Monday, June 23, 2008

Agent Of History


Do you like dance?

Possessing the power to capture imaginations and emotions, and thus to ''transport'' people to other times and places, dance is sensually and socially impassioned. An integral component of spiritual life and rites of passage, and a popular form of entertainment for people the world over.

In Cambodia, this is true as well.

The Cambodian culture is very rich and varied that is what grabs my attention completely. The country shows not only characteristic styles of dance, sculpture and architecture as well.

The height of Khmer culture art and architecture dates from the Angkor period. Common motifs in Khmer sculpture are apsaras (celestial nymphs) which have become a kinda symbol of the Khmer culture. The apsaras are carved with splendidly ornate jewellry, clothed in the latest Angkor fashion and represented the ultimate ideal of feminine beauty of that time. Most of the motifs have been taken from Indian art, and have been modified into what is now known as traditional Khmer art.

Along with the magnificent temples of Angkor, Cambodia's dance traditions are among the world's most luminous and evocative cultural expressions. Dance and music are more than cherished theatrical forms. They are a living kinetic history. They make manifest politics and power, in still social and religious practices, and reflect spiritual values.

A medium across time, dance has long served as the bridge between the natural and the spiritual worlds and from one era to the next.

At New Year time in mid-April, the dancers of the court tradition enact sacred legends meant as offerings. If the deities are pleased with the presentation, then it's believed they will bestow blessings on Cambodia and her people. Villagers perform rites which include dance in propitiation of anchestral spirits at select times throughout the year. As a part of wedding party, guests of all ages dance in circular-patterned social dances.

Cambodian dancers trace their art to carvings of celestial dancers on temples dating back 1,000 years to a time when what is now Cambodia was the center of the vast Angkorian Empire, and to stone inscriptions which pre-date those carvings. The dancers of the Kingdom of Cambodia have for centuries been linnked both to religious beliefs and the monarchy.

The Robaim Tralok dance,
which is also known as the coconut shells dance,
is a popular folk dance

Cambodian dances of this tradition are populated with princes and princesses, male and female deities, giants (often evil) and monkeys (often good-hearted). Girls dance the roles of princesses, princes, gods and goddesees, and giants; boys dance that of the monkey. While some works are complex dance-dramas of love and war and magic, others are considered ''pure'' dance pieces, meant to evoke a sense of reverence without telling an explicit story.

Dance, the spirit of Cambodia exemplifies the struggle to reaffirm Cambodia's cultural legacy and share it with a new generation at home and the world at large. As of the millenium, this world-renowned tradition is living testimony to the endurance of Cambodia's culture, and a foundation for its culture. Today as Cambodia emerges from two decades of war, poverty and political instability, its society looks to the rebirth and renewal of these traditions.

So dance is more than a mirror in Cambodia, it is an agent of history.

We, even myself, generally know Japan, China and Korea, but not Southeast Asia. I'd like you to take a journey in Southeast Asian culture through Cambodia.

You need a guide? Well, my dear friend, Kate from Malaysia is right here. Let me state that she recently returned from a trip in Cambodia, read her rich travel notes here and here to learn more about Cambodia,
which was previously known Kampuchea, is located at the South East Asia, and with a population of above thirteen million, it is one of the most visited destinations of the world.

In Cambodian Khmer language, I would like to give my or-koon (English: Thank you) to you Kate, for the beautiful postcard of Cambodia which is arrived safely, as photographed above.

Another 'first and unique' addy for my ever getting richer postcard collection!

Just me:) Erdek beach,
south of the Sea of Marmara, Turkey


  1. I found M Kate's blog earlier through you. She is another one who shares so much history which I enjoy.

    Thanks for telling us about the history of Cambodian dance.


  2. great post ! I love your card ! you look gorgeous !

  3. Firstly, I re read the entire post twice! As usual, absolutely fantastic, your writting and research skills are perfect!! I believe Cambodia postcard will be the first few of many.

    Love love love the Apsara dancers!! You really did this very well, love it to the max!!

    Thank you for the photo, if you dont mind, I am going to steal it and put it to my side bar! its better than award coz this is personal and it has the very beautiful Nihal in it :D
    gosh.. Nihal, how I wish I could just whisk over to Turkey and take that beach walk with you, certainly looks awesome to me !!!

    I'll be back to re-read this post again!!

    Lots of love my dearest Nihal and big bear hug to you too :D

    or-koon for the picture, its the best in months!!!

  4. Nihal, this really grabbed my attention because I have always been fascinated by Southeast Asia.

    Many years ago when I was in school I did a paper on Thailand, and since then I have been attracted by the culture in Southeast Asia. The people are so strong and diverse while still maintaining the fascination of their long history.

    Very interesting and well-written. Thanks

  5. This was absolutely fascinating and beautifully written, Nihal! I, too, was the lucky recipient of a post card from M. Kate from her trip to Cambodia, and I have been remiss not to recognize it as beautifully as you did as I was away when it arrived!
    I would like to link to this blog post on my blog tomorrow if you don't mind.

    Thanks so much!

    Pat in NY

  6. you discribed it so perfectly. the khmer share a rich culture and even dancing becomes a part of it.
    interesting post to read but what is even more fascinating is your beach image at the bottom of the post... lovely nihal in summer blue walking along the mediterrenean shore!!!!

  7. @ Kate: I hope the Kingdom of Cambodia appreciates the cultural cooperation existing between two countries Turkey and Malaysia, LOL:)
    Ohh.. merci thanks or-koon for your compliment, dear.. I feel myself like a happiest butterfly:) Sure, you can get my photo and use where you like. Who says 'No' to become famous;)

    @ Pat: Of course, go ahead and link me in your post. I'd love to be linked from one of my top fave NYC:) Btw, thanks a million for your nice comments on me! Love to hear from you as always.

    @ Marita: The Sea of Marmara is the inland sea that connects the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea, thus separating the Asian part of Turkey from its European part, if you search the google or wikipedia. The Sea has an area of 11,350 km². So I was walking along the Sea of Marmara, the south of Istanbul City, but not Mediterranean shore:)