Karaikkal Ammai in Prasat Preah Vihear

 

Dancing Shiva in Preah Vihear

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The next temple where Karaikkal Ammai is seen to closely enjoy the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva is Prasat Preah Vihear.

 

Gopuram I – the trademark lintel

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Preah Vihear in Khmer Riel (currency)

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Prasat Preah Vihear (called by the Khmers) or Prasat Phra Wihan (called by the Thais) is a magnificent temple situated on top of a 525 meter high cliff on the Dongrek mountains. The temple and the mountains lie between Cambodia’s Preah Vihear Province (north-western Cambodia) and Thailand’s Si Sa Ket Province (north-eastern Thailand).
preah vihear maphttp://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=1131887

 

The Temple of Preah Vihear, a unique architectural complex of a series of sanctuaries linked by a system of pavements and staircases on an 800 metre long axis, is an outstanding masterpiece of Khmer architecture, in terms of plan, decoration and relationship to the spectacular landscape environment. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1224

 

The construction of the temple had begun under the rule of Jasovarman (889-910 ACE) and completed during the rule of King Suryavarman II (1113-1145 ACE). Suryavarman II was the King who gave the Angkor Empire its most revered jewel – Angkor Wat. Yet, most of today’s standing structures and lintels of Preah Vihear were built by King Suryavarman I, the King who built the temples of our point of interest -Dancing Shiva with Karaikkal Ammai – Vat Ek, Vat Baset and Phnom Chissor.

 

massive naga

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The Khmer Cliff Temple, occupied by Siam off and on, later affected by the Khmer Rouge Regime and then again by conflicts with Thailand used to be less accessible to tourists till recently. But that is not the case now. The magnificent temple can be reached by a few hours of travel easiest from Siem Reap.  Or as we did combined with the ancient temples of Battambang, which is a longer route. Siem Reap seems to be a better option, with multiple ancient locations at easy reach.

 

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The former Washington Post foreign correspondent John Burgess has authored a book on Preah Vihear named ‘Temple in the Clouds’. Prasat Preah Vihear is truly too close to the clouds.
Panoramic view of preah vihear
The temple absorbs anyone into its charming architecture. It grabs the visitor into its intricate carvings, aesthetic designs and artistic enclosures. It is an architect’s Delight, archeologist’s Paradise, vivid traveler’s Adventure and a faithful worshiper’s Heaven.

Preah Vihear is one of the greatest Khmer master pieces of all times with its massive structure which is truly captivating.

 

glorioustamils - preah vihearhttp://sophanse.blogspot.in/2008/06/hopeful-careful-wait-for-temple.html

 

Important Facts about the temple-

  1. The construction of the temple started in early 9th century
  2. Earliest surviving parts of the temple belong to Koh Ker period in the early 10th century
  3. Elements of Banteay Srei temple of the late 10th century can also be seen
  4. Most of the temple was constructed during the reign of King Suryavarman I (1002-1050  ACE)
  5. King Suryavarman II contributed to major restorations of the temple
  6. Lord Shiva is worshipped as Sikharesvara and Bhadresvara
  7. Preah Vihear is unusual among Khmer temples in being constructed along a long north-south axis, rather than having the conventional rectangular plan with orientation towards the east.
  8. An inscription provides detailed account of Suryavarman II studying sacred rituals, celebrating religious festivals and making gifts, including white parasols, golden bowls and elephants, to his spiritual advisor, the aged Brahmin Divakarapandita.
  9. According to the inscription, Divakarapandita took interest in the temple and donated to it a golden statue of dancing Shiva known as Nataraja.

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On Shiva Temples in the Angkor Era-

Shiva temples often open to the east; they feature three towers, the north tower is dedicated to Vishnu, the central tower to Shiva, and the south tower to Brahma.

Shiva’s different names in Khmer Temples-

  • Sambor Prei Kuk: Gambhiresvara (Inscrutable Lord), Sri Ratnesvara (Lord of Precious Stones), Prahasitesvara (The Smiling Lord)
  • Banteay Srei: Tribhuvanamahesvara (Great Lord of the Threefold World)
  • Preah Vihear: Sikhareshvara (Lord of the Summit).

http://www.angkorguide.net/mythology/shiva/shiva.html

 

It is inevitable to show some of the sculptures beautifully carved in the lintels of the temple.

