Monday, February 11, 2008

More on the Neak Ta theme

An understated Neak Ta at Wat Potiret
A much more expressive Neak Ta pairing at Wat Chy He
Here are the latest in my occasional series of interesting Neak Ta spirit houses. I came across these on my travels around Kompong Cham province at the weekend, and these are the best of the many I looked at. I'm still going to do some detailed research on these very interesting figures, when I can find a space in my calendar! The top two photos are from the Koh Sotin district, just outside Kompong Cham city itself. The first was at Wat Potiret, which has a disused wooden pagoda near to this less than extravagant Neak Ta, while the more expressive double Neak Ta was located at Wat Chy He, where I had hoped to find a genocide memorial but was out of luck. However the trip across two islands in the Mekong River and onto adventures on the east shoreline of the Mekong more than compensated.
The bottom three photos are from shrines located on mountains to the west of Kompong Cham city. The first is from Phnom Pros, just a few kilometres outside the city. The middle upright figure, in army-style clothing, can be found at the summit of Phnom Theat Pros, some 30 kms northwest of the city, whilst the final Neak Ta example was at the foot of the same mountain.
Even though Neak Ta are essentially part of the animist beliefs of Cambodians, they are often found in Buddhist pagodas or located elsewhere in a village where the locals believe their powers and energy force will do most good. The shrines or huts of Neak Ta literally contain anything, natural or man-made. The objects represent the land, water and spirit elements and often house small figures, as seen in these photos. In many instances, I have seen sculpted items taken from ancient temples and statues and worshipped as Neak Ta. If you see a shrine on your travels, take a moment to look in and see what treasures you can find - but please, never ever disturb the contents or you might face the wrath of the all-powerful Neak Ta spirits.

A double Neak Ta at Phnom Pros, near Kompong Cham city
An army-style Neak Ta at the summit of Phnom Theat Pros
A popular Neak Ta at the foot of Phnom Theat Pros

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