Asia, the land of temples. It is hard to believe just how many temples there are on this continent and that you could barely see a tiny percentage before you never want to see another temple again in your life.
For the last year I have ben wandering around in South-East Asia, comprising just over 10% of Asia, yet there are still so many temples it can make your mind boggle. So, after spending so long here, I decided to select five of my favourite temples from this sub continent.
Candi Borobudur – Yogyakarta, Central Java, Indonesia
The Borobudur temple is the world’s largest buddhist temple and is one of the greatest buddhist monuments in the world. It was built in the 9th century and abandoned in the 14th only to be rediscovered again in 1811. It contains the largest and most complete collection of buddhist reliefs in the world.
Borobudur is a temple hill, that is, a temple that was built like a hill. To get to the top you must climb up one of the sides. The eastern gate is the proper entrance up the structure, but monks have to walk around it three times in the clockwise direction before climbing. There are three tiers to the temple, and at each tier monks had to again walk around three times before proceeding.
The stupa at the top of the temple is surrounded by many bell-like structures under which is a statue of the buddha. The grounds around the temple hill are vast and green.
Candi Prambanan – Yogyakarta, Central Java, Indonesia
The Prambanan temple is the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia and was built around the same time as Candi Borobudur but on the other side of Yogyakarta. The temple complex was once a collection of 240 individual temples, with the largest six temples at its centre dedicated to the 3 manifestations of the hindu god and the each of their steeds.
Most of the temples are now just piles of rubble after numerous eruptions of nearby Mount Merapi and the earthquake of 2009. The major temples have been reconstructed and stand like ancient clawed fingers reaching up from the ground.
While vastly different to Candi Borobudur, it is equal in its magnificence. There are several other temples on the same grounds built in a similar style and in similar conditions.
Angkor Wat – Siem Reap, Cambodia
Built between 1113 AD and 1150 AD, Angkor Wat, at 1.5 km by 1.3 km, is the largest religious monument ever to have been built. Meaning ‘City Pagoda’, the temple grounds housed an entire city and while the other temples in the region were abandoned over the years, Angkor Wat has remained in use.
Angkor Wat is made up of concentric galleries found in most Khmer temples that lead to a main central temple. Each concentric gallery is built taller than the previous one to form a pyramid, another typical Khmer structural design. The central temple almost looks like someone took Candi Prambanan and placed it on top of Candi Borobudur to form Angkor Wat. The Angkor Wat temple is surrounded by a wide moat with only two causeways leading into it.
Angkor Wat is a major Hindu temple designed to resemble Mount Meru in Northern India, the home of the Hindu gods. It has five main towers to represent the five main peeks of the sacred mountain.
Bagan – Myanmar
Technically not just one temple but 2,200 scattered across the valley in the curve of the Ayeyarwaddy River. They are all that remains of nearly 11,000 temples that were originally built here. The temples here were built about the same time as the previous temples on this list and fell into ruins after only 400 years. There are so many temples scattered across the archaeological area that it is impossible to take a photo of all of them.
Of the many, many temples, the vast majority of them are different. Some are built from white stone, while most are red. Others are completely covered in gold leaf, while others have portions covered in gold. Many can be climbed to take in the views, some have pictures etched into their walls, but most have at least one buddha sitting somewhere within the structure. At night, some of them even light up.
Sunrise and sunset are popular times to climb one of the temples and just take in the serenity of the land as light or darkness invades the land. It is true a magnificent place.
Wat Rong Khun – Chiang Rai, Thailand
Known as the White Temple, Wat Rong Khun is the most artistic and styish temple in South East Asia. Unlike the previous temples, which were built over 1,000 years ago, Wat Rong Khun is less than 100 years old. A local artist completely rebuild the original temple from his own pocket, spending over US$1.25 million in its construction.
To enter the temple, visitors must cross the ‘bridge of rebirth’ representing the way to happiness by foregoing temptation, greed and desire. Beneath the bridge are hundreds of hands symbolising unrestrained desire which are framed by tortured depictions of demonic beings.
So there you have it, five of the most amazing temples in South East Asia.
Until next time,