The structure of Preah Vihear is classified into five Gopurams. The entrance of the Temple is marked by Gopuram V with its massive pillared walls and the trademark lintel, now in restoration mode.

Walking towards the inner Gopurams numbered IV, III, II and I, one crosses a series of stairways with long walking paths. Each Gopuram stands stunning with its exclusive carvings depicting epic scenes and exclusive sculptural master pieces of Khmer temple architecture like the churning of ocean and reclining Vishnu.

 

Here are a few of those-

 

an inscription

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reclining vishnu

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churning of ocean

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Karaikkal Ammai in Preah Vihear?

Entry to the temple is through Gopuram V, then proceeds towards Gopuram IV and Gopuram III. As we enter Gopuram II, there lies the Main Sanctuary which is again a huge structure with beautifully carved lintels. The most striking feature of the Main Sanctuary is the ‘Dancing Shiva’. He is seen dancing on a head of an elephant over Kala.

 

While Shiva dances after killing the elephant demon in the glow of the setting sun, the whole world dances with him. For a millennium the sun has been setting with that primordial glow under which Shiva danced for the first time in a hoary mystic past. His devotees watched his dance of emancipation day after day in the crepuscule of the setting sun.”

(Sahai 2009, p. 91, 94-96.)

http://www.angkorguide.net/temples/trips-and-remote-temples/preah-vihear/prasat-preah-vihear.html

 

 Adalvallan and Ammai – Dancing Shiva and Karaikkal Ammaiyarr

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Shiva is seen dancing, and to the sides of the dancer to whose tunes the whole world seems to dance, are two characters playing instruments for the eternal dancer. To the left of Shiva is the person with ‘oru muga muzhavu’ -a percussion instrument as in Banteay Srei. To his right, the lintel is in very bad shape, the sculpture of a person is very difficult to trace. Yet, seems like a squatted figure with a skinny body. Does the figure also hold ‘cymbals’ to provide additional music to the dancer? With the sculptures of Dancing Shiva so far seen, with the main characters on both sides, this squatted figure could certainly be that of Karaikkal Ammai. Whether it matches the iconography of Ammai, is for researchers to decide.

 

squatted figure to the right of dancing shivaIMG_1333 - Copy

 

oru muga muzhavu to his leftIMG_1333 - Copy (2)

 

In temples of Cambodia namely –

  • Banteay Srei,
  • Vat Baset,
  • Broken pediment inside Battambang Museum
  • Phnom Chissor

and temples in Thailand namely –

  • Prasat Hin Phimai,
  • Prasat Narai Yeang Weang
  • Prasat Kampeang Yai

-Karaikkal Ammai is sculpted to the right of Adalvallan/Dancing Shiva. The same is seen in Prasat Preah Vihear too. It is also necessary to mention that apart from these temples, the lintel placed outside Battambang museum shows Ammai to the left of Shiva. One of the two broken pediments inside the same museum shows a squatted figure to Shiva’s right and one is seen sitting to his left.
Ammai and Mount Kailash

According to Ambassador Julio A. Jeldres, the Official Biographer of HM the King Father, Samdech Preah Upayuvareach Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia-

 

The temple of Preah Vihear is not a “Hindu monument” but a Khmer sanctuary, built by Khmer kings and dedicated to Shiva the Hindu god.

 

It should be understood that for past Khmer kings, a sanctuary was first and foremost a cosmological recreation. Thus, the construction of Khmer sanctuaries in the form of multi-tiered Pyramids meant that the place was considered a sacred cosmic mountain. This was particularly noticeable in the temples dedicated to Shiva, because of the association with the god’s mountain home –Mount Kailasa-. A mountain or a cliff top location, as in the case of Preah Vihear, was always the first choice for the Khmer architects building these major temples.

http://preahvihearcambodia.com/2008/08/ambassador-julio-jeldres-letter-to.html

 

 

shiva and parvathi on nandi

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Below are the verses from Sekkizhar’s Periya Puranam (12th Century) about Ammai’s Trek to Mount Kailash. Sekkizhar explains Karaikkal Ammai’s ascent to Mount Kailash to see her Lord’s Dance.
வட திசை தேசம் எல்லாம் மனத்தினும் கடிது சென்று
தொடை அவிழ் இதழி மாலைச் சூல பாணியனார் மேவும்
படர் ஒளிக் கைலை வெற்பின் பாங்கு அணைந்து ஆங்குக் காலின்
நடையினைத் தவிர்த்து பார் மேல் தலையினால் நடந்து சென்றார்
http://www.shaivam.org/tamil/thirumurai/thiru12_05_04.htm
With a speed exceeding that of the mind She traveled fast the realms in the north; She came near the Mount Kailas of pervasive radiance Where abides the Wielder of the Trident, decked with A garland of Konrai blooms burgeoning in serried order; She durst not tread with her feet the holy ascent But measured it with her head.
http://www.shaivam.org/english/sen_th12_peyar.htm

