002 -1050) and Suryavarman II (1113 -1150). An inscription found at the temple provides a detailed account of Suryavarman II studying sacred rituals, celebrating religious festivals and making gifts, including white parasols, golden bowls and elephants, to his spiritual advisor, the aged Brahmin Divakarapandita. The Brahmin himself took an interest in the temple, according to the inscription, donating to it a golden statue of a dancing Shiva known as “Nataraja”. In the wake of the decline of Hinduism in the region the site was converted to use by Buddhists.

Khmer Museum

Khmer Museum

Khmer Museum

Khmer museum inspired by Khmer architecture, were constructed between 1917 and 1924, the museum was officially inaugurated in 1920 and renovated in 1968.

During Khmer Rougeregime of 1975-79— devastated all aspects of Cambodian life including the cultural realm.

The Museum, along with the rest of Phnom Penh, was evacuated and abandoned. The Museum, closed between 1975 and 1979, and was found in disrepair, its roof rotten and home to a vast colony of bats, the garden overgrown, and the collection in disarray, many objects damaged or stolen.

The Museum was quickly tidied up and reopened to the public on April 13, 1979. However, many of the Museum’s employees had lost their lives during the Khmer Rouge regime.

For Khmer New Year – What Does Songkran Mean?

Khmer New Year 2011

Khmer New Year 2011

Songkranmeans that the day ended of a year and beginning of a new year—new year ceremony; it is the originally Khmer word about new year and an almanac. Mouha Songkran is a book published every year which contains information about the moments of the planets, the changes of the moon, the tides, the date of important anniversaries, events connected with a particular subject or activity, facts and statistics about that activity.

The New Year ceremonies takes three to four days, if a year takes four days, then the second and third day of the four-days New Year we call Vonabot. The last day is called Laeung Sak, the day to increment Sak.

Day 1 is Songkran

People prepare items and food as offerings to the New Year angel. Food is selected especially to match the New Year angel’s taste, her favorite food, her jewelry, the animals she ride and the weapons she carries which are written by Hora(celebrants).

at hour of Songkran or when the angel arrives, family members burn the incenses and candles, they spray perfumes to welcome the angel and wish for longevity, peace, and wealth.

People bring food offering to the temple in the morning and then listen to monk chanting. In the afternoon, they take sand to build sand hill next to the temple or Bodhi tree. In the evening, people offer drinks to monks and invite monks to chant.

Day 2 and 3 is Vonabot

Son and daughters give clothes, money, and food to their parents or grandparents. They also give donation to the less fortunate people. In the afternoon, they participate in the building of sand hill ceremony by praying in front of the sand hill. Then follow by the monks’ praying for the families and friends who passed away offering them the path to sanctity known as Bangskole.

Day 3 or 4 Laeng Sak (Vireak Laeng Sak)

In the morning, they invite the monks to complete the building of sand hill ceremony. In the afternoon, they take part in the bathing ceremony by giving bath to parent by showering them with water and clean their feet. In addition, they participate in the bathing the Buddha statue ceremony by pouring water with perfume over the Buddha statue. Then they pray for prosperity.

Songkran 2011[/caption]

The significant of giving bath in the New Year is to get good deeds. They believe that giving bath to parents and teachers or monks resulted in the greatest good deeds. In addition, the fruit of good deeds from bathing the Buddha statue ceremony will result in many blessings in the next life. These blessings include having great beauty, wisdom, bravery, health and wonderful children.

In the belief of good deeds, Cambodians free the birds, fishes, turtle, chicken and rabbit, and etc. These animals and birds will bring them longevity, happiness and good health.

Politics and Government

Politics and Government

Hun-Sen

Hun-Sen

Current Prime Minister Hun Sen

National politics in Cambodia take place within the framework of the nation’s constitution of 1993. The government is a constitutional monarchy operated as a parliamentary representative democracy. The Prime Minister of Cambodia, an office held by Hun Sen since 1985, is the head of government, while the King (currently Norodom Sihamoni) is the head of state. The Prime Minister is appointed by the King, on the advice and with the approval of the National Assembly

The Prime Minister and the ministerial appointees exercise executive power while legislative powers are shared by the executive and the bicameral Parliament of Cambodia, which consists of a lower house, the National Assembly or Radhsphea and an upper house, the Senate or Sénat. Members of the 123-seat Assembly are elected through a system of proportional representation and serve for a maximum term of five years. The Senate has 61 seats, two of which are appointed by the King and two others by the National Assembly Senators serve five year terms.

