Cambodia shares common history, customs and stories with India. If you are looking to see some historical monuments, Siem Reap may just be the place for you; a perfect amalgamation of history brimming with a rich culture and heritage and a fast-growing city with new hotels, restaurants and nightclubs. Siem Reap means ‘Siam Defeated’. This, once silent city has become the most booming town in Cambodia today.
As a tourist, you will see a lot of mythological stories carved in the various temples of Siem Reap. Angkor Wat is the largest Indian temple in the world. The modern name, Angkor Wat, means ‘Temple City’ or ‘City of Temples’ in Khmer; Angkor, meaning ‘city’ or ‘capital city’, is a vernacular form of the word nokor, which comes from the Sanskrit word nagara (नगर). Wat is the Khmer word for ‘temple grounds’, derived from the Pali word ‘vatta’ (वत्त). Prior to this time, the temple was known as Preah Pisnulok (Vara Vishnuloka in Sanskrit), after the posthumous title of its founder.
Even if you have had the worst jet lag, you need to drag yourself out of bed to be at Angkor Archaeological Park when it opens – sunrise over Angkor Wat is worth the effort. When the morning light shines over the temples and ruins of Angkor Wat, a simple Siem Reap sunrise becomes a profound event.
Angkor Wat architecture is based on early Dravidian architecture, with key features such as the Jagati. The temple is admired for the grandeur and harmony of the architecture and for the numerous devatas adorning its walls. The initial design and construction of the temple took place in the first half of the 12th century, during the reign of Suryavarman II (ruled 1113 – c.1150). Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, it was built as the king’s state temple and capital city.
The inner walls of the outer gallery bear a series of large-scale scenes mainly depicting episodes from the epics – Ramayana and Mahabharata. Higham has called these, “the greatest known linear arrangement of stone carving.” From the northwest corner anti-clockwise, the western gallery shows the Battle of Lanka (from the Ramayana, in which Rama defeats Ravana) and the Battle of Kurukshetra (from the Mahabharata, showing the mutual annihilation of the Kaurava and Pandava clans). Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in southeast Asia, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Another temple worth visiting is the Banteay Srei Shiva Temple for its amazing art work that dates back to the 10th century. The temple was built by Yajnaväräha in 961 AD. Noteworthy decorative motifs include the kala (a toothy monster symbolic of time), the guardian dvarapala (an armed protector of the temple) and devata (demi-goddess), the false door and the colonette. Indeed, decorative carvings seem to cover almost every available surface.
According to pioneering Angkor scholar Maurice Glaize, “Given the very particular charm of Banteay Srei – its remarkable state of preservation and the excellence of a near perfect ornamental technique – one should not hesitate, of all the monuments of the Angkor group, to give it the highest priority.” At Banteay Srei, wrote Glaize, “the work relates more closely to the art of the goldsmith or to carving in wood than to sculpture in stone.”
In case you are looking to enjoy a laid-back yet a pleasantly fun place to stay, touring the temples with a blend of both observing Cambodian life and enjoying the amenities of modern services and entertainment, this is the place for you. Travelling within the city has various options as it is a fairly compact city.
Your to-do list once there would never leave you wondering of your next step. There are lots of things that you can indulge in: relax at the white sandy beaches, try snorkeling or swimming in the clear blue waters or play golf. Incidentally, Siem Reap is one of the best places for golf travellers.
The Vedic culture was once the centre of creation and the entire planet was a part of it, Bharat being the name. One more proof of the advancement and supremacy of this culture is Cambodia.
WHERE AND WHEN
The best time to go to Siem Reap is from May to September as you will find very competitive rates for various package tours.
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