Cambodia & Khmer Temples
The Bayon temple is as all other
temples and buildings in the area
except Angkor Wat today more or less
only an assembly of ruins but there
is restoration going on financed
from different countries among them
Germany. The temples had
continuous reconstruction over several hundred years since war
and demolition was continuously coming and going.
In 1177 the Chan invaded Angkor but 4 years later the troops of
King Jayavarman VII recaptured the city from the Chan,
today the capital is Phnom Penh.
course of reconstruction, the king had Angkor Thom built as the
new capital, in the center of the new city the Bayon was
erected.. The new city was enclosed by a moat of
13 km length. Five gates gave way to the city, each one placed
at the four cardinal points and the fifth led directly to the
The access road at the south gate is
flanked by nine headed Nagas (mythical snakes) and 54 Asuras
(demons) are holding them at the right side and on the
left side oare 54 Devas (gods)
holding them. The gates are crowned with huge smiling stone
faces. The gates are large enough for elephants to pass and today vans cross through. Every gate has a
similar size and is flanked by mythical figures.
The Bayon has been erected in the center, this was the
Buddhist temple. The Bayon was
originally only on one terrace and was later
increased to three terraces. Since the fortifications were built
very well this old city was also
used as capital in the subsequent generations, rather than
building new temples this temple was rebuilt and renovated again
and again. This also explained the confusing architecture of
corridors and rooms.
The face towers are probably the most
impressive views at the Bayon, from the originally 49 towers
still 37th stand. At almost all of them faces look to the
four cardinal points.
The Bayon has also some bas relief galleries.
Apsara at Angkor
The outer Bayon relief
part of the original temple buildings and commemorate the defeat
of the Chan and also show some everyday scenes.
inner gallery was built later and shows episodes from Hindu
mythology. It reminds very much to the relief depicting
Buddhist Jakata stories at Bagan Myanmar, the relief here are
only substantial bigger.
At the eastern gallery Khmer warriors are depicted as well as
people who prepare to eat. At the beginning of the south gallery
the battle in the lake is shown where the forces of King Jayavarman VII defeated the Chan.
The relief on the west
and north side make a rather unfinished impression.
Unfortunately the whole area is mainly a
field of temple ruins only.
Outer Bayon relief
This city was built in the 12th Century,
at that time religious
symbolism played an increasingly visible role as it is
seen with the mysterious smile at the face towers. King
Jayavarman VII (reigned about 1180-1217) a staunch
Buddhist, was convinced to be a Bodhisattva the faces
could be created after his face.
Zhou Daguan a Chinese
diplomat who visited Angkor at 1296 – 1297 wrote that
the faces could also be a Buddha image. The face towers
or Bayon faces are probably some of the most impressive
monuments at Angkor Thom Cambodia.
Along the causeway of Angkor
Thom statues of demons and gods are placed, having the
bodies of Nagas (mythical snakes). This scenes thought to
have some connection with the Rainbow bridge in Hindu
mythology which connects the humans with the gods. The
demons move from the right side of the city gates
against the gods at the other side.
Angkor Thom Cambodia
VII begun building Angkor Thom in 1200 over the old city of
Udaydityavarman II centered on his Baphuon. He
surrounded it with a gigantic moat at least a hundred
meters wide and 15km long. It became the focus of a
final, huge complex of canals and irrigation, with extra
barays. He walled it completely; and in the walls five
gates marked by huge gate-pavilions were constructed.
The four gates were at the cardinal points, and the
fifth gate in the east wall was there to keep the old
road open which links the Phimeanakas to Ta Keo, which
lay slightly to the north of the east west center line.
The gate pavilions embody the outstanding architectural
invention of Jayavarman's reign, which has become almost
a symbol for Angkor the tower with four colossal faces
out in the four cardinal
directions. These faces, which in some way are related
to the icon of Lokeshvara, at the same time symbolize the power of the
king, demonstrating his domination of the four quarters
of the world. The Bayon which was Jayavarman's own
sacred temple-mountain at the very centre of Angkor Thom, is crowded with towers, most of which carry the
same motif. The masks are combined with the terraced
tiers of the towers, with their corner-recesses and
projecting false porches, in such a way that the section
becomes virtually octagonal. The elevations present both
the curved and the pointed, sprouting-shoot contour.
arches of the gateways, and within the towers of the Bayon temple, are triangular and corbelled. Generally speaking
the stonework is hasty and relatively ill-trimmed, and
was carved into its final shape and surface in situ.
The architecture of Cambodia
temple and other Khmer temples
show a certain development, though all of it ultimately
springs from Angkor Wat. Themain temple complexes are: Banteay Kdei,
which may be dedicated to his religious teacher, begun
the very year he arrived in Angkor 1181; then Ta Prohm a
huge complex of towered enclosures,
halls' and corridors, dedicated to his mother as an
incarnation of Transcendent Buddhist Wisdom, begun about
Preah Khan, dedicated to his father as an
incarnation of Lokeshvara, begun in 1191; and Banteay
Chmar, dedicated to one of his sons who fell in battle.
