Trees Fall on Angkor Wat Temples During Cambodian New Year
In Cambodia a severe storm has caused havoc across the country. During the extreme weather, ancient and iconic trees fell in the Angkor Wat heritage park and buildings were destroyed. The trees fell in two well-known Khmer temple complexes, at the start of the Southeast Asian country’s New Year’s celebrations.
Angkor Wat is one of the best-known heritage sites in all of Asia and is located north of the town of Siem Reap. It was once the political and religious center of the Khmer Empire, which dominated large areas of Southeast Asia.
This was a Buddhist-Hindu culture that was heavily influenced by the Indian civilization but also developed its own distinctive Khmer art forms. Angkor Wat flourished from the 11 th century to the 15 th century when it was abandoned after the fall of the empire.
Angkor Wat’s Fragile Architectural Wonders
Angkor Wat is famous for its monumental architecture and especially its temples. The temple are famous for their sculptures and friezes, representing Hindu and Buddhist myths. Today the Angkor Wat area and its various temples are part of a UNESCO listed heritage site.
Cambodia News English states that “on the night of April 12, 2020, until the morning of April 13, 2020, a storm brought strong winds and a downpour of rain across the country”. Such was the strength of the winds that they felled several trees at the Angkor Wat heritage site and in a nearby village. The Phnom Penh Post quotes Long Kosal, a spokesperson, for the authority that oversees the site, as stating that “seven Scots pine trees as well as other smaller trees in the Angkor area collapsed on Sunday due to strong winds”.
Trees collapsed at Angkor Wat temples due to strong winds. (Knongspor)
Storm Damage at Angkor Wat
Four of the trees fell at the Ta Prohm Temple complex with Knongspor reporting that the storm “knocked down a centuries-old tree that was growing on the temple”. At least one more tree fell into the courtyard of the building.
The structure dates to the reign of one of the most powerful of all Khmer monarchs Jayavarman VII. It was originally established as a Buddhist monastery in the 13 th century and is noted for its bas-reliefs depicting the Buddha.
Another tree fell in the vicinity of the Angkor Wat, perhaps the most famous of all temples in Cambodia. The sprawling Buddhist temple complex at Angkor Wat, which was built in the 12 th century AD and was constructed on the orders of King Suryavarman II. The site is famous for its galleries and it is set among a number of canals.
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The complex at Angkor Wat appears to not have been damaged from the fallen trees. (Knongspor)
Thankfully, despite the collapse of the trees, it is not thought that either temple has been damaged significantly. Kosal told The Phnom Penh Post that the falling trees “did not affect the temples”. Pictures taken from the scenes indicate that the structure and their representation of art, such as their reliefs were not damaged.
This has come as a huge relief in this Buddhist majority nation of 15 million people. The Phnom Penh Post reports Kosal as saying that “expert authorities are removing the collapsed trees”.
Experts at Angkor Wat are removing the collapsed trees. (Knongspor)
New Year Celebrations in Cambodia
The storm caused a great deal of damage around Cambodia and resulted in the death of at least one woman. It coincided with the first day of the three-day festival celebrating the Cambodian New Year. The festival is calculated based on an ancient horoscope and usually takes place after the crops have been harvested.
Traditionally Cambodians around the world, light candles, wear their best clothes, and offer thanks to the Buddha. During the New Year festivities, the faithful make sand mounds that represent the Buddha and his disciples. On the second day of the celebrations, alms are given to the needy.
Elder members of the community perform a ritual for the Cambodian New Year. (Sam Sith / CC BY-SA 2.0)
Cambodians also make a number of special dishes to mark the end of the old year. Dancing and games are also popular at this time.
On the third and final day of the New Year, images of the Buddha and the faces of elders are washed with a mixture of water and perfume. This is thought to bring good luck in the coming 12 months.
Top image: Severe storms cause ancient trees to fall at Angkor Wat. Source: Knongspor.
By Ed Whelan