Photo by David Lazar
Preah Ket Mealea, who was the son of the god Indra and a human mother, spent his childhood on Earth, but when he reached the age of twelve his father invited him to visit heaven. On the summit of Meru the boy gazed in wonder at the palaces of the gods and the flower-filled gardens where apsaras danced and divine music played. His father told him that, as he was to rule over Cambodia, the greatest of kingdoms on Earth, he would need the greatest of palace.s “Look around you,” Indra said. “If there is any palace here that pleases you, tell me and I shall have the architect of the gods build it for you on Earth.”
The prince was a modest young boy, mindful of his place as both a child and a mortal, and even though the offer was a generous one he did not want to offend his father by seeming to set himself on the same level as the king of the gods. And so he declined a copy of Indra’s own palace, or the dining hall of the gods, or even any of the minor pleasure pavilions set aside for music and dancing. No, instead of these he chose the least of all the buildings in Meru – the palace stables.
Indra expressed his pleasure at his son’s choice and sent Preah Pisnukar, architect of the gods, to oversee the work. Preah Pisnukar did not build as men build, but molded the structure out of mud and then coated it with a magical coating so that the mud hardened into stone. How else could such a building be built? Some say that Angkor Wat was constructed by the tevodas (the minor gods), and that their fingerprints can still be seen as holes in the stones, but this, the legend of Preah Pisnukar, is the true story.