Angkor Thom and the Bayon followed during the first
nineteen years of the thirteenth century.
plans of all of them are centered on a tower shrine
oriented eastwards, surrounded by rectangular roofed
galleries which are punctuated by towers at the corners
and at the centre of each side; the outer enclosures.
cloisters, rows of cast-facing shrines on the
cast side, with additional enclosures and
buildings at the north and south flanks of the
central complex. Many other smaller shrines were
built in every available space in Angkor.
Khmer Temples Neak Pean.
This is a small tower-shrine
on a circular base standing at the centre of
Jayavarman's larger baray to the north east of Angkor
Thom. It is a fountain as well, its water spilling over
from the basin in which it stands into four ponds before
running into the baray. It represents the mountain lake
from which magic healing waters flow, supposed by Indian
mythology to exist in the Himalayas. This notion
introduces us to what was, perhaps, the outstanding
artistic if not purely aesthetic achievement of
Jayavarman's architects: the working out into massive
architectural symbols of a complex of mythical imagery.
We have seen how the conception of the temple as sacred
mountain came to be embodied in Khmer tradition. At Jayavarman's
Angkor, many similar mythical concepts
worked out in visible structures - the towers with faces
are one. Another is a complex of water channels
representing the four sacred rivers of the world, yet
another is the colossal image by Neak Pean of the
com-passionate Bodhisattva, Avalokiteshvara, in the form
of a huge white horse, who is supposed to save sailors
This is an allegory of the salvation of beings from
suffering. The colossal stone horse is shown with human
figures clinging to its body. It is not much of a work
of art, though imposing as a massive image. But perhaps
the most important of these realized myths is the
complex of towers, terraces and colossi at the centre of
The king built his palace in
the enclosure of the Phimeanakas, and connected it with
the tenth-century pools and other parts of the site, by
a series of raised and carved terraces of stone. The
most magnificent of these is the 'Royal Terrace' the
front of which is decorated partly with a frieze of
Buddha's achieving enlightenment
seated under his Bodhi Tree. Mara
(Death), 'The Enemy of Man', who
would be deprived of his prey by the
Buddha's enlightenment, sent as many
distractions as he could to divert
the Buddha from his goal, including
a terrible storm and flood. A Naga
crept out from his hole under the
Buddha's tree to lift him above the
Angkor Thom Royal Terrace, Khmer temples.
shelter him from the
rain. Thus when he adopted the
Buddha as his patron, Jayavarman
made his priests seek out an image
that would combine the old familiar
Khmer one of the Naga as cosmic
source of existence and life, with
the new image of the victorious
Buddha as pattern of the king. There
may also be an esoteric significance to this icon of the Buddha.
Inside the Bayon the chapels under the towers held many
sculptured icons. The central one, under a tower rising 140 feet
above the ground, was of the Buddha on the Naga, the alter ego
of the king, around whom the universe revolved. In other shrines
crowded on to the terraces were images of the dignitaries of the
kingdom, attending the divine king in his
Cambodia, Khmer temples.
celestial home. Around
the interior walls of the
great enclosure were acres
of relief carving, all of it
rather hastily and roughly
executed, and nowhere
reaching the standard of the relief on Angkor Wat.
This Angkor Thom relief
once more deal
mainly with Indian classical
legend. Here again there is
evidence of the influence of
conventions in some of the
compositions, while numerous
genre passages market
scenes, hunting, quarrels
have often been admired,
Khmer temples often are
adorned by sandstone relief. But
it is obvious that the sheer
volume of work which the
artists were compelled to
get through prevented them
from thoroughly thinking out
their ideas or fully
achieving their execution.
This is an art of cursory
extemporization on well-worn
themes. The most impressive single
works of art associated with
the name of Jayavarman VII are certain
single iconic stone figures
s from various places in the
Angkor Thom complex. Chief .
among them are the Buddhas
on Nagas, the 'Leper King
and the idealized 'portrait'
image of the king himself.
In all of these one can feel something of the dedicated
skill of the earlier sculptors of Cambodia, and it must
have been that the masters who cut these important works
were allowed the time they needed to mature them. Their
fluent surfaces, deep plasticity and squared-off
conception convey a sense of ultimate tranquility and
figures at Angkor Thom Cambodia Khmer temples of deities of various kinds have been found
among the ruins of Angkor Thom and at other sites. They
too tend to share in the general debasement of style
associated with Jayavarman, though individual pieces may
recapture qualities of Suryavarman ll's art.
death of Jayavarman VII Angkor declined. The Khmer kings
retreated to the lower reaches of the Mekong river in
the face of invasion by the Thai peoples of Siam.
Buddhism of the Theravada branch became the religion of