Sunday, August 2, 2009

Phanom Rung Stone Castle

Phanom Rung Stone Castle
Heaven on the Valcano
Looking back to the long history when there was still no method to record stories and history of mankind, some constructions or masonries can sometimes tell a lot of stories about lives and activities of the communities in the past. We are often amazed by how those constructions were built back in the long history maybe by faith, belief in religions or their divinity.

The Phanom Rung Stone Castle at Buriram province has been considered one of the great wonders built by people as sacrifice for the shrine of the sleeping-volcano Phanom Rung mountain which means "the great mountain" whose top is at 1,320 feet above sea level.

Location of the Phanom Rung Stone Castle has been strategically laid out along with cluster of buildings continuously lined up to the main pagoda located at the the peak point of the Phanom Rung mountain which is symbolic representative of the Shiva's paradise. The walkway leading to the Nagaraj bridge looks like the connection point of earth and heaven. It is considered one of the ancient remains with excellent craftsmanship which is the evidence of civilization of the ancient Khmer empire.

As per the stone inscription found at this castle,the Phanom Rung castle was built based on the believe in Shaiva doctrine of Hinduism in which Shiva is respected as prophet. The Phanom Rung mountain is therefore symbolic representative of the Krai Lat mountain which is home of Shiva. This shrine was therefore built on the peak of Phanom Rung mountain or, in other words, on the crater of sleeping volcano.

Phanom Rung , or, with its full name, Prasat Hin Phanom Rung (Phanom Rung Stone Castle), is a Khmer temple complex set on the rim of an extinct volcano at 1,320 feet above sea level, in Buriram province in the Isan region of Thailand. It was built in sandstone and laterite in the 10th to 13th centuries. It was a Hindu shrine dedicated to Shiva, and symbolises Mount Krai Lat, his heavenly dwelling.

Thailand's Department of Fine Arts spent 17 years restoring the complex to its original state from 1971 till 1988. On 21 May, 1988, the park was officially opened by Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. In 2005, the temple was submitted to UNESCO for consideration as a future world heritage site.

The name of Phanom Rung Stone Castle was becoming well known again when there was a public call for the Tab Lang Narai Banthom Sin which had been placed with the Phanom Rung Stone Castle for many thousand years, but was taken away by someone for display at Art Institute of Chicago,USA during the year 1973 AD.(2516 B.E.).

During such time the Fine Arts Department had made official request through the Ministry of Foregn Affair to get the Tab Lang Narai Banthom Sin back. Although with the resistance in various ways of the country claimed to be respectful at human right and freedom, Tab Lang Narai Banthom Sin was finally returned to the Phanom Rung Stone Castle in Thailand without any condition and effort of big mass of people together with several organizations from various nationalities. After such time, Phanom Rung has continuously been one of the key destinations of visitors until present. Some only want to see the Tab Lang Narai Banthom Sin.

It takes a slow, step-by-step walk, from bottom to the top, to enjoy all interesting aspects of the Phanom Rung Stone Castle. At the middle of the bridge, there is an picture of lotus with eight petals which means eight deities for the eight directions in Hinduism. It is the point of praying for supplication of visitors. From the 1st level of Nagaraj bridge, there is a 52-step stairway up to the courtyard on the mountain peak. The 2nd level of Nagaraj is located at the front gate on the east side where the balconies are connected to each other into the shape of rooms with continuity in length forming up the big rectangular shape around the castle courtyard. There are walls here and there at some distance apart and that makes it not possible to walkthrough along this rectangular.

The Shiva Lueng (representative of Shiva,Shiva is name of God in Hinduism and Lueng means penis) or Phanom Rung castle is located in the middle of the main pagoda with Soma Sutra tube or the channel for the holy water from the sacrifice rite for Shiva by pouring the holy water on to Shiva Lueng and let the water flow through the yoni (meant vagina or origin). The water will be taken by people for their auspicious being.

With the value and importance of the Phanom Rung castle, the Fine Arts Department has registered it as the national ancient remains in 1932 AD. (2475 B.E.). Some renovation work was done in 1971 AD.(2514 B.E.) to completion. There were some devolpments and improvements and it was changed to be Phnom Rung Historic Park and Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn was present as chairperson for the opening ceremony on May 21,1988 AD.(2531 B.E. ).

The tradition of walking up Phanom Rung mountain is the great and beautiful festival. There are some ceremonies of worship to the holy ones according to the ancient custom as well as the parading of Phupateentaralaksami Thevi, Jariya, and the 10 divine vehicles to the peak of Phra Viharn mountain. It is the great parade with loud mulsic bringing the feeling of joy and fun to people. There is a Hope By dinner at late evening together with the beautiful "Phanom Rung Thevalai" performance at the Phanom Rung castle.

And this is the historical site that tells stories of religious civilization of the past that brought faith to people, which led to construction of the wonderwork on top of Phanom Rung mountain until today.