Intricate Tympanums

Tympanum, for me, is not a common word to use in daily talk. Actually I did not know its meaning on the first time I heard that word. What’s a Tympanum? But after reading many resources about the Khmer temples then I started to know its meaning.

A tympanum is a word coming from Greek and Latin. Originally it means a drum. But in this posting, in the term of architecture or building construction, a tympanum means the triangular, or sometimes, semi-circular decorative wall surface over an entrance, door or window. It is usually bounded by a lintel (a horizontal structural block above the door or gate) and an arch (or a triangle). It usually contains ornaments, sculpture or other imagery as decoration of the building itself. Sometimes the ornaments show the important message of the building.

In Khmer temples, it’s a common to see the tympanum over a door although the decoration on lintels are more common.

And I remember when I visited Preah Vihear temple and also Banteay Srei for the first time, I was so amazed with the tympanums on both temples. I had imaginations that both temples are so astonishing in their time.

Tympanum on Preah Vihear

As an ancient Hindu temple, it’s believed that Preah Vihear temple was built on an unique location during the great period of Khmer Empire. This mountain temple which was listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located atop a 525-metre cliff in the Dângrêk Mountains, in the province of Preah Vihear, Cambodia. Until now, the temple is amazing and the scenery from the temple is breathtaking.

While exploring, I was attracted to the tympanum over one of the doors there. The carving on the tympanum describes about the Churning the Ocean of Milk, a momentous event in Hindu mythology which also called as Samudra Manthan that appears in the Hindu holy books and the Epic Mahabharata. It’s about the story of the Devas or the Gods obtaining the ultimate prize of immortality by consuming Amrit, the elixir of immortality

Visiting Preah Vihear was one of my memorable trip, not only because of the beauties of the temple and view, but also the unforgettable situation. I was there when the temple and its surroundings became part of the dispute area between Cambodia and Thailand. It’s not surprising when I saw many soldiers on standby there.

Preah Vihear, Cambodia

Tympanum on Banteay Srei

Different to Angkor Wat or Angkor Thom which is big in size, the temple complex of Banteay Srei is relatively small. But it’s not about the size, Banteay Srei is well-known of its beauty with intricate carvings. Because of its attractive beauty, this temple has so many nick-names. The pink temple, Citadel of the women, Lady temple, Citadel of beauty are some of those nick-names. It’s all an indication that Banteay Srei is the beautiful, distinctive gem among the grandeur Angkorian temples.

Banteay Srei

Banteay Srei is a modern name that was given to this beautiful temple, which means of Citadel of Women. But who knows originally its name was Tribhuvanamahesvara?

But look at its tympanum. It really has a beautiful intricate carving!

The intricate carvings In Banteay Srei
Tympanum on Banteay Srei

This post was written in response to the weekly challenge from Celina’s Blog, Srei’s Notes, Cerita Riyanti, and also A Rhyme In My Heart, -similar to the old Weekly Photo Challenge from WordPress-, which is the 38th week of 2020 has the theme of Triangle, so we are encouraged ourselves to write articles weekly. If you are interested to take part in this challenge, we welcome you… and of course we will be very happy!

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