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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hindu myths at Angkor

Hindu myths at Angkor

090514_06b.jpg
090514_06b.jpg

The Hindu re-creation story of a tug-of-war between gods and demons, pulling a giant snake wrapped around a mountain and rotating a turtle to churn the ocean into milk, is hard for many Westerners to visualise or understand. In simple terms, the Hindu gods (Asuras) wanted to re-create the universe to extract the nectar of immortality. They used the mountain (Mandara) as a churning tool with the giant underwater serpent (Vasuki) as the churning rope. The gods took the tail end and the demons (Devas) the head. The serpent began to vomit venom that threatened to poison the ocean. The god Vishnu took the poison, which turned his throat blue. Eventually, the mountain began to sink under pressure. Vishnu reincarnated himself as a giant turtle to support the pivot and complete the process, which took 1,000 years. The East Gallery of Angkor Wat, The Sea of Milk or Eternity, depicts the serpent, turtle and mountain with the sea life being destroyed by the whirlpool caused by this action. Vishnu with his sword stands imposingly on top. The reliefs are halfway through a two-year renovation process scheduled for completion by 2010.

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