On October 14, 2004, King Norodom Sihamoni was selected by a special nine-member throne council, part of a selection process that was quickly put in place after the abdication of King Norodom Sihanouk a week prior. Sihamoni’s selection was endorsed by Prime Minister Hun Sen and National Assembly Speaker Prince Norodom Ranariddh (the king’s half brother and current chief advisor), both members of the throne council. He was enthroned in Phnom Penh on October 29, 2004.

The Cambodian People’s Party is the major ruling party in Cambodia. The CPP controls the lower and upper chambers of parliament, with 73 seats in the National Assembly and 43 seats in the Senate. The opposition Sam Rainsy Party is the second largest party in Cambodia with 26 seats in the National Assembly and 2 in the Senate.

Norodom Sihanouk in 1956

Norodom Sihanouk in 1956

Cambodia became a constitutional monarchy under King Norodom Sihanouk. When French Indochina was given independence, Cambodia lost official control over the Mekong Delta as it was awarded to Vietnam. The area had been controlled by the Vietnamese since 1698 with King Chey Chettha II granting Vietnamese permission to settle in the area decades before.

In 1955, Sihanouk abdicated in favour of his father in order to be elected Prime Minister. Upon his father’s death in 1960, Sihanouk again became head of state, taking the title of Prince. As the Vietnam War progressed, Sihanouk adopted an official policy of neutrality in the Cold War although he was widely considered to be sympathetic to the Communist cause. While visiting Beijing, he was ousted in 1970 by a military coup led by Prime Minister General Lon Nol and Prince Sisowath Sirik Matak with the back-up support of the United States. The King urged his followers to help in overthrowing the pro-United States government of Lon Nol, hastening the onset of civil war. Soon the Khmer Rouge rebels began using him to gain support.

Between 1969 and 1973, Republic of Vietnam forces and U.S. forces bombed and briefly invaded Cambodia in an effort to disrupt the Viet Cong and Khmer Rouge. Some two million Cambodians were made refugees by the war and fled to Phnom Penh. Estimates of the number of Cambodians killed during the bombing campaigns vary widely, as do views of the effects of the bombing. The US Seventh Air Force argued that the bombing prevented the fall of Phnom Penh in 1973 by killing 16,000 of 25,500 Khmer Rouge fighters besieging the city. However, journalist William Shawcross and Cambodia specialists Milton Osborne, David P. Chandler and Ben Kiernan argued that the bombing drove peasants to join the Khmer Rouge. Cambodia specialist Craig Etcheson argued that the Khmer Rouge “would have won anyway”, even without US intervention driving recruitment although the US secretly played a major role behind the leading cause of the Khmer Rouge.

King Norodom 1863

King Norodom is credited for saving Cambodia from disappearing altogether


In 1863 King Norodom, who had been installed by Thailand, sought the protection of France from the Thai and Vietnamese, after tensions grew between them. In 1867, the Thai king signed a treaty with France, renouncing suzerainty over Cambodia in exchange for the control of Battambang and Siem Reap provinces which officially became part of Thailand. The provinces were ceded back to Cambodia by a border treaty between France and Thailand in 1906.

Cambodia continued as a protectorate of France from 1863 to 1953, administered as part of the colony of French Indochina, though occupied by the Japanese empire from 1941 to 1945. After King Norodom’s death in 1904, France manipulated the choice of king and Sisowath, Norodom’s brother, was placed on the throne. The throne became vacant in 1941 with the death of Monivong, Sisowath’s son, and France passed over Monivong’s son, Monireth, feeling he was too independently minded. Instead, Norodom Sihanouk, a maternal grand-son of king Sisowath, who was eighteen years old at the time, was enthroned. The French thought young Sihanouk would be easy to control. They were wrong, however, and under the reign of King Norodom Sihanouk, Cambodia gained independence from France on November 9, 1953.

