Preah Vihear Temple – an important landmark in Cambodia

Preah Vihear Temple – an important landmark in Cambodia

Cambodia is a poor country that depends on foreign aid. A large percentage of the population is malnourished. The country is still suffering from the effects of the civil war, when the infrastructure was completely destroyed. More than 70% of the population works in agriculture, where they grow mostly corn, rice, sweet potatoes, sugar cane, soybeans, peanuts, coconuts, sesame, vegetables, oranges, pineapples, bananas, tobacco and cotton.

The main ethnic group in the country is the Khmer, who make up 92% of the population. Numerous minorities include the Vietnamese and Chinese. Thais and Chams also live here. Almost 95% of the population is Buddhist, only the Cham minority is Muslim. The literacy rate in Cambodia is only 35%. In addition to Khmer, Vietnamese, Chinese, and French are also spoken in the country. Many Cambodians were killed and maimed in the Civil War.

The main exports are wood and wood products, as well as textiles, clothing, and rubber. Cattle, pigs, buffalo, and poultry are also kept. The country has no significant minerals, little industry, and almost little foreign trade. The main trading partners are the United States, Great Britain, Germany, and Singapore. An important source of foreign exchange earnings is burgeoning tourism.

Cambodia is located in South-East Asia. It has borders with Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. The country has an outlet to the Gulf of Thailand. The surface is covered with tropical forests, pastures and rice paddies. A fertile valley can be found along the Mekong River in South Asia and in the lowlands around Tonle Sap Lake. This lake irrigates the surrounding landscape during the rainy season. Mangrove forests grow along the coast, and the interior is covered with tropical forests. The climate is influenced by a dry monsoon and a southwestern wet monsoon.

History and Culture

In the 5th century, the Khmer empire of Chenla was established on the territory of modern Cambodia, which later became part of the Kingdom of Angkor. The capital was Angkor, founded in 889. Cambodia resisted Mongol invasions and eventually succumbed to Thai attacks. In 1434 the capital was moved to Phnom Penh. From 1887 Cambodia became a member of the Indochinese Union, which was under French protectorate until 1945. In 1945 the country declared independence.

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Temple of Preah Vihear - an important landmark in Cambodia

History and culture

In 1970 a civil war broke out between the National Liberation Front and the Khmer Rouge Front. After the Khmer Rouge victory, the country was renamed Democratic Kampuchea. During this communist Prochin regime, temples were demolished, money was abolished, and about 3 million people were killed. From 1979 to 1989 the country was occupied by Vietnamese troops. In 1993 Cambodia was declared a kingdom.

Preah Vihear Temple on the Thai-Cambodian border

Its construction began in the ninth century but continued over the next few centuries, so that today it retains architectural elements typical of the tenth and eleventh centuries. However, Preah Vihear did not acquire its present form until the reigns of the Khmer kings Suryavarman I (1002-1050) and Suryavarman II (1113-1150). The entire temple complex is 800 meters long, and access to the sanctuary is guarded by five gradually rising monumental towers (gopuram). The visitor cannot enjoy the view of the temple complex until he passes through the gate.

Temple Preah Vihear stands right on the Thai-Cambodian border, in one of the not-so-quiet places. This unique Hindu monument dedicated to the god Shiva has in the past witnessed many bloody clashes between these Asian countries. The dispute over the Khmer shrine and the territory on which it stands was eventually to be settled by an international tribunal in The Hague. Preah Vihear was built in a very unfortunate location. It is located in northern Cambodia on the border with Thailand. This area has been a cause of strife between the two countries for many years, as both sides sought to conquer it.

Temple of Preah Vihear - an important landmark in Cambodia

Preah Vihear Temple on the Thai-Cambodian border

It all started in the 1950s when French colonial troops left the area. In the early 1920s, when they controlled Cambodia, the French agreed with Siam (Thailand) to form a joint commission to demarcate the border. It was also agreed that the French would create new maps showing the Preah Vihear temple on the Thai side. Eventually, however, intentionally or mistakenly, it appeared on the maps of Cambodia. For years, Thailand ignored this fact because Preah Vihear came under Thai control after the French left in 1954.

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Ruling of the Hague Court.

In 1962, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague awarded the Preah Vihear temple and the territory on which it is located to Cambodia, and Thailand was also ordered to return all antiques removed from the temple during its occupation. Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia was still so generous that during the official takeover of the temple in January 1963, he announced to Thailand that he could keep all the antiques and that his citizens could visit Preah Vihear without a visa .

Temple of Preah Vihear - an important landmark in Cambodia

Hague Court ruling.

However, even this did not stop the bloody clashes between the countries. The Thais did not want to accept the court ruling and continued to claim the territory. They argued that the court ruling at the time did not apply to the access roads to the temple or the surrounding land, and so they would remain under their control.

Listing by UNESCO

Disputes over the ownership of the temple and grounds flared up again in 2008 when the Hindu shrine of Preah Vihear, dedicated to the god Shiva, was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. This led to further bloody battles, injuries and deaths not only of soldiers but also of residents. So tens of thousands of people decided to leave this disputed territory.

Further violent fighting ensued in early 2011, with a new wave of violence unleashed by Thai nationalist movements using their influence in the run-up to the upcoming elections. Ten people were killed in the area in February, and two months later the conflict claimed another 18 lives. Rocket and rifle fire were not uncommon at the time.

