An Architectural Marvel - Angkor Wat

Travel does more to one than one thinks it does. It opens windows that one didn't know existed, helps close doors without fear of having no more, and expands the mind into dimensions you never thought capable before. One such experience, penned down on paper, for you know what they say about even the greatest memory.. (The lightest ink is better than the best memory)
Sandhya Nagaraj
Published on: 18th June 2015
Standing in its magnificent beauty as a reminder to the days of grandeur like we’ve never seen in all our lives, it brought to my heart an overwhelming sense of awe and an aura of abundance that I had never thought could exist. It brought to my eyes a story of a bygone past, a tale that seemed to dance in front of my eyes while I was taken back into what was, while I could still see what is left of it. It seemed to be like the times that my father talks about, when he talks about his father. The days of the ancestors, the Golden days when people cared more about people than things, when people valued people over time, when people lived with people more jointly than we could possibly think of. Although it’s a fact the ancestors had no choice about it, those were the days of grandeur, of gold, of glory, of stories untold… and this, fit right into that era, where the hearts of men were gold, where people joined together not just for prayers but for songs and dances, for festivity and laughter, for love and for giving. Where morals were upheld high, and kids corrected in public so that their behaviour had to change not only in front of their parents, but in front of the whole community. Where hypocrisy wasn’t an option, where gratitude run in the veins of people who received help when they needed it… Where appreciation meant you’re doing good, a word of advice from a stranger meant she noticed and cared. Where fruits were in plenty for all who came, where the chants were incessant as were the songs, where knowledge was available in plenty for everyone who came to seek for it, where the diyas lighted the halls, where the pillars stole the attention and almost captured a tourist’s soul. I never really realized when I went from talking about an era of my ancestors to this overwhelmingly epic place that I visited so recently that fills me with immense awe every single time I think about it- because both of these things represent the same thing to me –something that I can’t really put into one single word, for it would be like attempting to capture eternity in an hour.
Angkor Wat
No amount of introduction would suffice for a place of such magnificence. It has been months since I returned from the trip, and just thinking of Angkor Wat leaves me rejuvenated, the place has an aura that translates its vastness into expansion of your consciousness to dimensions you hadn’t explored before. It makes you a WHOLE new person.

As I entered the temple at 5:30 a.m to capture sunrise at Angkor Wat, the beautifully engraved entrance with the Nagas surprised me-but little did I know that this was just the beginning of what was to come! Walking ahead to the temple compound, it seemed to me like another Indian temple, maybe just bigger. I’d already walked about a kilometre to get to where I was. And then I noticed that there was yet another compound to enter into. Mysterious, I thought and entered into yet another compound. Pillars were everywhere in this section - I could literally imagine all the elderly and wise sitting around those pillars, with stories for kids who would huddle around them to get an earful. There were steps leading down to small quadrangles.

While I sat down with one pillar behind me, the whole place came alive, to how it might have been when used. Teachers of music, dance and philosophy have plenty of spaces around the main garbha-gudi, the prakara being so huge and beautifully divided so that it could accommodate various activities at the same time. A Diwali at Angkor wat, with diyas (lamps) lightning the entire place is an image I can’t shake off, with tiny bells at the doors of each compound ringing music to the ears of those around by the wind causing the sway. Huge rangolis (art decorations) by women along with delicious food, this place would’ve/could’ve been a magnet for festivities and cultural activities alike.
Outside the compound of Angkor Wat, children swarmed around us with poster cards, and I bought quite a few. After a while it hit me that the elders only sold their wares through children, since tourists were more likely to buy from kids. Outraged at the adults for making children work, and helpless to do anything about it, I slowly walked back. At the night market, where I was looking for paintings of the Angkor to take back home, the women of the shops told us their stories. Their husbands worked on the paintings day and night, while their wives sold them at the shops. They led simple lives, and their selflessness struck me. While the paintings were their only means of bread, they encouraged me to find paintings at the next shop if I didn’t like anything at their own. I finally bought a few paintings, and not all were from one shop. I expected that they will demand of me to pay separately at each of their shops, as is custom. Not only did they ask me to make a single payment, but also they did the packing together, laughing all the way. Money did not divide these women, they were of the understanding that money is a means of survival.

Having seen a place which will overwhelm the hell out of anybody who visits it, having met people who are starkly different from the people both in good and bad ways, and with a new page turned in the book of the world, I returned home, euphoric. Nature doesn’t stop being beautiful for people over a certain age, temples which are architectural marvels don’t beckon only a certain kind of a traveller: it is for one, and it is for all! So the next time you’re ready to pack your bags, remember Angkor Wat awaits you!
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