Angkor Thom – The “Breath” of Ancient Era
by Blake Johnson Jul 11, 2017
Located in Angkor Archeological Site, Angkor Thom also has its own nice fame to travellers like Angkor Wat. Thus, starting an adventure in Angkor Thom is one of the right and wise choices for those who are interested in the Khmer architecture, the long and mysterious history of Cambodia and the “breath” of ancient stuff.
General information about Angkor Thom
Angkor Thom, which means Great City in Khmer language, inspired many people come and explore it. The reasons at the top of the list explaining for that are Angkor Thom’s history and its stunning attractions.
In 1811 King Jayavarman VII, who was considered as the Angkor’s greatest king, recaptured the power of governing the Khmer capital from Cham. After this victory, he began to found his own and new capital city by erecting a large number of buildings which created Angkor Thom - the last capital city of the Khmer temple.
Like other structures in Angkor Archeological Site we know today, Angkor Thom was also built to represent the cosmology in ancient story and the religious symbol. Therefore, when you have a general view of the Angkor Thom, you can realize that it was erected on a square shape with the first layer is the moat surrounding the second layer- the stone wall. The ancient building – Bayon temple was constructed inside the wall to symbolize the Mount Meru – home of god enclosed by cosmic ocean.
Outstanding features and structures in Great City
Unlike other structures, Angkor Thom has five gates instead of four. You can find the gates in the middle of each sides of the wall. Three gates were built in the North, West, South, respectively and two gates in the East. Built in Bayon style, the gates of Angkor Thom are also very special. They were built of sandstone with 23 meter high. The top of each gate was marked by 4 huge stone faces. Each of them faces each cardinal direction. Moreover, on the lower level, the gates are decorated with elephants whose trunks are used as pillars.
The East Gate of Angkor Thom
Nowadays, most visitors come inside the ancient capital through the South gate since it is the best well-deserved gate. The large causeway still remains statues of gods on its two sides, which brings the feeling like stepping back to the past for visitors when they first approach Angkor Thom although some of statues were damaged seriously.
The South Gate of Angkor Thom
It can be said that Bayon temple is the most famous structure in Angkor Thom. Bayon Temple was erected in the middle of the capital in late 12th century. It is a perfect cooperation of Buddhist and Hinduism since it was built by King Jayavarman VII to dedicate Buddhist but it also represented the heaven and earth in the cosmic world in Hinduism. Bayon can be seen as the smaller capital in Angkor Thom. It also has three levels. The first and the second levels are walls marked with bas-reliefs which describe historical and religious events.
The last level leaves strong impression on visitors by its 54 towers in which each of them feature 4 mysterious smiling faces. Each face turns to each compass direction. Some people consume it as Buddha’s face because the purpose of the temple is to worship Buddhism. However, some say that it might be the King’s face since the stone face has similar feature with the statue of Jayavarman VII. Some other even consider the face is the combination of Buddha and King. However, the answer has not found yet.
Terrace of Elephants
The Terrace of Elephants was served as the large platform for King to observe the games and hold celebration. It has three level of staircase which was ornamented with elephants’ heads, lion statues on two sides. The wall was decorated with impressive bas-relief decorated with fighting scene between an elephant and a lions, sculptures of elephants, five-headed horses, dancers and warriors.
Beside Bayon temple and the Terrace of Elephants, there are some other must-see buildings. For example, Phimeanakas – the Hindu temple was built in the shape of three tier pyramid, Baphuon - the temple orginally worshipped Shiva God but changed to dedicate Buddhist later or Prasat Suor Prat - a series of ruin towers, etc.
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