Saturday, April 23, 2011

T is for Ta Prohm

One of the places I always wanted to visit was the temple of Angkor Wat, in Cambodia.  In November 2008, I finally had the chance, and it was an amazing experience.

Perhaps only slightly less famous than Angkor Wat is the ruined Buddhist temple of Ta Prohm.  Even if you have not heard of the name, you may recognize the pictures:

Yes, those are huge trees growing over the temple itself.  When the reclamation and restoration of the Angkor temples began during the 20th century, a decision was made to leave Ta Prohm as it was, largely (but not completely) taken over by the jungle.  This was in contrast to many of the other ruins, where there were extensive reclamation efforts.  This was largely done because Ta Prohm, in its state, was so magnificent in its disarray.  Since then, efforts have been made to maintain its state, preventing further overgrowth of the jungle, and to reinforce some of the more fragile structures.

The temple was commissioned by Jayavarman VII, king of the Khmer Empire, in the late 12th century, and construction was completed around 1186.  The most amazing thing about Ta Prohm, and all of the Angkor temples, is its age and grandeur -- the Khmer Empire was a highly advanced civilization that ruled from the 9th to 13th centuries, and built singular structures like Ta Prohm, Angkor Wat, and Banyon.  And yet I barely knew anything about it before I visited Cambodia. 

When we think of ancient civilizations and the architecture they left behind, names like the Great Pyramids, Machu Picchu, Chichen Itza, the Parthenon, the Colosseum, and the Great Wall of China spring to mind.  I think the temples of Angkor deserve mention in the same breath. 

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