A Mix of Religions
Cambodia has a dual religious history. At first the Khmer kings followed Hinduism, modeled after neighboring India. These kings built many of the huge cities, temples, and buildings that are today so popular with tourists.
In many of these temples are carvings of Hindu gods. Krishna and Shiva may appear. In some buildings, like East Mebon, elephants represent Ganesh. The ancient system of resevoirs, complete with manmade islands, was supposed to copy the Hindu picture of the universe. But then things changed.
A second religion came from India. Buddhism grew throughout Asia, spreading further than Hinduism ever did. The kings of Cambodia changed their religion. While the temples still had Hindu carvings across the walls, Buddhist monks moved in. Statues of Buddha took up places next to Hindu nagas. This dual religious heritage persisted for years.
In recent history the rich religious iconography of the temples and ruins was largely destroyed. During the wars of the 20th centurty, many of the Buddhas were chopped down. Their heads were removed, their arms were hacked off. Some was due to looting. Colonial powers tried to take back as much of the exquisite object of history as possible. Later, the Khmer Rouge tried to break the people’s ties to their religion. However, the looting and destruction did not break the will of the people.
In nearly every temple small shrines still continue to honor Buddha. Niches hold tables of offerings and incense. People still care for the remaining Buddha stumps. You can easily find hunks of rock, often the torso or legs of an old statue, dressed in saffron robes and silks that are changed regularly.
Cambodia has a rich religious history. The people have remained devoted despite the pressure to abandon their faith, and they will continue to follow their beliefs into the future.
Korean word of the post: 종교 (jong-gyo) religion
Chinese word of the post: 宗教 (zong1 jiao4) religion
Khmer word of the post: សាសនា (saasnaa) religion