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Emperor Asoka of the Maurya Dynasty

Emperor Asoka of India sent Buddhist missionaries to countries like China, Burma (now known as Myanmar), Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Sri Lanka. Most of these countries accepted some form of Buddhism, and their art and architecture was greatly influenced by Indian art. In Indonesia the Temple of Borobudur is one such instance. In Cambodia the great Temple of Angkor Wat is a magnificent example of this influence exerted by India.

A hundred years ago nobody in the modern world knew of Angkor. How had this happened? For different reasons, the city of Angkor had been left empty and, after a few centuries the jungle grew over the temple and the city, hiding them from view. Cambodians forgot about it. Old Chinese history books spoke of a great temple in Cambodia but no one knew where it was, since no one lived in that forested area any longer.

A source of great national pride, Angkor Wat has been depicted in Cambodian national flags since 1863

One day in 1850 a French missionary saw some old ruins in a jungle and he wrote a description of them. In 1860 an Englishman named D O King visited what he could of the ruins, and wrote an article about them. But the credit for discovering the famous old temple goes to Henry Mouhot, a French scientist who went into the jungle and lived for three weeks in the ruins of Angkor. He studied them. Scholars took notice of this newly discovered city and so the restoration of the city and of its greatest building, the temple of Angkor Wat, began.

Little by little the jungle was cleared away. The rooms and statues of the temple were cleaned. Mud and earth were swept out. The lovely temple, and several others, emerged for the first time after centuries of being hidden beneath undergrowth and trees. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rajiva Wijesinha

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