 

It certainly cannot be a simple temple architectural display to portray Dancing Shiva on a hill, especially in a cliff temple recreated as Mount Kailash, alongside his Demon Devotee watching his dance in Religious Ecstasy.

 

While Lord Shiva, the Cosmic Dancer is an embodiment of Mysticism,  Karaikkal Ammai’s poetry is manifestation of Devotional Mysticism.

 

 Preah Vihear – clashes and conflicts

 

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19th century Cambodia came under the control of Vietnamese and French. The French continued their rule into 20th century and Japanese took over. After a while, the Japanese gave up to the French again. Only in the 1950s Cambodia became an independent state, later to be completely devastated by the brutal Khmer Rouge.

In the heritage site affected by both natural and man-made catastrophes, historically seems mostly man-made time and again,many of the lintels and most of the carvings on the lintels have taken a strong blow. Beyond various clashes of former Empires, disputes among later Countries, 20th Century Cambodia also suffered at the hands of the brutal Khmer Rouge. From 1975 until 1978 the Khmer Rouge held Prasat Preah Vihear and maintained it as their strategic resistance spot. Hence, making the pathway to the cliff landmine infested and restricted to tourists. Additionally, with intermittent armed conflict and legal battle fought at the Hague based International Court of Justice, with neighboring Thailand over the temple, the once sacred worship place is a soldier-occupied military arena with de-mining activities still on the go.

Many researches done on Khmer temples have taken a back seat due to these various conflicts the heritage country has suffered. In 1976, Mireille Bénisti had published an article which stated that Karaikkal Ammai was depicted in Khmer Art. She found a lintel in Vat Baset where she found a figure that she claimed could be Ammai. The researches do not seem to have continued further, mainly due to the above mentioned clashes and conflicts.

Mareille Benisti was a French Indologist and author of various books on Khmer Monuments and Buddhist and Hindu Art of India and Cambodia. Her book ‘Stylistics of Early Khmer Art’  studies the relations between early Khmer and Indian art during the 7th and 8th centuries.

Earlier, in the Second International Tamil Conference Seminar held in the year 1968, in Madras – today’s Chennai- the capital of Tamilnadu, Mareille Benisti had given a presentation on the title – ‘Karaikkalammaiyar in Cambodia’. Her presentation was under the theme – Archeology and the Arts (Archaeology and Epigraphy).

 

2014-2015 are successful years for the temple. The International Coordinating Committee (ICC)  for Preah Vihear Temple Complex was established in December 2014. In 2015, India and China have agreed to co-chair the Renovation and Protection of the Temple, thereby play important roles in preserving the Khmer Heritage Sanctuary.

Due to the undeviating efforts of Cambodian Government, today, Preah Vihear is a sort after historic monument, with the terrain making it an additional attraction for adventure tourism. De-mining in full force and Tourism in total swing, Preah Vihear is getting renovated, hopefully with ancient history intact.

The above notings on conflicts and clashes were not meant to deviate the topic of Karaikkal Ammai, but to reinforce the need for all-inclusive researches with several hindrances removed in the present millennium.

With renovations and reformations taking place in the UNESCO site, the sculpture should be viewed in new light, not only in terms of Iconography and History, but also relate to the Religious Connections of the Khmer Empire and the Tamil Empires of Pallavas and later, the Cholas.

There are very few reference/research books available to the interested reader. This state needs to improve.

Additionally, emphasis should be thrown upon the Traders Guilds of yesteryear Tamil Land which were prominent beyond borders throughout South East Asia including China. Along with the Religious Connect, Economic Connect should also form an important theme of New Age Studies. Especially, in the case of Karaikkal Ammai who belonged to the Trader Community in the Pallava Land of Tamizhagam.

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Exploring Tamil Connections

This first post could be a glimpse of images from the mysterious/yet to be fully discovered – ancient past that motivates me to share my viewpoints through ‘glorioustamils’.

