While the whole Angkor was a imperial city Angkor Wat was the largest temple of hundreds of temples here and Angkor Thom with its name means “Great city” was the royal citadel, the heart of the city. The ancient Khmer created a splendourous and magnificient capital, one of the most greatest city at that time exceeding many comtemporary European capitals in every aspect, but most of it had been ravaged by the time, the war and weather condition. Now a day, there are some desolate ruins laying in the deep forest.
Angkor Thom was founded by Jayavarman VII in the late of the 12th century with and probably remained the capital until the 17th century. There are five gates coming in Angkor Wat, and the most attractive is the south gate with 20 metres height and its towers with 4 faces pointing in each cardinal directions, preceded by the avenue of 54 gods and 54 asuras – name of the demon – lining the bridge across the moat. It is that gate and its impressive entrance produce the power for the royal citadel.
The south gate of Angkor Thom – by PhuocThao
54 gods in the left side of the avenue entrance of Angkor Thom – by PhuocThao
There are thousands of architectural achievements in many kinds inside the citadel, all of which point in the East direction. There are also golden works only for the King. It is difficult to picture the wealthy and splendour of Angkor reign in the past.
Bayon, the largest temple of Angkor Thom, the most famous architectural work of the citadel, is the important religious work. There are the large sculptures in the wall of Bayon temple describing the social life in the 12th century of the country, for example the festivals, the mountains and rivers, the soldiers, the combats….The Bayon temple itself is composed of two galleried enclosures which are almost square. Dominating the whole arrangement of the galleries and terraces are the face-towers. There are 54 face-towers with 216 faces of Bayon. The number of faces are in dispute. The actual numbers of towers do not have any symbolic significance. Their different individual heights combined with the different levels of the temple create the impression of a forest of towers rising towards the center.
The Bayon temple – by PhuocThao
The Indian civilization expanded to the East in the early of the Christian Era, and also its religious beliefs, Hinduism and Buddhism. Both religions became Cambodia’s national religion in succession. Angkor Thom was built in the reign of Jayarvaman VII. Although this King still worshiped the Hinduism but also was under Buddhism’s influence. Hence, Angkor Thom was not only a Hindu temple but also a symbol of Buddhistic belief, and Bayon is considered as a milestone of a turning-point of Khmer society when Hinayana Buddhism (the Lesser Vehicle) was gradually becoming the national religion.
In this temple you can see the linga, symbol of masculin creative power and the yoni, symbol of female creative power. Both, in Hinduism, represent the fertilization, the thriving, the creation expressing the desire of wealthy and development of Khmer people.
The Khmer culture has received the cream (quintessence) of Indian’s, and reformed (innovate) it in their own way to get a unique (original) national character. Hundreds of temples in Angkor are really the precious pearls of the architectural art of the world. The time elapses, the grandiose Angkor has been standing pensively here in thousand years, witnessing the rise and fall of a nation.
The linga and yoni in Bayon temple.