05 July 2013
I had listed several books, which I used to plan my various trips to Angkor in a previous post. One book, which I searched for and was told it was out of print in Siem Reap and in Phnom Penh finally laid in front of me on my way out of Cambodia at the Siem Reap Airport.
"OF GODS, KINGS, AND MEN - The Reliefs of Angkor Wat" by Jaroslav Poncar and Thomas S. Maxwell.
As the title indicates, the book focuses on the bas-reliefs of the magnificent temple of Angkor Wat. Those 1200 square metres of superb sandstone carvings along the inner wall of all four sides of the gallery.
Most tourists I have seen on my visits looked rather puzzled or confused when their tour guides took them through parts of the galleries, briefly talked about the reliefs and then walked on to the inner parts of Angkor Wat. In my mind, we are not doing these amazing carvings justice by neglecting them. They are simply too great and so much work went into their creation that I believe they deserve to be understood and appreciated by even the regular visitors of Angkor Wat.
Dawn Rooney's book "Angkor, Cambodia's Wondrous Khmer Temples" does a good and brief job to explain the various parts of the reliefs. My still favourite guidebook from Michel Petrotchenko "Focusing on the Angkor Temples" goes into even more detail on a stunning 15 pages and familiarizes the visitor with essential terms like Vishnu, Krishna, Shiva and Hanuman. All too often have I stood amongst the crowds of visitors who had no idea who these important figures were.
OF GODS, KINGS, AND MEN goes far beyond and gives the best explanations along with many great photos of the bas-reliefs and enables the visitor to truly understand what is shown here. Theoretically it would be ideal to read the book before a trip to Angkor Wat, but even after visiting the temple it will be of great benefit to appreciate this often overlooked part of the temple.