Sitting in the city of Siem Reap, visiting ancient temples of Cambodia, one feels a strange connection between the Cambodian Ruins of yesteryear temples and the temples that are still in worship in Tamilnadu, India. And Cambodia is not the only country. Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia are other countries I have visited that makes me feel the similar connection.

The Temples and the Classic Temple Architecture of these countries have striking resemblances to those in South India, specifically Tamilnadu.

Some of the Inscriptions on the walls of these temples mostly in ruins have also been identified to be Pallava Grantha – the script established by the Pallava Kings who successfully ruled most parts of then Thamizhagam/Tamilagam during the 4th  to 9th Centuries ACE.

 
In Cambodia…

The Shiva Lingams, the Lingams accompanied and sometimes not accompanied by Nandi (ruined by nature/man-made or stolen), the Eight Handed Vishnu in Angkor Wat and the Reclining Vishnu in Kulen Mountains are only a few to mention, which exhibit strong resemblance to the living/worshipped ancient temples of Tamilnadu and few other parts of Southern India. Ashtabhujakaram is a temple situated in Kanchipuram, Tamilnadu where, Eight Handed Vishnu armed with different weapons is the presiding deity.  Similarly, Prasat Kravan is a 10th Century Temple in Cambodia, where Vishnu is sculpted as the Supreme God with Eight Arms.

 Vishnu with Eight Arms at Angkor Wat, CambodiaIMG_0447

The Reclining Vishnu in Kulen Mountains sculpted under the flowing waters of Phnom Kulen, is sheltered by the Seven Headed Snake – Ananta. He is seen relaxing in reclining position, with his consort Lakshmi holding his feet;  and Brahma is shown branching out of his navel. The sculpture under water is certainly a sight no camera can capture better than one’s eyes.

The countless Lingams and Yonis alongside the reclining Vishnu and the thousand Lingams at Kbal Spean may also denote the co-existence of Saivism and Vaishnavism. Along with Brahma, the Trinity of Hindu Gods is seen represented at one place.

There are many other ancient sculptures of Reclining Vishnu throughout India. Which connection/influence does the Reclining Vishnu of Cambodia talk of?

 
Reciprocal Influence

Any Connection which leads to Influence need not be one way, and could be reciprocal. What were the Reciprocal Influences churned out of specific Indian Connections? It is true that South East Asian Countries have plenty of Indian Influence, where Religion holds an enormous space. The efficient seafarers and merchants of coastal kingdoms couldn’t have transported and transferred their merchandises as a one-sided affair,  but also must have brought back various known and unknown representations from the far off countries they visited. In this aspect, special emphasis on particular ancient kingdoms is needed for clarity in written history.

One such historical fact, might be the travel of a Prince Pallavamalla from Kambhujadesa (present day Cambodia) to Kanchipuram, the capital city of the Pallava Empire in Tamilnadu.

The history of south-east asian kingdoms would not be convincingly clear without adequate mention of influences of the Tamil Kingdoms. The same way, the history of the Tamil Kings and the Tamil People would certainly be incomplete without adequately exploring the Thailand-Laos-Vietnam-Cambodia and Indonesian connection.

The master piece of Rajasimha Pallava – Mamallapuram Shore Temple

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Nandivarman II ( 8th Century ACE) – The Cambodian Connection in Tamilnadu

Much has been talked about the Indian connection in South East Asia, but here is a Cambodian connection in Tamilnadu.  Pallavamalla, a Prince from the kingdom of Kambhujadesa travelled to Kanchipuram in Tamilnadu, to continue the legacy of the Pallavas.

Following the death of Pallava King Parameswaravarman II (730 ACE) without a progeny, representatives from different arenas traveled to Kambhujadesa. Kambhujadesa was then ruled by King Kadavesa Harivarma, who rooted from Pallava lineage. He was the descendent of Bhimavarman, brother of Simhavishnu, the great king hailed to have brought back the Pallava stronghold in Thamizhagam – around 550 ACE.

Pallavamalla, the fourth son of Harivarma agreed to go to Kanchipuram to become their new Ruler. From a Prince in Cambodia, he reached Tamizhagam, to be the King of the Tamils in the Pallava terrain as Nandivarman II. He excelled to be one of the greatest Pallava Kings, who not only took forward the skillful, aesthetic art of  the extra ordinary ‘Pallava Style Temple Architecture,’ but also helped the Pallavas as rulers gain control of most parts of Tamizhagam and other parts of Southern India. Imbibed into the lineage of the architecturally inclined Pallavas, Nandivarman took to building beautiful temples as his predecessors, who were famous and revered for their fascinating temples.

