Angkor Vat: India’s Contribution Conservation (1986-1993) - A Rare Book

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Item Code: NAC341
Author: B. Narasimhahiah
Edition: 1994
Pages: 165 (148 B/W & 12 Color Illustrations With 1 Map)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 11.0 inch X 9.0 inch
Weight 1 kg
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Book Description


Traveling on the “Magic Ship” in 1926, Rabindranath Tagore saw the grandeur of the vast culture of south-eastern and eastern Asia. At Borobudur, Bali, Java, Thailand and Cambodia, he was struck by the deep and enduring affinity that these countries had with India. In mellifluous verse, Tagore captured in his poem ‘Sagarika’ the rich and vibrant past which bound these nations together.

Trade took in its wake, the culture of India to her eastern neighbors. The temples of southern and eastern India bear close resemblance in style and inspiration to those of south-eastern Asia. India too was enriched by the cross-fertilization of ideas from these societies. Hinduism, Buddhism, art, sculpture, spices, silk, gold and pearls traveled in “the jeweled ships” which Tagore mentioned in his poem.

This rich and peaceful intermingling was destroyed in the middle ages when various invasions disrupted these societies. The jeweled ships ceased to sail and the great monuments chiseled into splendor were abandoned and covered by forests.

As in India, so too in Cambodia, officers of the colonial era chanced to discover the forgotten treasures in stone. As Burgess discovered Ajanta so Henri Mahout discovered Angkor Vat four centuries after it fell to the forests. It took another century before earnest efforts were made to restore the grandeur of Angkor Vat. The Ecole Francaise Extreme Orient was established in 1900 when the French archaeologists in Indo-China took up conservation of this vast temple complex, utilizing the documentation done in earlier decades. The onset of civil strife in the l970s disrupted the French restoration efforts. In 1980, Prince Norodom Sihanouk made appeal to the comity of nations, seeking assistance for restoration of Cambodia’s greatest architectural treasure.

Cambodia had emerged from colonial and civil wars and wanted this temple complex to be restored since this monument is the national symbol of Cambodia. Responding to this appeal, the then Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi offered to send experts to assist in the effort to preserve Angkor Vat. After preliminary explorations and investigations, the assessing team made its recommendations for the conservation of Angkor Vat. The entire project was financed by the Ministry of External Affairs under its ITEC Programme and the work was done by the Archaeological Survey of India. The conservation programme was an endeavor spread over seven years in which various teams of the ASI worked at various seasons from 1986 to 1993. The Archaeological Survey of India had undertaken conservation works in Barniyan (Afghanistan) and in Angola but neither was comparable in scope to the work in Angkor Vat whose restoration is yet another great achievement of the Archaeological Survey of India.

In a way, it was a great adventure overseas, not unlike the ones undertaken by scholars, artists, merchants and princes who crossed the eastern seas in the early Christian era to trade spices, gems and ideas with their counterparts in Cambodia, Java, Bali and Siam.


Angkor Vat temple-complex in Cambodia, symbol of Khmer genius in creating a micro-cosmic universe is world famous, and has rightly been inscribed on the list of World Heritage Monuments by the UNESCO. However, due to innumerable reports appearing in the western media appreciating as well as criticizing the principles and methodology adopted by the Archaeological Survey of India in conserving the great heritage of Cambodia. Angkor Vat has been in limelight again particularly since 1986, the year from which the Archaeological Survey of India started the conservation of the monument as part of the bilateral agreement between the Governments of India and Cambodia. Unfortunately, however the work undertaken by the Archaeological Survey of India has been misunderstood rather than appreciated. This is obviously due to lack of effort on the part of the Archaeological Survey of India to counter the criticism by giving wide publicity to the conservation works carried out by the ASI in Angkor Vat. One could perhaps understand this since the Archaeological Survey of India in its long history of more than one hundred and thirty years has never tried to give publicity to the enormous and varied works done for the conservation and preservation of the monumental heritage of India. This has obviously been due to the feeling that the systematic and sustained work being carried out by it will speak for itself. However, it is now necessary, under the present circumstances, to document the works and publish it, not only for silencing the critics, but also as a document for the posterity.

I am greatly indebted to the Ministry of External Affairs and the Secretary, Department of Culture, Ministry of Human Resource Development, on behalf of the ASI and myself, for having full confidence and entrusting the prestigious work of conserving Angkor Vat.

I am thankful to (late) Shri K.P. Gupta, SM B.S. Nayal and Shri C.L. Sun, who had successfully led the conservation teams from 1986-87 to 1989-90 seasons, and for supplying all relevant information and documents which helped in writing this report. I am also thankful to members of the successive teams whose devotion to duty despite the most difficult and adverse situations made it possible to achieve success in conserving the magnificent temple-complex. I am beholden to the State of Cambodia, on behalf of successive team leaders and myself, for the full cooperation extended in executing the works, in spite of the extremely difficult times and financial constraints faced by them, and to the staff of the Conservation D’ Angkor, who not only helped in all possible manner in the execution of work, but also looked after the comfort of the successive teams, while staying in Siem Reap. My thanks are also due to the hundreds of laborers for their whole-hearted efforts in executing the works.

