Visit to ruins of ancient civilization fascinating

Whether you go to Cambodia on a holiday or a mission you should not miss the opportunity to visit the ancient ruins of Angkor

“For this says the Lord God of Israel “Take this cup filled with my anger and cause all the nations to drink it … all kingdoms of the world which are upon the face of the earth…they will fall and rise no more”…His cry of judgment will reach the ends of the earth, for the Lord will bring His case against all nations. He will judge all the people of the earth…” (Jeremiah 15, 26, 27, & 31)

Part 9 of a series

By Dianne Kushniryk

Whether you go to Cambodia on a holiday or a mission you should not miss the opportunity to visit the ancient ruins of Angkor just outside the city of Siem Reap. Although an ideal trip takes from three days to one week to visit most of the 50 temples of the Angkor kingdom, we were able to hit some highlights in a morning.

This ancient civilization flourished between the eighth and the 13th century when 26 successive kings built these magnificent stone temples. Although all remaining visible buildings of this ancient kingdom are religious monuments (Hindu and Buddhist), in the distant past Angkor was the site of royal dwellings and cities and towns. The many temples of Angkor are built of brick, sandstone and laterite (iron-rich clay) and decorated with hand carvings of historical and mythological themes occasionally interspersed with scenes of everyday life. Besides the intricate and beautiful bas-relief carving on stone walls, lintels (door headers), pediments (triangle crowning front of building), and friezes (crown moldings) there are often Sanskrit (ancient East Indian language) or Khmer inscriptions carved into door jambs. The text of these writings could be anything from poems to the deities, eulogies to the king(s) or even inventories of items belonging to the gods and lists of temple servants.

Although the 20 years of turmoil and war that Cambodia has survived played a large part in the damage to this architectural wonder, greater damage has been caused by thieves who strip the temples of free standing figures, lintels, pediments and even stone heads and faces from statues and nagas (multi-headed serpents) for sale to Western collectors. However since Angkor became a World Heritage site in 1993 the Cambodian and Thai governments have become more inclined to prevent these abuses. Even as we freely wandered the corridors, shrine rooms and open air pathways of these ancient ruins we were able to see huge cranes and other equipment in areas being restored and we marvelled that these buildings were originally built with manpower only.

Ankgor Wat which means “the city (which became a) pagoda” is the central temple of the group and the most awe-inspiring. It is the world’s largest religious monument and covers about nine hectares of the 200 hectare site it sits on. It is a pyramid of three levels. Each level is enclosed by a gallery with four entrance pavilions and corner towers. The summit of the pyramid is crowned by five towers in a quincunx, an arrangement of five objects in which four occupy the corners and the fifth the centre.

Although best seen over several hours and more than one visit, Angkor Wat’s details, atmosphere and marvellous variety of styles left us feeling this was a wonderful ending to an incredible trip.

“No temple will be seen in the holy city [the New Jerusalem] for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple…the glory of God illuminates the city and the Lamb is its light. The nations of the earth will walk in its light and they [the Kingdom of God] will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 21:22-24, 22:5)

Dianne Kushniryk is a Christian essayist who has been published in the Rimbey Review and the Red Deer Advocate. She now writes almost exclusively for her church, Rimbey New Life Fellowship.