Monday, July 14, 2014

Sites : Ounalom Temple Phnom Penh

You are at - Jotaro's Blog / Footsteps /  Sites / Ounalom Temple Phnom Penh
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Phnom Penh, Cambodia - June 2014
The Ounalom Temple located at Sisowath Quay (that's the river-front road at Phnom Penh's Mekong riverside) is often overlooked by tourists. I myself have passed by it many times and had not gone in. Most tourists will visit the Royal Palace and the Royal Museum and give this a miss. This time round, I made up my mind to go in and see what's inside.
Ounalom is the main Buddhist temple in Phnom Penh. There are many temples in Phnom Penh and Ounalom is the largest.

From my hotel I cycled over to the temple, it was just after 5:00 pm; but dusk starts setting in at this time so my photos may not be the best. Go there around 3:00 pm. Entry is free and the monks there are warm and welcoming. Just respect the place and follow whatever customs is required (like taking of you shoes to enter the temple) and don't make a nuisance of oneself.

Front view of the main temple.
The buildings in this temple complex looks relatively new, but Ounalom is actually a very old temple being founded in 1443 AD. The original buildings suffered massive destruction during the Khmer Rouge period (i.e. the mid- to late 70s). Many of the forty-four building in the complex has since been rebuilt. In fact, some construction are still ongoing.

Entry is through this pagoda-like  main archway facing the riverside. There is another entrance near this but that is normally closed.

A close-up view of this arch shows the detailing of carvings on it's tiers.

On entering, to one side I was greeted by a almost life-sized elephant statue. A Cambodian lady with her bright dress added colour to the scene. Oh, yes... that's my bicycle there, it wanted to join in the scene.

A historical horse carriage, the poor horse is missing a leg.

A large golden bell hangs on strong steel trestles, ready to ring out at scheduled times.

The ring that holds up the bell is a cast iron dragon. Curiously, there are Chinese characters on the bell.

A dark grey centopath more than thirty feet tall is also situated in the gardens, perhaps it is a tomb?

Near the steps leading up to the main temple, a water-buffalo sits idly and gazes nonchalantly into the distance.

The Main Temple (called the Preah Vichear) sits on a platform about twenty feet above ground.

 Right at the top of the roof a red pagoda shoots up.

Instead of the usual elephant trunks, the corners of the roof hips are decorated with stylized dragon heads

A close up look at one of the dragon head sculptures that adorn the roof hip corner.

Inside, at the centre front is the altar for praying and offerings. Carpets are laid on the floor for devotees to sit/kneel and pray.

A close-up look at the altar statues.

 A look at the Main Temple Prayer Hall from a corner. Carpets are laid at the centre, with spare rolls on standby for laying at the sides (i.e. during festival days when more devotees come). The floor is laid with floral pattern tiles and the ceiling sectionalized with golden drop boxes.

To the front left is a painting of Buddha receiving gifts from a kneeling elephant. Around Buddha's head is a flashing halo.

I was lucky to witness a scene of a reposing lady devotee being blessed with holy water by a kneeling monk.

Ounalom Temple has forty-four buildings/structures within its grounds. Looking from the riverside, the four main building fronts the road. The Main Temple is the the third building from the left. The left most building (shown in photo above) seems to house an office or administrative centre. It's a simple squarish building but yet has some embellishment to give it the Khmer look. The roof is two tiered, with the lower tier covered with red clay tiles. The upper roof has a gable ends with a floral carvings. Nagas (dragons) sits on the corners of both roofs.

Each of the gable end is topped with an elephant trunk carving as can bee seen in the silhouette photo above.

Apsara (Khmer angels) at the eaves "hold up" the roof.

  A closer look at the corner Apsara.

To the left and right of the Main Temple are two building of almost similar design. The right smaller one (shown above) probably housed the Buddhist Library before it was relocated in 1999 to the new Buddhist Institute at Sihanouk Boulevard. To the right of this can be seen the Great Stupa.

This one has golden Apsaras holding up the roof.

The Great Stupa.

The building on the left of the Main Temple seems to be two connected buildings, one in front of the other. Was this the building that housed the Buddhist Institute previously?

This building have a secondary green theme. Green trimmings decorate the roof edges and doorway arches are with elaborate green carvings.

Green arches decorates the window tops.

The column corbels is a curiosity, are they stylized snakes or elephant trunks?

Fierce looking green dragons heads adorn the corners of the roof.

The new Buddhist Institute at Sihanouk Boulevard.

At a back corridor stone Khmer soldiers of old guard the most important building of this temple complex - the mausoleum.

The orange Mausoleum. This is reported to hold the eyebrow (in Cambodian called Ounalom, hence the name of the temple) of Buddha.

Samdach Sothearos Boulevard, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
GPS: 11.568149,104.930299

View Ounalom Temple Phnom Penh in a larger map

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