Approximately in the year 1120 AD, a student in a temple dedicated to Sri Vishnu, was poring over his small stone tablets, holy relics entrusted to him for use in his studies, and his mind started to wander…
Vra Vishnuloka,the temple city of the God he worshipped, had been experiencing a new stability for the past couple of years, since King Suryavarman II had come to power.
It was a time of warrior kings, and victorious annexations of land and building materials were considered favors, bestowed upon the king by Vishnu himself…
The slender, dark-skinned adept was daydreaming, contemplating the multiple powers of the One he worshipped, the Hero of the Temple…
He saw himself in a vast army of men, divided into small groups, practicing to attain the human equivalent of the body and mind powers of Vishnu.
In his dream, on a raised platform in the western part of the training field, stood his idol, his hero, a luminescent figure with skin the color of dark blue rainclouds…
He was moving his arms so fast that they seemed like a blur, with four distinct limbs moving in different directions, independantly of each other…
In each of his hands, at different times, shimmers of light would glance off objects he was holding, spinning around…
A lotus flower briefly became visible, accompanied by a sweet-savory smell of freshness and spring. Shortly thereafter, a long mace of gold was stretched out in front of him, while he calmly raised one of his other hands, holding an oversized conch shell.
An incredible cacaphony of sound began to emerge, the echo of it thrown back by the valley’s bordering mountains. At once, deep and sonorous, interlaced with fine, silvery tones so pure, that the mind was raised to a new level of alertness…
Suddenly, there was a silence…
In it, the sound of approaching hooves could be heard, suddenly coming to a stop, some distance away…
The unmistakable sound of steel slithering across steel…
The eyes of the figure on the platform snapped around and focussed, causing everyone to turn in alarm, and stare into the distant bare hills, where trouble was brewing.
A sharp yell from afar was all the warning Vishnu had. The speer projectile was already feathering into the training area, accompanied by the echoes of barbarous roars.
The young novice didn’t see it till it was happening in the airspace slightly before and above him, a heavy swirling object of pure gold, slicing into metal in the midst of lightening bursts, disintegrating it.
But the golden wheel from the slender, dark-blue hand didn’t stop there. It raced, a few yards off the field, spinning like crazy, sparkling seal of fate – straight into the unruly, threatening mass on that hill before the horizon…
There was a flash of colored light, not unlike an Aurora Borealis, pallid smoke began to build…, its cloud torn away by thunder and strong winds, only to reveal…
An empty hillside in the distance, and,
a feeling of restitution, of peaceful completion in the hearts of the training soldiers…
Atmij, the temple novice, knew that the attacking barbars were not lost.
Vishnu, in his grace, had granted them the privilege of attack as his enemies, as a witness to his power, and it was considered understood that they had been taken directly to Ghodavarna Loka, the paradise of the Highest, their earthly karma erased…
A harsh, wooden rap startled Atmij out of his daydream, and he almost dropped the precious stone tablets he should have been studying…
“Young mind leaps like a hare”, drawled the voice of the day priest, in the Khmer language. He had approached quietly and was now standing before his student.
“‘Tis thy studies that suffer”, he said in a somewhat kinder voice, it was the thing that needed to be said.
But the priest by kingly appointment, had had his own youth, his own days of dreaming about the One with the superhuman powers, his own time of wondering about the words so well preserved, which promised his followers that an atom of matter, containing his whole being, was within each and every one of them, the peoples of the earth, the animals of the forest and the sea, within each living entity of creation…
A just cause, warranting a time for a wandering heart into a visualization.
The priest knew that this experience, this realization, was at the heart of all academic religious study.
THE TEMPLE OF VISHNU TODAY
It is located in the region of Angkor, in what is now Cambodia. It lies approximately 240 km northwest of the capitol city, Phnom Penh.
In the Khmer language, “Angkor Vott” means “The City of the Temple Complex”.
The Khmer civilization of the 10th century AD was ruled by Yasovarman I, whose rule lasted 21 years.
Watering systems and reservoir lakes were built, making it possible to harvest rice several times a year.
This success of farming systems brought the Khmer kindom a vast supply of foodstuffs and made them very wealthy. A strong empire began to establish itself in Southeast Asia, the Khmer were starting to build large cities and great temple complexes.
King Suryavarman enters the scene in the year 1113. His reign lasted about 37 years, during which time he built out the might of Angkor, then called Kambuja. In many warring conquests against Cham, Dai Viet and the Mon-Kingdom of Haripunjaya, land was annexed and built upon.
Many temple restaurations and new constructs were made during this time.
Angkor Wat was one of them. It became the state temple of the king. It comprised the whole southeastern part of the former capitol, Yasodharapura, and its sole purpose was the commemoration and worship of the God Vishnu.
The city appears to be orientated in a Westerly direction, which is known to be the way to the God of the Underworld, Yama.
There is no evidence to indicate the original name of the city. Hypothesis has it that it was named after Vishnu himself, because Suryavarman was a declared follower of his, as opposed to his predecessors, who were adamant worshippers of the God Shiva.
Thus, the city became known as Vrah Vishnuloka ( the Holy Residence of Vishnu). Later, it also retained the name of its actual founder, Paramavishnuloka ( the One who has entered the Holy Realm of Vishnu), which made its name Preah Pisnulok.
After the king’s death, all work on this great site of worship ceased.
The deterioration of the empire began to take its course…
The old enemies of the Khmer became bolder, and they invaded the city in 1177. With the help of King Jayavarman VII, it was possible to drive the invaders out of the city, and the Khmer, once again, ruled.
One and a half kilometres to the north, this king established the city of Angkor Thom. In it was the main temple ( a Buddhist one), called the Bayon.
Towards the end of the thirteenth century, Jayavarman VII’s influence had made sufficient inroads to transform Angkor Wat completely into an institution of Theravada Buddhism.
This was the time where its renowned name was established.
Much of the staying power against the encroaching jungle in the following centuries was due to the masterfully constructed water systems surrounding the complex.
It was already 1586, before the first European set foot on this territory that was so unknown to the western part of the world.
Today, after its days of being a French colony, it is now controlled by Cambodia. Angkor Wat still remains a part of the more encompassing temple area Angkor, which holds true marvels of ancient architecture in this region.
THE FOUR FACES OF GOD
One of the most prevalent mysteries of ancient belief systems is the four-faced diety. The Hindu faith is no exception in this.
Vaikuntha Chaturmurti is said to posess eight arms and four faces: a lion facing towards the east, a boar to the south, his own face to the north and a demonic face staring westwards.
This is associated with the attributes of the elements: Fire, Water, Earth and Air. The deities, depicted as creators out of their emotional energy, are shown displaying their powerful, multifacetted character.
It is assumed, that the ancient peoples, by observing the forces of nature, carved their perception of their God out of stone or wood, remembering the might of thunder, a destructive, raveging fire, a swollen stream or some of the more impressive features of topography in the lands they occupied.
This reminds us of the biblical narration of Ezekiel, having seen the four faces of God: a Man, a Lion, an Ox and an Eagle.
It’s highly impressive how cultures, totally unrelated to each other, have similar inspirations about the powers of their God Being, and almost identical perceptions about the directional travel of these powers!