World Travel GuidesUNESCO World Heritage Site Battle of Kurukshetra, Angkor Wat

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The Battle of Kurukshetra is a bas-relief gallery at
Angkor Wat depicting the Hindu epic from the Mahabharata. Famously depicted on the walls at Angkor Wat, the bas-relief describes the struggle of two rival clans, the Pandavas and the Kauravas, which culminated in the Battle of Kurukshetra in the city of Kurukshetra, in modern-day state of Haryana, in northern India. On the 49-meter long Angkor Wat gallery, the army of Kauravas is shown advancing from the left while the Pandavas from the right. On the extreme left and right, we see the armies marching in orderly formation, with commanders on horse-drawn chariots and elephants and musicians.

Note that in Khmer bas-reliefs, personalities of high importance are carved larger than the less important ones. So in the Battle of Kurukshetra, the king will usually be the biggest person on the art. As we arrive at the centre, we see the fighting begins. About 5 meters down the gallery and near the top, we see Bhishma, the commander-in-chief of the Kauravas, laid dying on a bed of arrows at the end of 10 days of fighting.

Gallery depicting the Battle of Kurukshetra at Angkor Wat.

15 meters down, and also near the top, we see the brahmin Dronacharya (with hair tied in a topknot and wielding a bow) leading the Kauravas after Bhishma's death. Another 2 meters, near the bottom, we see Karna turning around and trying to free the stuck wheel of his chariot. As he does do, he is killed by Arjuna, the head of the Pandava army whom we see, 4 meters down, and near the top, firing an arrow from his chariot. His charioteer has four arms, identifying him as Krishna. From here on are the Pandavas. 8 meters down we see Bhima riding an elephant and carries a shield with the face of Rahu.

Southwest Pavillion: Scenes from Ramayana The Battle of Kurukshetra bas-relief gallery ends at the Southwest Pavillion. Each corner of the pavilion is adorned with carvings from Ramayana.

The Southwest Pavillion, with scenes from Ramayana.

The Army of Suryavarman II The section after the Southwest Pavillion is the gallery depicting the Army of Suryavarman II. (King Suryavarman II is the builder of Angkor Wat, and here he immortalized himself in all his royal finery). This 94-meter gallery shows a military procession. The reliefs are carved on two tiers. The tier on top shows a royal audience before the army sets off. The tier below shows the procession. 10 meters from the start, we see King Suryavarman II himself. It is easy to identify him, as he is carved as the biggest figure on the wall. We see ladies of the court carrying palanquins, and on the other side, the king's ministers and army commanders. From here until the end of this panel, the two tiers become one, showing the army marching in single file, punctuated by commanders on elephant, twenty of them all together. On the twelfth elephant we once again see King Suryavarman II, as usual the largest figure, sheltered by 15 parasols.

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