Travel Report: The Linga Temples, Koh Ker, Cambodia.
The Linga Temples, Koh Ker, Cambodia.
June 2020. After the breathtaking majesty of Koh Ker’s pyramid temple at Prasat Thom, I imagine some people might be a bit disappointed by The Linga Temples. In fact, this collection of five single-chamber structures is entirely understated in comparison.
Nevertheless, I was fascinated and charmed by the three Linga Temples we visited. Our first stop was Prasat Linga I, just a few minutes drive from Prasat Thom. Like all three temples, it sits perfectly alone in a sandy clearing, surrounded by lush green woodland.
The Linga Temples, Koh Ker.
Also known as Prasat Balang, this sandstone structure is the largest of Koh Ker’s Linga Temples. Making a quick circuit of the exterior, we loved the large, pretty tree that protected us from the ferocity of the afternoon sun.
Entrance to the tiny chamber comes via a short staircase. As soon as you enter, you find yourself face to face with a commanding linga, one of the biggest and best preserved in the country.
The linga (or lingam) is a complex symbol of Hinduism associated with the supreme god Shiva. According to Hindu scriptures, it represents male creative energy. Now I know what you’re thinking at this point. The linga looks a bit like a penis, right? Well actually yeah, the linga has a long tradition as a phallic symbol.
Moreover, the flat stone base on which the linga stands is called The Yoni, a symbol of the Goddess Shakti. When put together, the linga and the yoni represent the union of the feminine and masculine principles. Pretty deep.
As with all the temples we visited across Koh Ker that day, the place was perfectly empty and silent. However, somebody had obviously checked in before us, as there were a number of burning candles and incense sticks.
Visit Koh Ker.
The next linga temple is just thirty seconds down the road in the car. We could have easily walked, but it was scorching hot and the driver insisted we jump back in the car.
Here the chamber was noticeably bare, with no candles, incense sticks or offerings of any kind. In addition to its Shiva connections and notions of fertility, the linga also stands for supreme royal power. Which is possibly why King Jayavarman IV had them built.
Making our way back to the car, I realised we had company. He was sitting on the wooden fence by the entrance, barefoot and worryingly scrawny. “Local boy!” laughed our driver. “His parents in forest, look for the buffalo”. Although very shy and seemingly mute, the boy never once took his eyes off me. When I shot him a cheery hello, he responded with the faintest trace of a smile. He was still staring at us as we sped off.
The Linga Temples, Koh Ker.
Our final linga structure, Prasat Linga 3, was much more ruined than the others. One of its walls had collapsed altogether, a stream of rubble spilling out onto the grass.
In order to access its shrine, I had to pick a precarious path up the rubble. Inside, I found a battlefield of fallen rocks and columns. Furthermore, the linga itself was heavily damaged and unreachable.
At the side of the temple there were more ruins, including this platform of embedded rocks and toppled lingas. Nearby, we found a giant anthill fortress. Upon closer inspection, I spotted a large, black spider moving between the holes, presumably up to no good.
An opportune moment, we concluded, to move on. The Linga Temples had proved a fascinating change of pace to the day’s exploring. Happily, there were plenty more delights to come.
If you want to visit Koh Ker, bear in mind that you can’t gain access with The Angkor Pass. Instead, there’s a separate entry fee before you enter the forest. Tickets go for $15 per person.
Check out more of my reports from The Temples of Koh Ker.
You can also read my articles from the amazing Temples of Angkor.
Or maybe delve further afield with my travel reports from all across Cambodia.
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