Thursday, February 07, 2008

Vishnu giving birth

Vishnu on Ananta, still in situ at Phnom Chisor
Vishnu's wife Lakshmi caresses his legs as he gives birth to Brahma
Inside the central courtyard of Phnom Chisor, an 11th century hilltop temple about 50 kilometres south of Phnom Penh, is a series of carved lintels and pediments that benefit from a closer inspection. One of these is the half-pediment over the central east-facing door that is still in place, carved with Vishnu on Ananta and the birth of Brahma, the half in which his consort supports the god's legs, lies on the ground a few metres away - both are shown above. A giant two-piece jigsaw puzzle if you like. What does it all mean you might ask. Well, Vishnu, the supreme god and saviour is reclining on the snake Ananta, who by floating on the Ocean of Milk, gives birth to Brahma, while his legs are held and caressed by his wife Lakshmi. Now you know. This is a common representation of the Vishnu story and can be found at Preah Vihear, Angkor Wat, Bayon and at Kbal Spean. The ends of the pediment are in the form of the three-headed naga. The central east-facing doorway is shown below, also containing a kala lintel.
The central east facing doorway with the Vishnu pediment
The south-east gopura, looking out onto the Takeo province plains below, contains an unfinished and roughly-eroded lintel on a theme I described a few days ago, the Churning of the Ocean of Milk and the elixir of immortality. Great idea but this particular lintel is not well-defined and broken in half. My efforts to locate the other half of the lintel proved fruitless.

The broken Churning of the Milky Ocean lintel

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