We could not have achieved the desired result in conserving the Angkor Vat without the active participation of the Indian Embassy at Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. I must mention specially, my gratitude’s to Shri C.M. Bhandari, His Excellency the Ambassador to Cambodia, for taking keen interest in the works and for going out of his way to look after the safety and comfort of the teams. I am also grateful to all the staff members of the Embassy.

My grateful thanks to the publication section of the survey for making valuable suggestions and corrections as well as for the trouble taken in bringing out this beautiful publication within the shortest time possible. Thanks are also due to Shri M.S.R.K Prasad, Draughtsman and his colleagues for finalizing the drawing for publications. I am also thankful to Sarvashri Rajbir Singh, Sovan Chatterji and B.S. Rajput photographs of the directorate for providing excellent photographs for illustration. Thanks are also due to Shri S. Murlaidarna for neatly typing the manuscript.

I would also like to thank M/S Bengal offset works have done a commendable job in bring in out this volume nicely in a short time.


Foreword vii
Preface xiii
List of Plates xix
List of figures xxiii
Chapter IIntroduction conservation 1
Chapter IIPrinciples and Methods 11
Chapter IIIStructural Conservation 17
1. Stepped Embankment of Moat 17
2. Fourth Enclosure on western side (Main Gateway) 18
(a) Northern Elephant Gateway 18
(b) Southern Elephant Gateway 18
(c) Stepped entrance on west to northern and southern galleries 19
(d) Exterior and Interior of Galleries 19
3. Southern and Northern Libraries between third and fourth Enclosures 20
(a) Southern Library 20
(i) Porches 20
(ii) Western Façade 20
(iii) South west Corner 21
(iv) Western Mandapa (Pavillion) 21
(v) Torana on northern Mandapa (Pavillion) 21
(vi) Southern entrance Porch 21
(b) Northern Library 21
(i) North East comer 21
(ii) Northern side 21
(iii) Western Porch 21
(iv) Mending and casting of architectural members 21
(4) Esplanade (Ranga Mancha) 22
(a) North Eastern and North western comers 22
(b) Southern stepped entrance 22
(c) Flooring 22
(d) Naga Railing 22
(e) Mending of Pillars 23
5. Third Enclosure 23
(a) western and northern stepped entrance and porches at north west comer 23
(b) Stepped entrance porch between north west comer and western central entrances 23
(c) Western central stepped entrance porch 23
(d) Western central Stepped entrance porch 23
(e) Western Stepped entrance porch at south west comer 23
(f) Northern central stepped entrance porch 24
(g) Northern and Eastern porches at north east comer 24
(h) Stepped entrance porch between north west cormer and eastern central entrance porches 24
(i) Eastern central entrance porch 24
(j) Southern gallery on eastern side (Samudramanthana Gallery) 25
(i) Superstructure 25
(ii) Flooring 27
(iii) Water tightening 28
(k) Entrance pavilion north of Samudramanthana Gallery 28
(l) South East comer entrance pavilion 29
(m) Eastern entrance porch at South East Corner 31
(n) Southern entrance porch at eastern corner 31
(o) Southern central entrance porch 31
(p) Inner Entrance porch on southern side 35
(q) Southern inner entrance porch on eastern side 35
(r) Central inner entrance porch on eastern side 38
(s) Northern inner entrance porch on eastern side 38
(t) Inner entrance porch on northern side 39
(u) South west corner entrance pavilion 39
(v) western and eastern galleries on northern side 41
(i) Western Gallery 43
(ii) Eastern Gallery 48
(w) Northern and Southern galleries on western side 48
(i) Northern Gallery 48
(ii) Southern Gallery 48
(x) Northern Gallery on eastern side 48
6. Southern and Northern libraries between second and third enclosures 49
(a) Southern Library 49
(i) Southern Stepped entrance 49
(ii) Northern stepped entrance 49
(b) Northern Library 49
(i) Southern Facade 49
(ii) Northern Facade 49
(iii) Eastern Facade 52
(iv) Western Façade 52
(c) Topmost Torana 52
(d) Entrance Porch 52
(e) Plinth and Stepped Entrance 55
7. Antechamber (Crufiform Gallery) between second and third enclosures 55
(a) Southern Stepped entrance 55
(b) Northern Stepped entrance 59
(c) Interior 59
(d) Southern Gallery 59
8. Second Enclosure 59
(a) Eastern entrance at North corner 59
(b) Eastern Central entrance 59
(c) Eastern Entrance at south corner 66
(d) Southern entrance at east corner 66
(e) Southern central entrance 66
(f) Southern entrance at west corner 67
(g) Western Entrance at west corner 67
(h) Western and Northern stepped entrances 67
(i) Western stepped entrance 67
(ii) Northern stepped entrance 67
(i) Northern central entrance 72
(j) North West Exterior corner 72
(k) South West corner tower 72
(l) North West corner tower 73
(m) North East Corner Tower 73
(n) South East Corner tower 73
(o) Galleries 73
9. First Enclosure 73
(a) Towers 73
(b) Galleries 76
10 Railing between third and fourth enclosures 76
(a) Stepped entrance at North west corner 76
(b) South east corner 77
11. Provding expanded welded mesh 77
Chapter IVChemical Preservation 78
1. Decay of Building materials 78
(a) Physical Decay78
(b) Chemical Decay 79
(2) Chemical Treatment 80
Chapter VConclusion 82
Select Bibliography 85
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