Kbal Spean – "The River of a Thousand Lingas"

On the slopes of the Kulen Hills in north east Cambodia and around 25km from the main temples at Angkor lies an archeological site consisting stone carvings in the sandstone formations of the river bed and banks known as Kbal Spean (“Bridge Head” in Khmer). It is also known as “The River of a Thousand Lingas” which are the stone carved bumps and is the phallic symbol of the Hindu god Shiva.  It is believed that the Siem Reap River flowing into Angkor is blessed by the sacred lingas over which it flows. There are also many different mythological motifs carved in the rocks including the depiction of gods Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma, Lakshimi, Rama and Hanuman as well as cows, frogs and crocodiles.

The archeological site was discovered in 1969 by the ethologist Jean Boulbet but further exploration of the site was curtailed due to the Cambodian Civil War until 1989 when the site was safe to visit.

The carvings were started during the reign of King Suryavarman I and ended with the reign of King Udayadityavarman II, these two kings ruling between the 11th and 12th centuries.. The 1,000 lingas were attributed to a minister of Suryavarman I during the 11th century and these were carved by hermits living in the area.

The sculptures carved in the river bed and banks depict many Hindu mythological scenes and symbols and when the water level decreases there are also inscriptions which get exposed. The common theme of these sculptures is about creation as defined in Hindu mythology with Lord Vishnu lying on a serpent in a reclining pose on the ocean of milk, the lotus flower emerging from Vishnu’s navel which bears the god Brahma, the creator.

Leave a Reply