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Temple Watch: Heavily armed gods

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Hindu gods feature prominently in Khmer religion and art. By far, the most well known is Vishnu the Creator, commonly seen in benign poses with four arms. But there are many incidences where Vishnu the Supreme God has eight or more.  These multi-armed depictions are symbols of dominance or war. A four-armed Vishnu is featured creating the celestial ocean of milk in the eastern gallery of Angkor Wat. The most impressive Vishnu statue at Angkor has eight arms and is found to the right of the western gallery entrance of Angkor Wat. The statue had been repaired in the past with a concrete reproduction of the head that had been lost. The original head and body were reunited in 2003. The reclining Vishnu at Kbal Spean was brutally hacked off the rock in 2003, and an ugly scar remained until it was replaced in August 2006. My favourite Vishnu images, carved in brick, can be seen at the small temple of Prasat Kravan to the south east of the Grand Circuit. He is depicted with eight arms in the central sanctuary tower. Vishnu can be seen to either side, riding on a garuda (half-man, half-bird) and spanning the universe.

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