Tuesday, January 24, 2017

River of a Thousand Lingas and Preah Ang Thom

26 November 2016. Cambodia.

What is a linga?

The linga is the primary symbol of the Hindu god Shiva and has four interrelated meanings and purposes: firstly, it symbolizes Shiva and his regenerative power as both the destroyer and reproducer of the universe; secondly, it represents the male reproductive organ and its seminal potentiality; thirdly, it provides the main object of cultic devotion in Shavite temples containing upraised cylindrical shafts at the center of their sanctuaries; lastly, used as a mark, sign, and symbol of Shaivism, allowing one to identify with, and recognize, followers of this group (newworldencyclopedia.org).

And a thousand of these have been carved into the rock in the river, hence, its name. The river is located at Phnom Kulen National Park, a considerable distance from Siem Reap. It probably took us around an hour to reach the river by car, and on winding road. The river, however, has been fenced off and I was told this is so the lingas and other sculpting would be protected from further decay. From where we stood, the lingas could still be seen but the river was not that clear for me to fully appreciate the carvings.

A wrong turn somewhere saw us walking, instead of riding, towards Preah Ang Thom. We were greeted by devotees and images of Buddha. A popular site for locals, Preah Ang Thom houses a large reclining Buddha, and small worship temples, one of which had Buddha's footprint on it.

The 17-meter reclining Buddha is located on top of a mountain so paying homage to it would require climbing several steps. You will be rewarded, however, with a panoramic view of Cambodia's jungles.

Kid and I had ourselves blessed by a monk when we descended from the reclining Buddha. I had no idea what he prayed for but it was a wonderful experience to be sprinkled water the whole time he was chanting. And we got ourselves "Buddha" cords (perfect souvenirs)!