of beauty and drowning
There is such a thing as being lost to reality. A reality spun by ancient dream weavers so that what you see is a reflection of what used to be. Angkor’s magic is like such, and we were willing to get lost in its web.
Banteay Srei, also known as the ‘Citadel of Women’ or ‘Citadel of Beauty’ because of its intricate carvings, was said to have been dedicated to Yajnyavahara, a courtier of King Rajendravarman, who was known for his philantrophy. Originally known as Tribhuvanamahesvara — great lord of the threefold world, the temple is greatly dedicated to Shiva and partly to Vishnu.
The carvings are more pronounced here than anywhere else as the great Hindu stories of the old lend themselves to the the red sandstone from which the temple is made of. The pediments, the roughly triangular spaces above rectangular doorways or openings, depict scenes from Ramayana while lintels, horizontal beams spanning the gap between two posts, support the reliefs and at the same time, decorate doorways with carvings of numerous apsara dancers.
A few minutes of tuk-tuk ride and we found ourselves rounding the pools of Neak Pean meaning ‘The Entwined Serpents’ or ‘Coiled Serpents’, deriving the name from the Nagas (snakes) that encirle the temple. King Jayavarman VII had this built for medical purposes. The Hindu belief of balance is shown with the presence of four pools representing Earth (elephant), Wind (man), Fire (lion) and Water (horse). They are connected by the main pool at the center where the statue of Bahala (Bodhisattva Guan Yin transformed into a horse) ferries the people to safety.
We are long gone from the surreal world that is Angkor, but the images are as real as if I can touch them in a handspan. We can’t wait to be lost in her arms once again…