Among the other temples built by Nandivarman Pallavamallan, the beautiful ‘Thiru Parameshwara Vinnagaram’ or the Vaikunda Perumal Kovil in Kanchipuram, the Pallava Capital is important as the temple walls depict the story of his coronation and especially the Pallava Geneology.

‘Samudramanthan’ or churning of the eternal ocean, which is given primary importance in Cambodia and other parts of south-east asia is also sculpted on the walls of Vaikunda Perumal Temple.

 
Karaikkal Ammaiyar -6th century AD

Karaikkal Ammaiyar holds a very special place in Tamil Bhakti Movement. She was the earliest of the 63 Nayanmars (Saivite Saints) and also one of the pioneer saints of the Indian Bhakti Movement  – which was formed to curb the influences of Jainism and Buddhism. The sculpture of this Saint in Ghost/Demonic Form – ‘Peyuru’ in Tamil, can be found in a few temples in Cambodia. This certainly is one Glaring Evidence of the Tamil Connection.

Adalvallan (Nataraja) – dancing Shiva and his devotee to his right

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How did Ammaiyar from Karaikkal in present day Puducherry, under the then Pallava Empire visit Cambodia through her sculptures? Who transported her.. How could this be just a transport of temple architecture alone? Many Researchers indeed feel more than a simple transport, inclusive of cultural, linguistic and economic ties.

 

Inscriptions

Some of the Inscriptions on the walls of temples in Cambodia, which Archeologists and Linguistics claim to be Pallava Grantha, and mentioned sometimes by local guides as Ancient Khmer has not had much research. Pallava Grantha was a writing method introduced by the Pallavas of Tamilnadu. The language might be Tamil, Ancient Khmer or Sanskrit but the script would require an all-inclusive research on ‘SPECIFIC INDIAN CONNECTION’. The ornamental beauty of the Pallava Grantha, exclusively developed to write Sanskrit in the Tamil speaking areas, which is also found in Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Indonesia, needs a deep analytical view.

 

Specific Indian Connection

Why I call this ‘Specific Indian Connection’?

As an Indian, any historical research to me would be incomplete if the word ‘India’ alone is mentioned. I want to know more… more precise facts – ‘which part of today’s India?’ – South, North,  East, West or North East? Which state in today’s India?

So, when I see the beautiful temples in Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia, (the ones that I have visited till date), I am awestruck by their similarities to the Indian temples… But to be more precise, South Indian Temples which belong to that particular part of Southern India – Tamilnadu!

Well read Scholars and Researchers find different other connections with other parts of India too. In today’s world, Advanced Research Standards have been developed. Such Advanced Research Techniques with Technology,  could aid in a ‘Microscopic View’ of the area of study – historically, geographically and scientifically! Hence, It is a humble feeling of a history enthusiast to emphasize the need for a comprehensive, all-inclusive study on the TRUE Indian Connection.

These and many more thoughts and questions that arise along with the simple single word ‘CONNECTION’ is the lifeline of this Blog.

The very few topics put forward in this preface itself is sufficient enough to explain the ‘need to connect’ this Jigsaw Puzzle called South East Asia and Tamilnadu.

Of Course, there have been different influences which history and legends of concerned countries talk about the vast country called India.  It is high time we give minute attention focusing on ‘Specific Connections and Influences’ from different parts of India.

Here, in this blog, I have chosen to explore the Tamil Connection.

I register my true Awe and Admiration towards all other Indian Kingdoms, Indian Merchants and Skillful Seafarers, who without any technologically advanced assistances of today, tried making this Vast Globe into a Small World of Connected Kingdoms.

With due respect to all Researchers who have put in their knowledge, time, effort and life to the cause of true historic research, this blog is a layman’s approach to history and a commoner’s wish to portray research in its true form – one which could inspire the discovery of new things with a specific, scientific, systematic approach.

This is a Genuine Wish for more ‘In-depth Researches’ which would help unearth Precious Information – many more New Commodities from Ancient-Old stock. It is also a hopeful desire to spread an inquisitive interest in many more energetic minds and scholastic brains beyond age and borders as much as possible in discovering new truths.