We read often in newspapers about idol theft, but nothing prepared me for this.
Kbal Spean is a an amazing treasure trove of Hindu Art deep into the jungles of Cambodia. We see an entire river bed carved into a thousand stone lingas ( will feature in a separate post). across the small water fall we see a lovely bas relief of Vishnu in his characteristic sleeping pose, with Brahma the creator emerging from his naval via a lotus flower, Lakshmi his consort by his feet…three shrines are depicted to the right and a separate depiction of Brahma to the left…
Now come the looters - art thieves -who first took away the face of Lakshmi. The local papers published these pictures….but guess no action taken, at least on the positive side when the looters struck again. This time taking away the face of Vishnu.
What a sad sight. Anyway some good soul has restored the monument through in a crude manner.. the loss is indeed too great to even comprehend. Guess until the buying stops the killing wont stop for these as well.
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The proverbial white elephant is an actual reality in Indian literature. This noble creature is the vehicle of the King of the Devas ( celestials)…Indra …. a la Zeus with his Thunderbolt. Not only is he white but has 33 heads.
Here is a depiction from a mural painting …
Though there are other white elephants.. the Airawatam ( Erawan in thai/cambodian culture )is said to be the most powerful of all. Described as a huge elephant with silvery white body of 33 heads, each head has 7long ivory tusks. Each of his tusk is 16 million meters long, so huge that it can house 7 large lotus ponds, within each tusk also live thousands of angels and their servants.
This massive modern sculpture greets visitors at the entrance of the Erwan Museum in Thailand.
Without doubt its almost impossible depict this creature in stone…and hence quite rare to see the full version of Erawan elephant with 33 heads, instead, many artists prefer to draw Erawan as a 3 headed elephant instead.
The Irrawaddy River in thailand is also named after Erawan …
We find the workship of indra and airavatam among the temples of ankor,
prasat preau, siam reap …
In india some wonderful depictions exist…. in a cave at Bhaja not far from Mumbai that was the site of a Buddhist monastery - there is a stone relief carving showing Indra, king of the gods.
He is seated upon Airavata with his thunderbolt in hand …in somnathpur.
In The famous chola murals of tanjore big temple…there is airavatham…oh thats the subject of an entire new post….
Whats amazing is that the indian sculptor restricted to just one head while his cambodian couterpart depicts him with three heads.
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