Sunday, March 24, 2013

Angkor Thom: The Great City of
the Khmer Empire with Bayon and Ta Phrom
(2. Chapter)

Angkor Thom means "The Great City". It was established in the late twelfth century by king Jayavarman VII and the last and most enduring capital city of the Khmer empire. The earlier city Yasodharapura was centred further northwest. Angkor Thom overlapped parts of it. So the former state temple of Baphuon got part of Angkor Thom. The roads lead to the temple of Bayon in the centre.

Prasat Bayon

Picture by emilio labrador

Prasat Bayon was built in the late 12th century or early 13th century as the official state temple of the Buddhist King Jayavarman VII (1181-1218). After his death it was modified and augmented by later Hindu and Buddhist kings. Bayon is famous for the 216 serene and massive stone faces on the many towers which cluster around its central peak, symbolizing Mount Meru. On the outer wall of the outer gallery you see a series of bas-reliefs depicting historical events and scenes from the everyday life of the Khmer. The outer gallery encloses a courtyard with two libraries. The inner gallery is raised above ground level. Its bas-reliefs show scenes from Hindu mythology. You discover Siva, Vishnu, and Brahma, the members of the trimurti or threefold godhead of Hinduism, Apsaras or celestial dancers, Ravana and Garuda. The upper terrace is home to the famous face towers.

Picture by MRisgaard

Picture by marhas
You walk towards the centre of Angkor Thom and can already recognise the famous stone faces at the many towers of Prasat Bayon

Picture by marhas
On the way to the upper terrace

Picture by Anandajoti
Apsaras carved out of the sandstone

Picture by marhas

On the outer wall of the outer gallery you find a series of bas-reliefs depicting historical events and scenes from the everyday life of the Angkorian Khmer.

Picture by sharon.schneider

Picture by Peter Broer
Bas-reliefs on the outer wall of the 3rd enclosure, here showing a naval battle on the Tonle Sap between Khmer and Cham forces (in the eastern part of the southern gallery).

Have a look at panoramas of the bas-reliefs on the south wall:
Offerings, Pig-Boiling, Archers, Khmer-Cham Fighting (Archers, Spear and Sword Fights)
Three Boats with Cham, Chinese and Khmer Warriors
Hand-to-Hand Fighting, Pig and Cock Fighting, Chinese Junk
Elephants and Warriors marching to War
Palace Scene, Worshipping of 4-Armed Vishnu, Siva in a Temple, Dancing Scenes

Have a look at panoramas of the bas-reliefs on the east wall:
Elephants and Warriors marching to War (East to West)
Elephants and Warriors marching to War (West to East)
Elephants and Warriors marching to War with Intermittent Fighting (East to West)
Elephants and Warriors meet in Battle

Have a look at panoramas of the bas-reliefs on the north wall:
The Chams defeating the Khmer

Moving on in Prasat Bayon you will encounter a lot of female energy: Everywhere you see devatas.

Picture by marhas

Picture by Toby Simkin

Robert McCarthy is now cataloging the 377 devatas at the Bayon. Peter Sharrock from the School of Oriental and African Studies, estimates that the original Bayon structure displayed 6,250 celestial dancers. Read his chapter “The mystery of the face towers" in the book Bayon: New Perspectives. This book brings together leading experts and their findings and insights about Bayon's art, architecture and inscriptions. Sharrock has new answers to one of the big questions about Bayon: Who are the guys on the face towers? Many experts have said that they depict the Mahayana deity Lokesvara. But Sharrock has a different idea. He sees Tantric influence. Tantrism flourished in northern India in the Middle Ages. Sharrock thinks that the face towers depict a tantric deity called Vajrasattva. Read more on World Cultures From New Perspectives.

Picture by Peter Broer
The central sanctuary of Prasat Bayon

Picture by marhas

And now have a look at the mysterious faces:

Picture by marhas

Picture by nac888

Picture by marhas

Picture by marhas

Picture by sharon.schneider

Picture by marhas

Picture by marhas

Picture by sharon-schneider

Picture by Anandajoti

Picture by foonie

Terrace of the Elephants

The 350 meters long Terrace of the Elephants was used by king Jayavarman VII as a platform from which to view public ceremonies and it was the base for his audience hall. It was attached to the palace of Phimeanakas, of which only a few ruins remain. The middle section of the wall is decorated with life size garuda and lions; towards either end you see elephants with their Khmer mahouts.

