Mount Chisor was a package of surprises! It took us less than an hour to reach there from Phnom Penh. Standing at the foot of the hill, I was a little apprehensive when I heard that 400 steps are waiting ahead of us to reach the top! It was a tiring uphill climb, yet there was a ray of hope when a bunch of happy tourists on their way back declared that it indeed was worth the climb.
I really climbed so far!
We were welcomed by a smiling Khmer lady who sells goodies at the top of the hill.Her endearing smile made us buy some soft drinks from her. Even though many of them find it so hard to make both ends meet, most of the Khmer never fail to wear a pleasant, amiable disposition. I admire them for that. I was reminded of the great Bard’s lines when I saw her…
“My crown’s call’d content,
A crown it is that seldom kings enjoy”
The temple on Chisor Mountains or Suryaparvata was built in 11th century by King Suryavarman I.
The temple ruins and the surrounding canopy of trees gave a tranquil charm to the place. We were the only visitors around that time and a young lady offered her service as a guide.She showed us how the temple got destroyed in the US bombing and we could see stone carvings of Lord Vishnu in the reclining pose (Ananthashayana), Bhoomidevi (Godess Earth) at his feet and another sandstone lintel carving of Lord Siva and Parvathi, atop Nandi. Almost all the fallen stone blocks lying on the ground have carvings on them.
The temple ruins
Shiva-Parvathi atop Nandi
Vishnu-Ananthashayanam ( reclining on 1000 headed naga, Anantha)
The view from the hill was breathtakingly serene. The plains surrounding the hills are dotted with green trees and bushes. One can see how skillful the Khmer artisans were and how well planned their nagaras(townships) would have been. A long path way leading to the temple with two enormous gopuras- of course in dilapidated condition – is an unforgettable sight! I could visualise the king and his regal paraphernalia parading to the temple in a chariot or on an elephant back! The pictures became more vivid once I started reading the beautiful historical novel ‘A Woman Of Angkor’ by John Burgess. Flipping through the pages of the novel, I was virtually transported to the Cambodia of the 12th century and felt one with the characters! Even after finishing the novel the characters are strutting in the inner corridors of my being
Trash bins made of recycled tyres
The tall stupa, the moss covered temple pond, the roof tops built in the typical Khmer architectural patterns with the naga head and tail are all weather worn and war worn. But still everything reminded us of the past glory of a great empire, a great culture.
Dilapidated first gopura or the entrance gate
Cattle grazing! Feels like am back in Kerala…
With changing times, Hindu religious rituals have given way to the Buddhist ways of rituals. All the prayers are done at the idol of the reclining Buddha in the pagoda and there’s one Buddhist monastery on top of the hill. A little monk posed for me for a photo. Cut off from the outside world what experiences and exposure these little children of God must be having, I thought. Is it that their parents feel that the monasteries may be a safer place where food and shelter are no more a matter of worry or is there an element of deep religious obligation involved? Yet to find out.
The reclining Buddha
The little monk happily posed for me
The moss covered pond on the hill
Later that day I bowed my head with gratitude to God almighty, my husband and everyone else who is reason for giving me this rare opportunity to know this country, its traditions, its culture- the glory of a bygone era.
The name Cambodia, otherwise, would have never evoked these images in me lest I got a chance to live here. Each day this place unfurled new exhilerating experiences !