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Khmer Rouge rule

Khmer Rouge Rule

Khmer Rouge Rule

Khmer Rouge rule

Stupa which houses the skulls of those killed at Choeung Ek

As the war ended, a draft US AID report observed that the country faced famine in 1975, with 75% of its draft animals destroyed, and that rice planting for the next harvest would have to be done “by the hard labour of seriously malnourished people”. The report predicted that

“Without large-scale external food and equipment assistance there will be widespread starvation between now and next February … Slave labour and starvation rations for half the nation’s people (probably heaviest among those who supported the republic) will be a cruel necessity for this year, and general deprivation and suffering will stretch over the next two or three years before Cambodia can get back to rice self-sufficiency”.

 

Khmer Rouge Flag

Khmer Rouge Flag

Flag of the Khmer Rouge and Democratic Kampuchea

The Khmer Rouge reached Phnom Penh and took power in 1975. The regime, led by Pol Pot, changed the official name of the country to Democratic Kampuchea. They immediately evacuated the cities and sent the entire population on forced marches to rural work projects. They attempted to rebuild the country’s agriculture on the model of the 11th century, discarded Western medicine, and destroyed temples, libraries, and anything considered Western. Over a million Cambodians, out of a total population of 8 million, died from executions, overwork, starvation and disease.

Estimates as to how many people were killed by the Khmer Rouge regime range from approximately one to three million, with two million (or about one-third of the population) being the most commonly cited figure. This era gave rise to the term Killing Fields, and the prison Tuol Sleng became notorious for its history of mass killing. Hundreds of thousands fled across the border into neighbouring Thailand. The regime disproportionately targeted ethnic minority groups. The Cham Muslims suffered serious purges with as much as half of their population exterminated.

In the late 1960s, an estimated 425,000 ethnic Chinese lived in Cambodia, but by 1984, as a result of Khmer Rouge genocide and emigration, only about 61,400 Chinese remained in the country. The professions, such as doctors, lawyers, and teachers, were also targeted. According to Robert D. Kaplan, “eyeglasses were as deadly as the yellow star” as they were seen as a sign of intellectualism.

End of Khmer Rouge rule and transition

In November 1978, Vietnamese troops invaded Cambodia. The People’s Republic of Kampuchea, a Pro-Soviet state led by the Salvation Front, a group of Cambodian leftists dissatisfied with the Khmer Rouge, was established.

In 1981, three years after the Vietnamese invasion, the country was divided up between a further three factions that the United Nations euphemistically referred to as the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea. This consisted of the Khmer Rouge, a royalist faction led by Sihanouk, and the Khmer People’s National Liberation Front. The Khmer Rouge representative to the United Nations, Thiounn Prasith was retained.

Throughout the 1980s the Khmer Rouge, supplied by Thailand, the United States and the United Kingdom continued to control much of the country and attacked territory not under their dominance. These attacks, compounded by total economic sanctions from the United States and its allies, made reconstruction virtually impossible and left the country deeply impoverished.

Peace efforts began in Paris in 1989 under the State of Cambodia, culminating two years later in October 1991 in a comprehensive peace settlement. The United Nations was given a mandate to enforce a ceasefire, and deal with refugees and disarmament known as the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC).

In recent years, reconstruction efforts have progressed and led to some political stability in the form of a multiparty democracy under a constitutional monarchy. Norodom Sihanouk was restored as King of Cambodia in 1993 making Cambodia the world’s only postcommunist country which restored monarchy as the system of government.[citation needed]

The stability established following the conflict was shaken in 1997 by a coup d’état, but has otherwise remained in place. Cambodia has been aided by a number of more developed nations like Japan, France, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, the United States and the United Kingdom.[citation needed]

In July 2010 Kang Gek Iew was the first Khmer Rouge member found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity in his role as the former commandant of the S21 extermination camp. He will serve 19 years in prison.

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