Khmernews

WAT TUOL TOMPUNG

Posted by khmernews on November 8, 2006

Wat Tuol Tompung is located on Mao Tse Tung Boulevard a few blocks west of  Monivong, and is situated on the south side of the street, It is a large and bustling complex housing an active school offering English language classes.

The Wat dates from the 1940’s, when the King gave land for the construction of a large Wat of the Manhaukai  sect. Inside the vihara there is  a plaque at the feet of the large Buddha statue, thanking the King for his generosity.

At the four corners of the courtyard are gates surmounted with animals : a turtle, a cock, an ox, and a naga. These represent the four reincarnations of the Buddha just before he came to earth in his final human form. There is a fifth and final reincarnation as a prince ( often identified with a lion ) whose statue is to be found just outside the western entrance to the sanctuary.

The paintings on the inside of the vihara are dated around 1963-64. During the 1970’s the pagoda was closed by the Khmer Rouge but not severely damaged. The large painting are therefore some of the best preserved art of the pre-Khmer Rouge period. They represent only a few of the major scenes from the Buddha’s life –the birth, the ploughing festival, the hermit’s prediction, the wedding, the cutting of the hair, the fasting, the elephant and monkey, the split into five parts, the visit to the mother in heaven, and the battle with Mara. Of particular interest is that of the ploughing festival, which contains the incongruous portraits of four of the donor’s (one Om Cheng Sun ) body- guards, dressed in modern army uniforms, complete with modern helmets.

There are also large and colorful depictions of the 10 jataka lives. The visit of Nemeriech to hell shows some gruesome Negroid heads boiling in oil for eternity. The Mahasot picture is that of finding his country wife, an ox and plough appearing in the background just to reinforce the bucolic setting. The portrait of Promenart is the version showing the golden orbs coming from heaven, and the same Negroid heads appear in this painting.

The large Buddha in the center of the sanctuary is flanked by the two main disciples, Sariput and  Mokkellien. Then further down, surrounding the base, are the five original disciples : Kasipat, Opelli, Kavambadi, Reahula, and Kandanya, as well as the Buddha’s chief attendant, Ananda. All these statues have the names of the disciples inscribed on the back.
The old and subdued colors of the paintings are somewhat marred by the bright pink pillars supporting the roof. The walls have the rather unusual feature of the seimas (makers of sacred ground ) on the interior of the vihara. The one at the east end of the sanctuary depicts the Nieng Kang Hing and the crocodile, a typically Cambodian symbol reminding the visitor of the Buddha’s battle with Mara, Prince of Darkness.

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