The final verdict

Thus, militarily, the situation in the Preah Vihear temple area was extremely unstable and deteriorating. International disputes between Thais and Cambodians eventually had to be resolved again by the International Court of Justice in The Hague, which ruled in 2011 that the area around the Hindu Temple of Preah Vihear would become a demilitarized zone. An immediate withdrawal of troops from the area was ordered, and the court called on both sides of the conflict to begin joint negotiations.

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Temple of Preah Vihear - an important landmark in Cambodia

The Final Verdict

Another demand was that the countries allow observers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to enter the territory. At the time, Thailand was told that it would respect the verdict, and Cambodia responded in the same way. So there is hope that peace will finally prevail in the area and that there will be a permanent cease-fire between the two countries.

For so many years, Cambodians have fought not only for part of the jungle, but also for their country’s historical heritage and possible income from tourism. The Temple of Preah Vihear, sometimes called Prasat Preah Vihear, is more than a thousand years old. The first of the Khmer temples was built in this area in the ninth century.

Preah Vihear is an ancient temple at the junction of two kingdoms. Cambodia

Preah Vihear is a temple complex of the Khmer Empire dedicated to the god Shiva, the object of a territorial dispute between Cambodia and Thailand.

The temple’s border location ignited a dispute between the countries over who would own the historic site. In 1962, the issue was settled in The Hague Court, which ruled that the temple belongs to Cambodia, but passions continued unabated after 2000.

The temple has a long and complicated history. Ownership of the temple complex Preah Vihear Cambodia and Thailand disputed for years. During the Khmer Rouge period there were fierce battles. The temple complex was ruined and partially destroyed. Fragments of bas-reliefs were broken off and sold.

In 2008, UNESCO recognized the ancient temple of Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site.

The ensemble of the temple Preah Vihear stretches for 800 meters, the main temple is almost on the edge of a cliff. It is popularly known as the “Temple in the Heavens”. The place for the construction of Preah Vihear was very picturesque. When the weather is good from here you can see the neighboring kingdom of Thailand and Laos .

The temple Prea Vihear was originally built as a small sanctuary in honor of the god Shiva Shikhareshvara (God of the Top) Khmer Emperor Yashovarman I in the IX century . The magnificence and sophistication of architecture it gained 300 years later, when its reconstruction was engaged Surjavarman II. In history this belligerent emperor, who unified Cambodia, remained as the “Michelangelo of the East”, thanks to its main brainchild of the temple of Angkor Wat.

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Angkor Wat

The Preah Vihear complex, located along the edge of the cliff, consists of several parts connected to each other by stairs and alleys. In the final part are two rectangular buildings with galleries and elongated halls that are called palaces.

The Preah Vihear is unique in its architecture of carved stone ornamentation. The fine carvings speak of the skill of the Khmer craftsmen. Finishing and masonry blocks of the temple makes you think about the skillful work of ancient craftsmen .

The entire area of the temple – different levels. The way to the temple starts with the big Monumental staircase, which is decorated with nagi. They are like guards looking down on the travelers.

The Naga are serpent-like mythical creatures in Hinduism and Buddhism, a symbol of wisdom. The ancient Indian legends mention that the Naga civilization was powerful at the dawn of humanity; they lived under the mythical Mount Meru.

At present, the main sanctuary of Preah Vihear is almost completely destroyed, leaving only stone ruins. However, two galleries have survived; they enclose the central sanctuary.

The Preah Vihear complex was built using well-known construction methods used by ancient masters on other continents. This is a unique skill of stone work – carefully fitted stone blocks.

Rectangular-shaped ponds – stepped “pools” deserve special attention. Along the perimeters of one of these basins, holes are evenly scattered, the purpose of which to this day is not clear.

What strikes the imagination is the linear “fit” of stone blocks and ties on the stones, which can also be seen on megalithic structures in Peru, Bolivia, Mexico. More precisely, we are not talking about the ties (staples) themselves, as almost all of them have long since collapsed, but about their traces left in the stones.

Look strange chaotically drilled (or hollowed out) holes on the blocks. According to one of the fantastic versions, jewels were put in the holes, and in the light of torches they made a fantastic picture. Could it be?

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A number of researchers of the complex believe that during the construction, which lasted for 200 years, there were errors that required restructuring. But … the complex is built in one key. And looking at the windows, you realize that it is unlikely the ancient masters could have made mistakes, as the windows in the complex were formed during the construction of the walls, making the construction process more complicated.

The photographs show that the chiseled columns are not inserted into the ready-made walls, but are placed in special niches during the construction of the walls. Such construction required a high degree of precision.

Ancient masters one thousand years ago had no problems with installation of blocks weighing about tons. Holes for lifting blocks are an unfortunate invention of historians. The large blocks for the foundation of the temple were lifted on a plateau in height of 700 meters without any holes, and here they suddenly decided to drill them during the construction of walls.

As for the columns, they were obviously made on the machines. Especially if you consider that there are hundreds of these columns in the windows, and even with inlays. If you look at the columns of the temple carefully, you can see the concentric traces that remain when part is machined on a lathe as a result of rotation.

The official science tells us that 1000 years ago, when these columns were created, masters were only able to work the stone by hand – a chisel and hammer. But the traces left on the columns clearly do not belong to these tools.

At present, the main sanctuary of Preah Vihear is completely destroyed, only stone ruins remain. Tons and tons of blocks, as if it were not stone but straw. It would be a pity if, because of the mercantile squabbles of politicians, such a unique complex would disappear from the face of the planet, which still gives historians more and more mysteries.

Apparently not by chance, travelers who have visited Preah Vihear, say that it is more picturesque than Angkor.

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