Never Seen Before Makara Statue Found in Cambodia
In Cambodia, a magnificent but mysterious statue has been found in a forested area in a national park. The statue is of a mythical creature known as Makara. This discovery is like nothing else that has been found before and it is expected to throw light on the culture in Cambodia before the emergence of the Khmer Empire (800 AD to 1431 AD).
The amazing sculpted figure was found in Phnom Kulen National Park, which is in Siem Reap province. This area has many important temples, and the area holds a special place in the history of the Khmer Empire. The find was made by a local craftsman Chhim Samrithy, 38, who stated that, ‘I usually walk in the forest to look for some unique and sacred objects and suddenly spotted this rare statue,’ reports Archaeology News Network. He came across a massive head that had been carved into a rock and he immediately contacted local officials.
Cambodia’s Ministry of the Environment officials inspect the Makara statue. (Ministry of Environment / Khmer Times)
Ancient Makara sculpture
Officials and archaeologists were shown the location of the find and they began to survey the object and its context. Only the head portion of the statue was found and most of the body appears to be missing. The head is substantial - approximately 6 feet (2.14 meters) long and 3 feet (1m) high. Chhim SaImrithy and others began to search for the missing pieces of the sculpture. In total, some 13 pieces of the body of the sculpture were found. Experts estimate that the figure dates to the 6 th century AD, sometime before the foundation of the Khmer Empire, best known for its astonishing capital Angor Wat.
The had been made by carving sandstone and the head is still in good condition. The director of the Provincial Department of the Environment, Sun Kong told the Khmer Times ‘we have not yet statue moved the body parts or excavated the head from the site’. Park officials have been ordered to guard the site until it can be further investigated by researchers and to protect the site from looters and thieves.
The statue has so far been left in situ. (Ministry of Environment / Khmer Times)
Makara - Mythical Sea Beast
The experts quickly identified the statue as being a representation of Makara, a mythical sea creature, that often features in Indian Vedic literature. It was often ridden by the Hindu sea-god. Makara, which is typically portrayed with a crocodile head, often symbolized the intellect. The fabled creature was often used to illustrate how reason can overcome fears.
Statues of Makara are very common in many parts of the south and south-east Asia. They are often found at the entrance of Hindu and Buddhist temples and are a symbol of self-sufficiency. In Indian astronomy, a Makara is often the symbol of Capricorn and represents the restless spirit of Capricorns.
The sculpture of the mythical creature from Hindu legend in Cambodia is evidence of the deep influence of Indian culture on the region. Indian merchants and missionaries brought Hinduism and Buddhism to what is now Cambodia, from approximately 200 BC. This played a major role in the development of local societies and later the establishment of the Khmer Empire.
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Mysterious Makara statue
Mr. Kong is quoted by Archaeology News Network as saying that, ‘According to the experts, this Makara animal statue is one that we have never seen before’. Moreover, there is no evidence of any temple or shrine in the area. Typically, representations of Makara are only found in sacred or royal sites. It appears that the statue was carved out of the rock in the middle of an uninhabited area, for reasons that are not known. The mysterious Makara may yet throw light on the society of ancient Cambodia that preceded the emergence of the Khmer.
The find is being treated as a major one in Cambodia. It is also demonstrating the archaeological potential of Phnom Kulen National Park. Long Kosal, a spokesperson with Apsara Authority stated that if people in the park, ‘find ancient objects, please report to the authorities for research to be done to preserve them for future generations’ according to the Khmer Times.
Further investigations of the site are expected as well as efforts to preserve the remarkable statue for the people of Cambodia.
By Ed Whelan