San Sarin, worthy scholar of Sanskrit, is by profession an accountant though he possesses deep knowledge of Sanskrit language and literature, as he cherishes great interest in this subject. He is a regular contributor to the World Sanskrit Conference. He has visited thereby many countries where this conference was held in past.
We met in Leiden, The Netharland where the World Sanskrit Conference was organized. Fortunately he took us to an exhibition where photos etc. of the Khmer sculptures of Angkorian period were displayed. There with great interest he has explained especially the greatest temple in the world of "The Great God Visnu of the world." The complete structure of the series of these temples is spread in the area of 12 km x 12 km. which is known as "Big City”. As Mr.San Sarin has explained in his introduction, "The Big City" with its squareness (12 km x 12 km). This City is surrounded by large trenches and walls. It has four axial doors which direct to the four cardinal points of space. The centre of these four directions is started from the Bayon, the last Khmer "Temple- Mountain". The fifth door called Dvar ...~, "Victory Door", is at the East side, opened on the ancient pavement guided toward the "Royal Tribune" and the "Royal Palace". Each door of the City has three big and imposing towers."
The author of "Samudramanthana" is inspired by this scene of churnig of the ocean for Amrta. He has provided us with the text of "Sarnudramanthana" from the Adi Parvan of Mahabharata with translation and a critical notes on each and every word. Here his deep knowledge of Sanskrit Grammer is evident. He has in his introduction provided us with the comperitive study of "Samudramanthana" of Matsya-Purana, Visnu Purana, Bhagavata Purana and Mahabharata.
As it is noted by Mr. San Sarin in his introduction - "On counting the protagonists at the right hand of the dancing God V4r:ru, we have 92. This is the demon's camp. At the left hand of the God, the number of protagonists is 88. This is the gods' camp." Being an accountant he has tried in his own way to explain the secret of 92 and 88, which would prove interesting.
I congratulate Mr. San Sarin for his deep critical study of the Sanskrit Text of "Samudramanthana" of Mahabharata Adi Parvan. He has sent this text to me before some years. I have presented it to the Grant-in-aid committee for publication and Prof. V. Kutumbshastri, then Vice-Chancellor of the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, and other members have approved it for publication. Today the book sees the day light especially when the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan (Deemed University) is organizing the World Sanskrit Conference.
I thank Dr. Radha Vallabha Tripathi, the Vice- Chancellor of the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, New Delhi, for bringing out this work at a proper occasion.
I wanted to be a Sanskrit reader and to understand some basics of the language, but it has not been enough to grasp the fundamental sense of certain passages of the epic stories which had been depicted by my ancestors through the many bas- reliefs of Khmer temples.
What I have seen through them, I have realized that the sculptors of the past had deeply known the stories extracted from the great Hindu epics, i.e. the Ramauana and the Ivuthabhnmia.
Moreover, they had rendered the living appearance of what had been told through the strophes of the epics and other old tales.
After a while, I have discovered what I will do, facing the matter which could have got mixed up over the question. To distangle the train of my thought, I have concentrated my mind on three relevant points, so that they should not notice anything discrepant in what I am intending to do. These three relevant points are:
b) Sanskrit grammar studies,
c) Stories depicted by Khmer sculptors of Angkorian period.
These points may be believed to be consistent with the evidences handed down by cultural heritage.
Iconography is one of the matters or topics associated with archaeological studies and it may be a fit element for the framework, which I would like to set forth in the scope.
Sanskrit grammar studies as meant in this view assent to a way of dealing with positive real knowledge of the order and discipline of this language. These grammatical studies attempt to unravel some of the first operational, intellectual attainments-of the fundamental elements of Panini's Sanskrit grammatical system. An analysis of each strophe of the purposeful story aims at bringing in the first elements of Paninian grammar and at the same time improving the contact of the beginners. I have made a decision about the large knowledge of Panini's work by focussing one's attention on each strophe. For that purpose and by degrees, I have never hesitated about quoting the sutra from The Astadhyayi as it is about how to instill into one's mind the deepness of Sanskrit grammatical rules. Otherwise, it is intent on creating an acceptable way with a view to understanding the meanful word used in each strophe. I have resolved the full account of my analysis by producing some useful references as they are needed.
The last relevant point is the story being considered as a support of discussion and analysis. For the present time, I have chosen the large bas-relief that anyone can see at Angkor Vat Temple, East gallery, Southern part (3rd surrounding wall). This is the bas-relief a 50 metres long and 2 metres high; obviously, Khmer sculptors of the Angkor Vat period had a panel of 100 square metres. Admittedly, this is the bigest bas-relief of the world devoted to the churning of the Ocean for Amrta.
Angkor Vat had been built under the reign of King Suryavarman II (1113-1150 A.D.). In this period, Khmer civilization had been at its apotheosis. The Angkor Vat Temple was dedicated to the King as after his death, his soul was believed to be identified with the God Visnu, and received accordingly the posthumous name Paramavisnuloka, "The Great God Visnu of the World".
