The largest Angkorian-era Buddha statue to be discovered since the Khmer Rouge regime ended was unearthed at Ta Prom temple last Friday, an official from the Indian embassy confirmed yesterday.
The Ta Prom temple, at the world-famous Angkor Wat temple complex in Siem Reap, has been under restoration by a team of Indian Government-funded technical experts since 2004.
Indian Embassy First Secretary Saurav Ray said the Buddha statue, found in the Hall of Dancers at Ta Prom, was the “largest Buddha statue discovered so far in Cambodia since the Khmer Rouge era”.
“The statue is incomplete – missing a large buddha head with a naga snake fan and part of the base,” he said, adding that the portion of the statue found was a massive two metres high.
“We have had 151 local people employed on the restoration work, and this is an amazing discovery,” Ray added.
Ta Prom temple is thought to have been built in the 12th or 13th century and was founded by King Jayavarman VII as a Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university.
Like most temples at the Angkor Wat complex, Ta Prom was slowly strangled by the jungle after a decade of neglect during the Indochina war beginning in mid-1940s and later the civil conflict that engulfed the Kingdom from 1975 to 1998.
The Archaeological Survey of India first came to the temple in 1983 and conducted brief restoration work, before later returning in 2004 to begin a projected 10-year restor-ation effort of the impressive Angkorian structure.
UNESCO Culture Program specialist Philippe Delanghe said yesterday he had deployed a field officer to invest-igate the impressive find.
“It is a Buddha sitting on a Naga, and seems to be a very huge thing indeed,” he said.
“Such a big statue is quite a significant find – it looks at least as big as the famous Buddha at the Bayon temple.”
Restoration efforts by donor countries such as France and China, being conducted at many of the Angkor complex temples, have previously come under fire from natur-alists as being too aggressive.
However, UNESCO said that so far all restoration efforts had been received positively.
“The International Co-ord-ination Committee adhoc experts have very regularly been visiting the restoration sites and are very happy with the work that is being done,” Delanghe said.
Saurav Ray said Indian technical experts had received nothing but praise for their efforts from the Apsara Authority, the governing body of the Angkor complex.
“We are extremely happy with this very important find,” Ray said, adding that the technical experts were now conducting examination and analysis of the statue.
Representatives from the Apsara Authority declined to comment yesterday.