In Indian philosophy, life and death are two stations in the passage of life. Both are certainties. Through death one yearns release from the tethering of life; again & yet again. That release can happen through Knowledge.
Two men of the recent era come to mind almost with reflex action when we think of men (or women) of great knowledge. Both from different streams of thinking. But both equally celebrated; both equally followed.
John Forbes Nash Jr, the mathematician who stalked this earth in our times was by far the most intelligent or shall I state the most cerebrally developed human being of the recent centuries. His life, though ended very abruptly about two years ago besides having been seized with great misfortunes for nearly four decades, was no less than a pilgrimage in itself. He was brought on the earth by the Gods to accomplish something few others have. He would say ‘whatever you touch should be imbued with your glamour’. A man of immense knowledge , wisdom and of course human fallibility.
The other being J Krishnamurti, the most celebrated philosopher who was a true genius and climbing whose shoulder lesser people could get a fresh perspective into life itself. He would often state ‘keep auditing your steps, whatever you are doing. You would never go wrong treading the path of your life’. There is much more to both of these gentlemen than just preaching. They led a life of an ascetic, totally detached from the worldly fetters. Both were true geniuses, men of knowledge & wisdom few could possess. It might not be a hyperbole if one could dare surmise that both of them were closer to the supreme being compared to us, the ordinary.
It is this virtue called knowledge that everyone endeavours to pursue to reach the ultimate goal; that being unity with the Supreme Identity, God Himself. This knowledge, this sense of realisation in itself is the means as also the end. Some attain it while alive, the other at their death. For vast majority, who might not possess the faculties, training or opportunity to attain that knowledge, the other path is open as well, that of pilgrimage. With control of mind and their actions, they also are able to arrive at the centre with sapience and austerities. But the ultimate wish remains the same within each human being – to be one with Him; irrespective of the faith one follows.
Pilgrimages are taken by humans to places which have been carefully selected by very erudite men & women and which fulfil certain principles laid down through generations embedded within rich & celebrated scriptures. Fundamentally, it could be any place. But, those places which fulfil the tenets so laid down by those sacred souls & the Holy Scriptures, possess the divine virtues that can cleanse our body & mind. These are the pilgrimages which help us attain our central goal of life.
Pilgrimages are the places where Gods live & play. Where there are water channels, lakes, springs, seas and waterfalls. Where swan swim in pairs; where there are trees around and where lotuses and lilies abound. Mountain tops where pure, crisp & pristine wind blows through the valleys. The Gods love such places. Why? Even we humans love such spaces. Where there is confluence of such bounty of the Mother for souls, both terrestrials and those extra-terrestrials, temples are built there.
Rivers have this natural habit of meandering like human mind does. There is so much in nature for us to follow. Such sites, the Vedas and Vaastu-Shastra lay down as the perfect sites for creating abodes of The Gods. And for the man. Shastras also lay down in unambiguous terms that in case such spaces & such like places aren’t available, then there is a holy provision for creating water bodies artificially and then build temples there; of course there are other conditions that have to be met too.
For example, the Temple City of Madurai, India is built along the River Vaigai. There is yet another very important tenet that has to be followed. That being of building on the convex side along a river. That is what has been done at Madurai, because we know that the rivers meander and on the concave side, they form chutes over time, something that can damage the site and the buildings.
Temples in the olden times were built first and then villages, towns and the cities came up around them. The direction of entrance of the Temple and the facing of the main deity were also decided as per the Vaastu norms. East facing as also North facing were the best directions. The shape of the plot and land and the design of the Temple complex were very important steps during these decisions.
But of utmost significance always aws the site itself. If that lent to temple building norms, all the rest followed.
At Angkor, there wasn’t to be any natural water body found. Therefore, a moat of nearly 200 meters width was created. It surely appears very pleasing to the eye, both from the Ground, and from air. There are lilies aplenty and there is at least one large Pipal, Ficus religiosa, tree; the tree of Lord Vishnu Himself. There is no written record available regards site selection. However, it being in the middle of a huge tract of forest, it must be meeting most of the requirements such as the pleasant smell of the soil, its colour to be red or dark brown or yellow, taste of the soil and the land being generally very flat.
Land where there are thorny trees, bones lying around, excreta covering the spaces, barren salty & pungent taste land were forbidden for the temples.
I tried to smell the air and the soil there. It smells nice and air is absolutely pristine even today whereas most of the world is polluted and land getting more and more contaminated elsewhere. Though I did not try to taste it for reasons of personal hygiene, other conditions are apparently met that bears true to the fact that nearly a thousand years ago it must have only been much better.
If that be so, it is beyond common understanding, then as to how Angkor reached this state? I constantly keep wondering regards this central quest.