Saturday, January 15, 2011

Angkor Thom, Cambodia

Hi. Thanks for visiting my blog.

Angkor Thom was one of the largest Khmer cities. It was built over a period of time from the 12th century. The photos cover our visit to Prasat Bayon, The Elephant's Terrace and the Leper King Terrace, all of which lie in the city complex of Angkor Thom.

I hope the photos capture some of the beauty of these incredible temple structures. They blew me away! Next time come back to see the children of Cambodia.

This first photo shows the south entrance
to Angkor Thom. The approach is lined
by an avenue of statues. These on the left
are gods. On the right they are "asuras"
(demons) with grimacing faces. Both are
carrying the body of a giant seven-headed
naga (serpent)

The avenue is a bridge that crosses
the wide moat that surrounds the city

VIP boats! The nearest one is a Naga boat

This was our first visit to the temples
and as we approached this impressive
entrance to the 12th Century I could
already feel that it was drawing me in
to its unique and haunting space

The early morning sun lit up the temple with its
warm rays. The Bayon is in the centre of Angkor
Thom. It is described as one of the most
enigmatic and powerful religious constructions
in the world

I had heard about the huge numbers of tourists.
This was peak tourist time (December) but I was
surprised that in most places it was never

The Bayon has gone through
different religious phases from
Pantheon of the Gods, Hindu
worship and Buddhism

Its defining characteristic is
the numerous face towers that
combine to create a stone mountain
of ascending peaks

The faces are serene and stunningly beautiful

Another common feature is
bas-relief sculptures of Apsaras
"celestial maidens"

37 of the original 49 towers are still standing.
Most have a face on each side of the tower.
There doesn't seem to be an official
total number of faces, Wikipedia quotes 216

Cambodian performers dressed in colourful,
traditional dress add a splash of colour to the rocks


The Khmer army on the march. This is from
the eastern gallery

The similarity of the faces on the temple's towers
to other statues of King Jayavarman VII, who
put the Bayon at the centre of his massive programme
of monumental construction, has led many scholars
to the conclusion that the faces are representations
of himself

Others have said that the faces
belong to the bodhisattva of
compassion called Avalokitesvara
or Lokesvara

Nicely framed

Some of the towers.
How many faces can you spot?

Dancing apsaras

Part of the outer perimeter

One of my favourites. These
faces have been radiating their
serenity for nearly a thousand
years. Thinking about it gives
me goosebumps!

A Buddhist Shrine inside the
Bayon. The temples of the
Khmer dynasty were not built
as places for people to
congregate to for worship,
but rather as palaces to the
gods so that, enshrined there,
they could bestow their blessings
and beneficence to the founder
and his family and friends

Final shot of the Bayon showing the central

From the Bayon a short walk takes you to the
Elephant Terrace, which forms the western edge
of the Royal Square. Opposite you can see these
rectangular sandstone buildings. They are ‘Kleangs’
which means ‘storeroom’ but it is unlikely that
this was their actual function. A royal oath of
allegiance carved into the doorway indicates
that they may have served as reception areas or
even housing for visiting noblemen and ambassadors

The Terrace stretches 300 metres north from the
entrance to the Bayon to the Leper King Terrace

As the name suggests, it's carved with lots of
elephants and was used by king Jayavarman VII
as a platform from which to view his victorious
returning army. These steps lead up to the platform

The carvings depict the elephants with their
mahouts in hunting scenes

Next to the Elephant Terrace is the Leper
King Terrace. This was one of my favourite
places. The carvings in deep relief are superb

You really need a wide angle lens for this
narrow passageway!

Those Cambodian lips!

This face really struck me. It's
as if it's coming out of the rock

As it doesn't have a smooth surface, it looks like
this sculpture didn't get finished

This is the replica of the statue
of the Leper King. The statue
depicts the Hindu god Yama,
the god of Death. He was called
the Leper King because discoloration
and moss growing on the original
statue was reminiscent of a person with
leprosy, and also because it fit in with a
Cambodian legend of an Angkorian king
who had leprosy. The name that the
Cambodians know him by, however,
is Dharmaraja, as this is what was etched
at the bottom of the original statue

Come back next time to see the children
I met on my trip!