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
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
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
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
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
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.