Ta Prohm

24

Nov
2021

Prasat Neak Pean

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One of the most unusual temples at Angkor, Prasat Neak Pean or Coiled Serpents is a unique structure dating from the late 12th century. Like much else at Angkor, it was founded by King Jayavarman VII. Dedicated to Buddhism, it is located in the middle of the now dry lake, North Baray. The temple is built around an artificial pond surrounded by four smaller square ponds, usually dry except during the rainy season. In the center is a circular island with a shrine dedicated to Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. A couple of intertwined serpents circle its base, thus giving the temple its name. To the east of the island is the sculpted figure  of the horse Balaha, a manifesta- tion of Avalokitesvara, who,  according to Buddhist mytho- logy, transformed himself into  a horse to rescue shipwrecked sailors from a sea ogress. The pond represents a mythical lake, Anavatapta, believed to be the source of the four great rivers of the world.  They are symbolically repro- duced by four gargoyle­like  heads with spouts for mouths, from which water flows into four outer ponds. The east head is that of a man, the south a lion, the west a horse, and the north an ele phant. When the temple  was func tioning, Buddhist devo- tees would seek the advice of  resi dent monks, and then bathe in the holy waters flowing from the spout of which ever head had been prescribed by the monk.

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