Golden Ganesh and the Monk of Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm

It was at the mysterious overgrown jungle temple of Ta Prohm in Cambodia where I receive my first Ganesh statue. Ta Prohm was a truly chaotic and spiritual temple built by Jayavarman VII in 1186 and dedicated to his mother and his guru. It is one of the most amazing sites I have ever seen because archaeologists deliberately left it in its ‘natural state’ of stone rubble and smothering vegetation. I organized a day trip to this temple relic, to get in touch with a deeper sense of spirituality and it could have been 1870 when I arrived. I could have been on the original elephant-hunting expedition experiencing the magic of jungle-shrouded ruins; all I was missing was a pith helmet and khakis. Nothing had changed.

Monk at Ta Prohm
Monk at Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm was deadly quiet and smelled of decay. The massive tree roots on the grounds choked the life out of delicately carved apsaras bas-reliefs; royal temptresses of Khmer culture that once entertained in the palaces of the gods. I met the wizened monk who swept the dirt steps to ensure the gods safe passage up the steep and narrow stairways, and bought a bamboo cowbell from him as my sacred treasure. He posed for a photo with me and my father said later that at least I was meeting men on my trip.

Me with monk at Ta Prohm

As I left, the monk placed a tiny golden Ganesh in my hand. “He protects travelers and will help you find your way,” he told me as my guide translated. A sort of golden light washed over me in that moment, and then he was gone, and I began to wonder…  why did he think I was lost?

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Photos copyright Anita Rosenberg

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