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Angkor Temples 9


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October, 2004

Preah Khan 12th Century ••• Bayon Style Jayarvarman VII
 
Angkor photo.
Preah Kahn
nul.

"Preah Khan ... is an entrancing mystery deep in the jungle, soft and alluring in the twilight made by heavy verdure, accessible only to the ardent lover of past days who is gifted with agility ... It all seems a wondrous mass of beauty tossed together in superb confusion."

— Helen Churchill Candee, 1925

Preah Khan is in many ways the most interesting of the Angkor temples. Its name means "City of the Sacred Sword". It was a large Buddhist monastery, built on the site of a battle where the Khmer armies defeated the Chams. The entrance to the temple leads down a processional way lined with stone lanterns. Next, you cross a moat on a wide stone causeway lined with demons and divinities carrying a large naga, or serpent. The body of the naga forms a balustrade along the margins of the causeway. Finally, you arrive at the outer gopura, or gateway (see the photo at left).

The main temple area is a maze of passageways, galleries, and courtyards. The central section is Buddhist, the western portion is dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, the northern to Shiva, and the southern to ancestor worship. The eastern sector is the grand entrance to the temple. This creates a great deal of variety in the temple's ornate decoration. There is something new around every corner.

The temple was surrounded by four concentric walls which defined its different activities. The outer wall enclosed a huge area of living quarters for the many monks and others who lived here. Today this is all jungle, with little or no trace of the wooden buildings they occupied. Inside the temple, many of the walls were covered with bronze panels and gilded or painted plaster. Only the durable stone remains — the valuable bronze would have been taken away centuries ago. It is fascinating to think of what the temple would have been like during its glory days.

Here are thirteen more photos of Preah Khan and a panoramic view of an interior courtyard:

door  | linga  | doorways  | galleries  | warrior  | passageway  | tree
terrace  | carving  | walkway  | shrines  | courtyard  | lintel

 
Cambodia panorama.

 

Ta Som 12th Century •• Bayon Style Jayarvarman VII
 
Angkor photo.
Ta Som
nul.

Ta Som is a small Buddhist temple in the jungle. At the time of its construction, it was dedicated to the memory of the King's father. It has not been restored, and the towers and pediments are much collapsed (see the photo at left). Ta Som is best known for the large ficus tree which has engulfed the eastern entry gopura. Some of the collapsed pediments have been reassembled on the ground.

This temple is in the Bayon style, and there are better examples available, particularly Bayon itself.

 

Angkor Thom 13th Century ••• Bayon Style Jayarvarman VII
 
Angkor photo.
Angkor Thom
nul.

"Angkor Thom is undeniably an expression of the highest genius. It is, in three dimensions and on a scale worthy of an entire nation, the materialization of Buddhist cosmology ... Angkor Thom is in reality the world of the gods springing up from the heart of ancient Cambodia."

— J. Boisselier, 1987

Angkor Thom was the last capital of the Khmer Empire, and was truly a "great city," as its name implies. The city was square in plan, enclosed by massive laterite walls that are 8 meters high and about 3 kilometers on a side. The wall is surrounded by a moat 100 meters across. Entry to the city was over five great causeways lined with 54 gods on the left and 54 demons on the right, each holding the body of a naga to form a balustrade. The causeways lead to entry towers topped with 4 massive heads (see the photo at left). Inside the walls are the temples of Bayon, Baphuon, and Phimeanakas and the Terrace of the Elephants, along with other monuments and lesser temples.

The city of Angkor Thom was the home of the Royal Temple and the residences of the king and royal family, government officials and military officers, and the priests. The population within the city is estimated to have reached one million. The common people lived outside the walls. All of these residential structures were built of wood, and no longer exist. Only the durable stone and brick structures remain.

Here are nine more photos of the causeways and gates of Angkor Thom. The temples are discussed in their own sections on other pages:

 

Terraces 13th Century •• Bayon Style Jayarvarman VII
 
Angkor photo.
Terrace of the Elephants
nul.
Angkor photo.
Terrace of the Leper King
nul.

"An Imperial hunt in the sombre forests of the realm. The formidable elephants ... are ridden by servants and princes, and tread as quietly as if they were on an excursive promenade ... All the pachyderms, almost life-size, are magnificant ... and the whole effect has an indescribable spendour."

— P. Jennerat de Beerski, 1924

— Terrace of the Elephants

The Terrace of the Elephants is at the center of the Royal Plaza in the heart of Angkor Thom. It is nearly 1,000 feet long, edged with balustrades, and with three main platforms. The stairway to the southern platform is flanked by 3-headed elephants who are gathering lotus flowers with their trunks. Most of the length of the terrace depicts a royal hunt through the jungle, with the hunters mounted on elephants (see the photo at left). The northern stair way is supported by garudas and more elephants. The north platform is the most heavily decorated of the three, including elephants, garudas, naga balustrades, and armies in battle. Perhaps the most impressive carving is hidden behind the outer wall of the north platform. It depicts a royal horse with five heads, surrounded by apsaras and demons with sticks. It may represent the divine horse Balaha.

— Terrace of the Leper King

The Terrace of the Leper King consists of one large platform just north of the Terrace of the Elephants (see the photo at left). It is named for a carved figure (currently in the National Museum) of a naked man supposedly afflicted with leprosy. Just what the figure actually represents is unkown. The original retaining wall of the earth-filled terrace collapsed, and a second wall was built just beyond it. The EFEO has unearthed the inner wall, and created a false corrider so that tourists can see the reliefs on both walls. And the reliefs are well worth seeing. The inner wall, protected from the elements for so many years, is in the best condition. Here are three photos of the many reliefs on the Terrace of the Leper King:

reliefs  | reliefs  | reliefs

 

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