Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Angkor Wat - A-maze-ing and Awe-Sum


I spent woefully too few hours in temples (Pagoda) in and around the Angkor Wat Temple and the entire temple complex in recent days.  (Outside Siem Reap, Cambodia.)

To describe the place as awe-sum is better than awesome – because the “sum” total of this place only inspired awe!   And then more awe. And the extent of temples here and there - running through jungle is something of a maze - besides being amazing!

There is so much to reflect on with respect to Angkor Wat, I do not know where to begin.  I am struck by how much time, effort, money and engineering went into the logic and construction of these “state”-religious structures – and meanwhile, there is not a single remain of a common person anywhere to be found.  I passed many huge, monumentally sized buildings with grand walkways or roads, and water construction (moats) for these magnificent buildings that must have been – in their day – wonderful – absolutely marvelously wonderful. 


And yet, in the forests and trees around the area – even today – local Cambodians live in their tarp-bound huts around the perimeter, in houses and places of pseudo-temporary occupancy that will not last even a few decades – and the “effect” of this empire persists for millennia. 

As a tourist among tourists, I realize “we” visit these places to celebrate their beauty, but I wonder if, in the process, we are still celebrating the oppressive powers of empires that enslaved the poor in their own mythic-theo-political quest to be God-Kings on earth. 

Is this any different than what is narrated in Genesis 6? If the leaders would have empowered their people in their time and if they would have increased the  social fabric (the social capital) of their world for the the average person, would the empire have lasted? 

Had the religious identity of the empire not shifted from Hindu to Buddhist, I wonder – had the buildings been dedicated to the enlightened, empowered persons who constructed them – could the empire have lasted had they been empowered?  But then, would people build such buildings to demonstrate their own strength or do people need a “god” to build for?

I’ll be reflecting on my experience at Angkor Wat for a lifetime – really. 

I have no doubt about it. 

I’ve only just begun reflecting on Angkor Wat.

I’ll conclude with a link to the Wikipedia pages for the great poem Ozymandias  by  the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.  The poem is well worth considering – for any empire.  And, the modern and popular uses of the this poem and the importance of Shelley in other venues, are important enough that – if an educated person is reading this and does not know the poem or the poet, they should follow the links to know both!

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