New Linga Found at Phnom Bakheng

Last month, a linga was found in the wooded side of the hill at Phnom Bakheng, about 30 meters from the visitor path. A linga is a phallic symbol incarnation of the Hindu god Shiva: Phnom Bakheng, built between ninth and tenth centuries, was originally dedicated to Shiva. Stone sculptures, either lingas or divine statues, would have been installed in each of the 109 shrines of the temple.

Since the beginning of the restoration work in 2008, this is the fifth linga found.

In the Khmer Kingdom, Hinduism and Buddhism eventually coexisted and interchanged, with some temples changing in dedication depending on the belief of the king. Jayarman VII, who ruled from 1181 to 1218, was a fervent Mahayana Buddhist and Phnom Bakheng consequently underwent transformations. It is likely that during his reign the lingas were removed from their location and replaced with sculptures more representative of this cult (as proven by archaeological excavations carried out at site). In the sixteenth century, the temple was completely transformed following the conversion to Theravada Buddhism. It is not clear, however, exactly when the lingas were scattered down the hill.

As for the linga just recovered, which is about 90 centimeters high, with a diameter of 29 centimeters, it is still hard to identify its original location. It could have been installed either in a brick shrine or a stone shrine. Further studies will have to be carried out to ascertain this, starting from a comparison between its diameter and the size of the pedestals still at site.