Picture by Alan Bennett

Picture by foonie

Picture by Norman Li

Picture by marhas
From the Terrace of the Elephants you see some of the twelve towers of Prasat Suor Prat. According to a Cambodian legend, the towers served as anchoring places for ropes which stretched from one to another for acrobats performing at festivals. See also this gallery of photos.

Ta Phrom

See Pictures

Picture by foonie

Picture by ND Strupler

Banteay Kdei

See Pictures

Banteay Srei

A 10th century temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. It lies near the hill of Phnom Dei, 25 km north-east of Angkor Thom. Banteay Srei is built largely of red sandstone.

Picture by ASR Photos


See Pictures

Beng Melea

Around 40 km east of Angkor. "Did you know that Angkor Wat has a stepsister? Born to the same father, King Suryavarman II, little is known about her", notes Beng Melea (means Lotus Pond) has not been restored until now. So one can see the original carvings and "the strength of the jungle pulling the temple down". It was built as a Hindu temple, but some carvings depict buddhist motifs. The primary material is sandstone. It is assumed that Beng Melea was built in the early 12th century.Read more in a great essay by Willard Van De Bogart: Stones in the Sky - Part V. See Pictures

Picture by Many Moon Honeymoon

Picture by Tomomi Sasaki
The jungle takes over.

Picture by Peter Waterman

Picture by Peter Waterman

Koh Ker

The Khmer empires capital was located in the Angkor area for 500 years. But there was one short interruption: In 928 A.D king Jayavarman IV created a rival capital in Koh Ker - 150 kilometers from todays Siem Reap. One way takes 2.5 hours. The empire was ruled from here for 23 years until his son Hashavarman II returned it to the Angkor area. The most impressive ruin is Prasat Thom (Big Temple), a 7tiere pyramid.

Picture by Arian Zwegers
Prasat Thom

Picture by duhangst

Picture by mrcharly

Baksei Chamkrong

On the left side of the way from Angkor Wat to Angkor Thom. Pictures

East Mebon

The temple stood on an artificial island at the center of the now dry East Baray reservoir.

Pre Rup

South of the East Baray. Pre Rup is aligned on a north-south axis with East Mebon.
Pictures by foonie.

Preah Khan

Northeast of Angkor Thom. See pictures by foonie.

Picture by ggallezot

Ta Keo

A causeway of 500 meters connects its eastern entrance to a landing stage on the Eastern Baray. Pictures by foonie

Ta Som

Northeast of Angkor Thom. See pictures by foonie.

Picture by foonie

Read what National Museum of Cambodia writes about
Khmer Art History
See also the National Geographic Documentary:
Stolen Treasures of Cambodia 1
Stolen Treasures of Cambodia 2
Stolen Treasures of Cambodia 3

Cambodia is trying to get back stolen art, for example from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The so-called Kneeling Attendants are the highlight of its Southeast Asian collection. They originally adorned the sanctuary of Prasat Chen, at the temple complex of Koh Ker. Paramilitary groups trafficked them, sculpture by sculpture, overseas. Read:
Should Cambodian 'blood antiquities' be returned? on
Cambodia Says It Seeks Return Of Met Statues on
A legal battle in the US over the fate of a 10th-century Khmer statue has heated up, with federal prosecutors accusing the international auction house Sotheby’s of lying about its provenance in an effort to sell it for millions of dollars. They claim that both Sotheby’s and the statue’s owner knew the statue had been stolen from the Koh Ker temple complex in the early 1970s. Read on

Far from the madding crowd of Angkor Wat, in a remote southern province in the Mekong floodplain, Lawrence Osborne wades deep into Cambodia’s misty past—and the source of some of the country’s most magnificent and mysterious art. Read:
Cambodia's Undiscovered Temples on about Phnom Da, Angkor Borei and Phnom Bayong.

Read more:

Angkor Archaeological Park: The incredible remains of the Khmer empire (1. chapter)

Siem Reap - the gate to Angkor

Hotels and Guesthouses in Siem Reap – and your reviews

Mouthwatering food in Siem Reap: Reviews of restaurants.

Magical Tonle Sap Lake: Living on the water and with the nature

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