Angkor What?!

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During J-term 2019, 367 students and 32 program leaders will participate in one of Luther's 18 courses around the globe.Each course is a different journey and has a different blogger (or several). Below you'll find a blog post from the War, Peace, and Reconciliation in Cambodia course. Check out the January Term 2019 Course Blogs page for more on each of the courses! Although it's impossible to keep up with everyone, these blogs are designed to provide glimpses into our students' adventures.

Today we went to some of the temples at Angkor Wat, including Angkor Wat temple itself and Ta Prohm! It was such an amazing day of adventures! We saw so many gorgeous carvings in the walls, some even depicting the history of the khmer people. We saw trees that were 300 years old that had grown into the temples and created such a gorgeous landscape to see! We also explored through Angkor Wat and learned that it was once covered in gold leaf and various colored paints, which is so interesting to imagine because it is now all the color of the stone beneath the paint! There were so many Buddha statues throughout the temples, and this allowed some of the students to pray and give their offerings in such an old and sacred place.

One of our areas of study on this trip is religion, and there’s so much to learn about it! We’ve learned that there are many different types of buddhism, and only one of them is mainly practiced in Cambodia, it’s called Theravada Buddhism. This is the type of buddhism that replaced the practice of Hinduism in Cambodia, which was the first main religion here! Throughout our travels we have seen a good mix of both Buddha statues and statues of the Hindu gods and goddesses, though some have been very badly broken.

One has to remember that this is a country that has gone through a very recent civil war and genocide. One of the marks this country has of this is the broken statues. Buddhas and Hindu deities with their heads broken off can be found all around Cambodia, and sadly even in the sacred and ancient temples of Angkor Wat. This was done because the ruling party at the time, the Khmer Rouge, did not believe in religion being part of a working community, so they destroyed many statues to try and rid the country of the religion.

As we go through Cambodia, we are learning so much about how the past has impacted the present, and it’s really helped all of us to see how important it is for us to really think hard about the decisions we’re making on a daily basis. Sometimes over thinking can be negative, and we need to be aware of that too, though it is important to think not only how what you’re doing will impact you, but others and the world around you.

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