Suryavarman Symbolism

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Register to read the introduction… Politically, Suryavarman’s greatest contribution to Cambodia were his establishments in building a foundation for the power that would dominate an enormous area for several hundred years. Firstly, he “defeated rival claimants to the throne and established sole rule over Cambodia by 1113, reuniting the country after more than 50 years of unrest. Warlike and ambitious, he expanded the limits of Cambodia” (Britannica). Another perspective of politics and Suryavarman is introduced, is through Hong’s article on Hinduism, power, and prestige. He basically argues that “Suryavarman used religious iconography to support and enhance his political position” (Hong 1). He explains how, because architecture has been associated with kingship for so long, figures such as pharaohs and Caesars, “use architecture as a successful means of propaganda to show their political power and to promote their ideologies. It is of little surprise that King Suryavarman II also created huge monuments to show his power and prestige.” (Hong 1). Exactly how Suryavarman used his political position to unify the people and the areas in the Khmer empire remains a history. Nevertheless, the reign of Suryavarman provides new and greater insight on the political organization and the characterization of royal succession in the early historic period of the Southeastern …show more content…
Not only is Suryavarman known as a religious reformer, but a temple builder as well. During his reign, he built a total of 6 temples. Namely, “Angkor Wat, Thommanon, Chao Say Tevoda, Banteay Samre, Phnom Rung, Beng Mealea” (Freeman & Jacques 12). The increase in religious monuments, also meant spread of religion. To be specific, Suryavarman dedicated Angkor Wat to Vishnu. Britannica refers to the king as, a “religious reformer who blended the mystical cults of Vishnu and Shiva, supreme Hindu deities, and promulgated Vaishnavism as the official religion, rather than Buddhism, which had briefly flourished under his predecessors.” The scale of Angkor Wat enabled the Khmer to give full expression to religious symbolism. Typically, the dimensions of the temples reflect the structure of the Hindu mythological universe. For example, the five towers at the center of the Angkor Wat complex represent the peaks of Mount Meru, the home of the gods. The outer wall then, “represents the mountains that ring the world's edge; and a moat depicts the cosmic ocean. Like many other ancient edifices, the monuments of the Angkorian region absorbed vast reserves of resources and human labor and their purpose remains shrouded in mystery.” (Swann 221). Even the orientation of the way the temples are faced have an importance. The temples are all so symbolic, which helps us understand their cosmology and religious ideologies (Freeman & Jacques 47). It has also been recorded that the temple contained a statue of Vishnu, but at some point, temples were converted to Theravada Buddhist worship. Suryavarman however, chose Hindu sources as the subject matter- Ramayana and Mahabharata epics, were specifically carved on the two panels. Meanwhile, the Heavens and Hells were carved

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