A few years ago I traveled to Cambodia. It was a destination I had wanted to go to for many years.
Our trip to Cambodia started in Singapore, which was wonderful as it was my first time there. It also happened to be Chinese New Year and the celebrations were all around us. The first night we headed out after dinner for a stroll down to the markets and the streets were filled with dancing lions and lions on poles jumping precariously to another pole without toppling over. Crackers were going off in different directions. We were in the crowd watching and all of a sudden oranges were being thrown to the people for good luck for the New Year. It was a colourful and delightful way to be welcomed to Singapore.
On the following day we set off to Seim Rep for our journey to the temples. I had been very excited to see the temples as I had done some research about them.
Perhaps the most famous is Angkor Wat, which is an enormous Buddhist temple complex located in northern Cambodia. It was originally built in the first half of the 12th century as a Hindu temple. Spread across more than 400 acres, Angkor Wat is said to be the largest religious monument in the world. Its name, which translates to “temple city” in the Khmer language of the region, references the fact it was built by Emperor Suryavarman II, who ruled the region from 1113 to 1150, as the state temple and political center of his empire.
Originally dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, Angkor Wat became a Buddhist temple by the end of the 12th century. Although it is no longer an active temple, it serves as an important tourist attraction in Cambodia, despite the fact it sustained significant damage during the autocratic rule of the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s and in earlier regional conflicts. (Info taken from history.com)
I remember our guide telling us there is over 250 temples in this region and they are still discovering new facts about them. Just recently the irrigation and water system that is at the back of the largest temple Angkor Wat was discovered.
In the morning we went first to the Bayon temple – the temple of smiling faces where 200 smiling faces look down upon you. Then to Angkor Thom temple which is famous from the movie, Tomb Raider. I felt an interesting connection here and I was amazed at the straight hallways and the walls above that were at one stage encrusted with jewels. You can still see the indents where they were placed.
The afternoon at Angkor Was was the highlight for me, and as we neared the temple I was taken back as to the sheer size of it. We entered the pathway where there are statues of a lion and 6 snakes- Naga – at the entrance and the arches as we neared them would reveal another amazing view of the huge temple.
We entered the main temple at the side entrance as our guide had said it would be easier for us to get through the crowds. We passed by the stone carvings on the walls which display the battles, history and daily life in the temple. The moment we went through the arch I could hear chanting in my head and I was transported to a different time. Although I was walking with my group and I knew that the building above was the library, I could feel a sense of having been here before. As our tour continued I began to feel very emotional in some of the areas especially towards a window at the back of the temple high up on the right hand side.
I didn’t feel it at the time, but a series of meditations after I left Angkor Wat showed me that I had been a student here and was separated from my family at a very young age to learn the ways of the spiritual leaders. I recalled in these meditations that I never got over the fact of being so far away from my mother and the sadness that I felt of not being able to see her broke my heart. I became outspoken in this time as I shared my spiritual visions with others and then was distanced from my people as fear rose for them from the visions I shared. In another meditation I was at the water which was at the back of the temple, and another time seeing the sun rise from the window that I became emotional about when in the top of the temple. There were other recollections as I continued to go back in time to this past life.
As we left the temple in the little mini bus I had tears streaming down my face and my husband asked “what’s wrong?”. I said we have to leave. It was an experience I will never forget. In my years of travel I have visited some amazing temples, churches and sacred areas but I have never experienced a strong recollection of memories and connection to a place before.
You are probably thinking what has this got to do with Gold Lotus? I was fascinated with the flower arrangements at the hotel we stayed in and the beautiful wood furniture. The hotel was built with timber and had the most amazing staircases, artefacts and huge beds. Although the bed was quite firm, I slept really well in the giant bed. The flowers floated in water and had been made each morning by the women. They were the most intricate designs and were in the reception and dining areas. You can watch one of the girls folding the lotus here.
The lotus is in the carvings in the walls of the temples and can been seen in the Apsaras dancing with the lotus flowers. The leaves of the lotus are completely dirt and water-repellent, which led to the reputation as a symbol of purity, fidelity, creativity and enlightenment.
The lotus stayed with me long after I had left Cambodia and Vietnam, and I continued to draw and paint them. Leading up to the exhibition of the first 20 artworks that were part of the Gold Lotus series, the name Gold Lotus was what I ended up. I’d gone through a number of names, including the Golden Lotus, but doing the numerology that vibrates with the names helped come to Gold Lotus (and this happened to be the last painting I did before the mini exhibition).
I found the Cambodian people very inspirational and considering what they have been through as a race in the past, it was humbling to be among them. I especially admired the younger teenagers who were full of hope for their futures. They still have a long road of rehabilitation as they suffered so much and many lost their ancestors and family members through the Khmer Rouge leadership. It is amazing this only happened from 1975-79 where 1.5 million people were exterminated by the Pol Pot regime.
Religious institutions were not spared by the Khmer Rouge as well, in fact religion was so viciously persecuted to such a terrifying extent that the vast majority of Cambodia’s historic architecture, 95% of Cambodia’s Buddhist temples, was completely destroyed. (Info thanks to Wikipedia).
I have started a series of small lotus paintings which I will share with you over the month of November.