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Posted on Friday, August 05 - 2005

" Spread out amongst the dense jungles of Cambodia hide the remains of an ancient and grand civilization. Once inhabited by a people known as the Khmer, today millions of tourists visit the temples at Angkor to get a glimpse of the majesty of this once proud city.While most visitors focus ..."

Known from Hindu and Buddhist mythology, the naga is a snake of gigantic proportions.

Spread out amongst the dense jungles of Cambodia hide the remains of an ancient and grand civilization. Once inhabited by a people known as the Khmer, today millions of tourists visit the temples at Angkor to get a glimpse of the majesty of this once proud city.While most visitors focus on the beauty of the city’s towering temples, another story lies in the intricate stone carvings adorning the buildings.These inscriptions tell of everyday life, grand military conquests and perhaps most intriguing of all, strange mythological creatures. But are all the fantastic animals depicted at Angkor purely myth, or are some of them based on realcreatures that once lived? The Khmer began to develop as a unique culture in Cambodia around 2000 years ago. Early contact with Indian traders had a tremendous influence on this developing society, bringing agricultural, mathematical and literary knowledge to the coastal regions of Cambodia.

This contact also brought with it Hindu beliefs, in particular the worship of Vishnu and Shiva. In later years, Mahayana Buddhism was introduced to the Khmer, followed by Theravada Buddhism in the thirteenth century.1 Even a casual perusal of the stone carvings at Angkor shows the importance that Hindu and Buddhist beliefs had to these ancient people. The most commoncreatures represented at Angkor come from Hindu mythology. One of the most unique of these is the Garuda, a creature comprised of the head, wings and talons of an eagle with the body of a man. One of the three principle animal deities in Hindu mythology, the Garuda is the king of the birds and enemy of the serpent. Some of the most impressive examples of the Garuda at Angkor can be found along the outside walls at Preah Khan. This impressive site also contains many wonderful examples of giant trees fused with the natural stonework of the site. While the Garuda is most likely a purely mythological being based on a combination of two real creatures (the eagle and man), our next animal may share its mythological heritage with a living animal. The highlight of any trip to Angkor is usually a visit to the vast and towering temple complex known as AngkorWat. Upon passing ......

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