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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Spirits point the way for Angkor Wat - Part II

Spirits point the way for Angkor Wat - Part II

Sarin : The builder

The new temple being built in Kandal definitely has

the look of Angkor, but closer inspection reveals the

building owes more to present day Cambodia than the

glories of the past.

The outline from a distance is classical but inside

there is as much to tell archeologists about modern day

life 1000 years from now, just as Angkor Wat - that is,

that crumbling one in Siem Reap - reveals a life 1000 or

more years ago.

Prasat Nokor Vimean Sour, according to its builder,

will be the last temple to be constructed in the 20th

century in Cambodia.

At 1,500 square meters it will certainly be one of the

biggest modern temples.

Construction started in November 1996 and it is hoped

to be completed within the next few months.

Built from concrete, the bas reliefs and carvings

adorning the building show the construction methods the

workers use, much the same as the those reliefs at Angkor

show the methods of those times.

Concrete mixers and construction workers vie for space

with scenes from Buddhist history.

One bas relief is a scene of a worker handing up a

hammer to a colleague who is constructing a wooden frame

for pouring concrete into.

No detail is left out. Iron reinforcing rods with

their metal ties, cement being mixed with rocks, and even

the dress of the workers is complete - though some

examples may include some artistic license.

One of the workers is a slim woman wearing tight jeans

and a skimpy top, and she is adorned with bracelets on

both wrists.

Sovan Khunthea, chief of the temple's construction,

said that the aim of the scenes was to show future

generations how the temple was built and the lifestyle of

the workers.

She said the philosophy behind the construction of the

temple was to preserve and rekindle the Khmer culture and

civilization which had built magnificent temples from the

7th to the 14th century.

"We want to keep the Khmer culture and the

national customs," she said. "We want to

bequeath our achievement to the new generation so they

realize that the Khmer in the 20th century made some

achievements."

The temple's owner and the driving force behind the

project, Ros Sarin, said the temple was a continuation of

the work of Cambodia's forefathers.

"I want to promote Khmer culture and

civilization. Because I am a Buddhist I like the my

culture and civilization," he said.

It is an attitude that Sarin feels is lacking in

Cambodia, particularly among the leaders.

 

EVEN BETTER THAN THE REAL THING

"I am here as if I'm in Angkor Wat..."

"None of the big men in the government have come

to see or help. Cambodian politicians do not love the

Khmer culture and civilization."

 

He said the money to build the temple has come mainly

from lay devotees in Phnom Penh though there have been

contributions from overseas and other provinces.

While the construction methods and materials are all

20th century concrete, Sarin said the design methods and

architecture are a little less conventional.

He said there was no central plan. Instead the spirit

of an old man and an old woman from the forest come to

him when he closes his eyes, prays and they instruct him

on how to proceed.

"When I don't understand some part I pray for

knowledge from the spirits and they tell me how to do

it," he said.

He acknowledged that this may be hard for people to

accept given that not many people believe in spirits or

magic in the "computer age."

But the temple builders certainly believe and they say

that they have even received tangible help from the

spirits.

Sovan Khunthea said that before they started building

she and other Buddhists prayed for help and by evening

marks appeared on the ground showing where to build and

lay out the temple.

Sarin said that the choice of concrete as a building

material was not a matter of cost.

He said they could have used rock but cement is a

material of the times and his spirit advisors also told

him it would be extremely durable.

Sarin said that the temple is dedicated for worship of

Promanh (Brahmanism) as well as Buddhism because it is to

Buddhism's advantage.

He explained it by saying that the magic of the

Promanh protects and defends the temple thereby allowing

Buddhism to progress.

Meanwhile, though the temple is yet to be completed,

hundreds upon hundreds of visitors have already started

arriving and they have been impressed.

Khun Sina, 32, came from Kampong Chhnang to see it.

She said that it was closer than Angkor Wat and

friends had told her that the temple was just as good.

"Someone told me that this temple was more

beautiful than Angkor Wat because it is a new building

and new sculpture," she said.

 

NEW OLD BAS RELIEFS

Showing workers in jeans, using wheelbarrows and concrete

"I have never been there [Angkor] but now I am

here it is as if I am in Angkor Wat too."

 

And if Sarin's future plans come to fruition the

temple will match those in Siem Reap for grandeur.

He said that if he can get the land and enough money

he would like to build a much bigger temple and to use

the existing 1,500 square-meter one for the front gate.

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