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Neak Poan Temple
Neak Poan Temple
Date:                                   Built in late twelfth century
Religion:                            Buddhism
King:                                  Jayavarman VII (1181-1221)
Posthumous name:       Mahasangatapada
 
Built by king Jayavarman VII before the end of the 12th century, this monument - Neak Poan or the entwined naga - is an artificial island, measuring 350 meters on each side, built in the middle of a reservoir which is also man- made. The modern name, Neak Poan, comes from the motif of serpents encircling the base of the central sanctuary.
An inscription notes that it is "a sacred island, drawing its charm from its ponds and clearing away the sins of those who approach it". The ponds in question number four. They were fed by a complex system of anthropomorphic and zoomorphic fountains. The mysterious curative function of its waters was all the more so, given that the myth of the deliverance of a group of shipwrecked
Neak Pean is standing on the same line to Ta Som and Preah Khan temples locating to the east and the west of lake. The reservoir, which measured 3500 meters by 900 meters, was originally called Jayatataka or "the reservoir of Jayavarman VII". Its modern name is Veal Reach Dak or "plain of the royal reservoir", revealing the collective historical memory of the inhabitants of Angkor who are aware that its four cornered form originate from a Baray, a royal hydraulic project which today lies dry.
 Style:
Neak Pean was designed with five ponds. There’s one pond in the center which is 72m by 72m, and there’re four other ponds locating around the central one. Each of them is 24m by 24m.

Central pond:
the main shrine of this temple was designed in the middle of the central pond. It has a form of a lotus bud and its base is surrounded by two big Naga sculptures. This shrine has a real door to the east and three blind doors on other sides.there’re figures of Buddha Avalokitesvara on its wall. The head of Buddha’s figure to the north door was stolen in 1982. Each corner of the central shrine originally had three headed elephant statue with lion statue riding on top which were made of bronze. A three headed elephant statue symbolized Indra who is a king of heaven, and the lion statue symbolized Kubera, the god of wealth. In the 14th century, Siamese conquered Angkor city.  They took those bronze statues from this temple to Aryuthaya city in Thailand. In the 15th century, the Burmese conquered Aryuthaya, and they took those bronze statues to Mandalay city. Today those statues are still in the museum of Myanmar.
Horse statue:
in the front of the central shrine, there’s a horse statue, in an action of taking off, carrying a group of people. This horse called Balaha. Balaha was a reincarnation of Budhisatva Avalokitesvara. this statues shows one scene of a legend, where Buddha transformed as a flying white horse with five heads to rescue his devotees from a sinking ship caused by a female demon who wanted to eat them.
 
Symbolic:
the central pond of Neak Pean symbolizes Anavatapata Lake. The real location of this lake was believed as the top of Himalaya Mountain. Anvatapata Lake contained spring water and it was protected by Naga and Nagi. According to the legend, Anvatapata Lake was a place where all gods from Mt-Meru and heavens came to take a bath after they had finished their yearly duties.
 
Four other ponds: there’s a sandstone structure at the edge of every small ponds. There’s a head of man, lion, horse, and elephant in those structure symbolizing the four elements.

Drainage and Symbolic:
there’s a drainage in each structure symbolizing the four sacred rivers originated from Mt. Himalaya which provided Holy River for Hindu followers. Those Rivers are Ganga River, Brahmaputra River, Jumana River and Induse River. Today those rivers locate in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Before the cleaning ceremony began, the people had to ask the astrologer what element they had, before they cleaned sin and sickness. Then they invited the monks who were holy men to take a small boat to the central shrine to pray to a golden Buddha statue to take holy water. After that, the monk poured holy water into the drainage to run through to head statue to clean a sinner who was sitting under the spout in there. The people who had water element, had to go to this north structure to clean sin by holy water from the elephant mouth. In here, the sinner had to sit on a lotus pedestal and faced out to the north. The east structure had a human head for the people who had earth element. The south structure had a lion head for the people who had fire element. The west structure had a horse head for the people who had wind element.

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