The theme of the churning of the Ocean for Amrta had been taken up again after Suryavarman II's death. The demons, the gods and the serpent Vasuki had the choice place as they became part and parcel of the creation of urban art. After thirty years of the Angkor Vat style, the forthcoming one was under the reign of Emperor Jayavarrnan VII (1181-1219 A.D.). Bayon style, that is what scholars name the new form of Khmer art of this reign. Moreover some huge temples having been raised up by his authority, the remaining famous work of this Emperor was Angkor Thorn, "The Big City" with its squareness(12 km x 12 km). This City is surrounded by large trenches and walls. It has four axial doors which direct to the four cardinal points of space. The centre of these four directions is started from the Bayon, the last Khmer "Temple-Mountain". The fifth door called DvarJay, "Victory Door", is at the East side, opened on the ancient pavement guided toward the "Royal Tribune" and the "Royal Palace". Each door of the City has three big and imposing towers.
The elements of the churning of the Ocean for Amrta had been making arrangements to create the new effect by the authors of the Bayon style. When anyone goes into the City, he must take the large pavement jumping over the outer trench; the road runs quite a way under the imposing towers and leads then to the Bayon temple. Before reaching these towers, the large pavement on the solid bridge, has at each side the guard-rails made by fifty four colossal human figures. Western travellers and visitors call this pavement the Giant's Causeway, after certain novelists. The giants grapple with a long, immense serpent Vasuki whose tail and five heads raise up again vigorously at the ends. They turn their backs toward the City, and are for anyone who enters in it, the gods at his left-hand and the demons at his right. Grappling with the Vasuki's body and holding on to their positions for ever, their eyes gaze on anyone who has to go in the City. At each door, there are 108 protagonists of the churning of the Ocean.
Going in the City, any visitor is always overwhelmed by a) an uncanny, glassy stare of all the threatening faced demons from his right-hand, b) a silent serene of purpose becoming apparent from the mild features of the gods' faces from his left-hand, c) the gigantic faces of the high three towers, bearing sway over any creature by offering a constant, enigmatic smile. These faces seem to thoroughly stand looking over the 108 protagonists who did what they had been told to be successful in this operation.
One may appreciate B.P.Groslier's point of view: "Now, if one considers the city with its ensemble: the central temple which symbolizes the Mount, the swivel of the Universe, the doors being symmetrically opposed to East-West and North-South, one gets simply a representation of the churning of the Ocean on a gigantic scale. For example, the gods of the Southern door hold on to an end of the tuiga [serpent] who symbolically coils round the central mount, he is on other side, grabbed by the demons of the Northern door. Alternately pulling out, they can make the mountain revolve and spur the Ocean aiming at obtaining the ambrosia. At any time, Khmer Kings had been compared with Visnu churning the Ocean of Milk in order to have the amrta come up, that is abundance, in other words'".
Through two reigns, the theme of the churning of the Ocean had been outshining other decorative lines. Grasping the cause of the choice made by the high authority and the artists of those days will be quite a t\eat. Did they have a wide choice? To see the same theme within less than forty years, one would believe they were intent on conveying a deep message for Cambodia and its people. There is no need for us to hesitate so much about something as it will be about this. For the artists of those days to drop down the theme of churning had been impossible. For us to understand their own mind and intention is still difficult.
The theme of the churning of the Ocean for Amrta did not fail to be known or appreciated in the former period of Khmer art. The case of the Angkor Vat period may have symbolically aimed at what it must have done to strengthen the Kingdom.The churning of the Ocean would have become the "idea-force" as it had been so positive about finding out again the fourteen (or thirteen) precious things which had been lost in the former chaotic period of the universe (Mahapralaya) .
The Angkorian high power had been struck off by the Cham armies in 1177 A.D. Of course, the situation was woeful and people were overcome with grief. The future Jayavarma VII fought back and obtained victory for the whole country. The Emperor began to rule by following the Khmer Mahayana buddhist principles Without kicking out what had been handed down by the past. Under the Jayavarman VII's reign, and besides the classical and well-known meaning, the same theme bore out a practical sense. When the victory had been recovered, people were elated at the thought of peaceful living conditions, but the high political authority had not to be content with glee at the delightful meeting. All that they needed seemed to be a fit set of operational ideas that enabled people to protect themselves and the convenient means to gloat over their potential agressors. The essential meaning of the churning of the Ocean for Amrta had been considered as blending the vital impulse with respect to conveying the purposeful message. The image and the spirit of the theme of the churning had then appeared as a suitable way to impress the good notions upon people of how important the protecting mission was. The reason for what might be called the original method of training that was fitted to stand by in case any battlefield arose.
The Bayon style had an innovation that was the urban art grounded on an important mythology of creation. For us, the real comprehension of the period of Jayavarman VII is still limited. Facing the majesty of each entrance of Angkor Thorn, B.P. Groslier says that "abundance" could have been one of the key-words of the message left by the men of those days.
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