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The Bayon Temple

Bayon Temple Angkor Thom Angkor

  • The Bayon Temple in Angkor Thom is the second most important monument to visit in Angkor. It was constructed in late 12th C under the reign of Jayavarman VII. The Bayon is made of sandstone and represents a temple mountain representing Mount Meru. From the outside it appears like an intricate labyrinth, but in fact it follows a plan based on a Yantra, which is a geometric diagram of the Indian Buddhists which demonstrates the mandala, or concentric diagram supposedly symbolizing the universe and the places of divine powers within it.
  • The Bayon has three levels, the first of which has eight doorways and between these are walls covered with bas reliefs. These bas relief carvings are some of the finest at Angkor. It will take several hours to see them and a good understanding of Khmer history and beliefs will enrich your understanding of these works.
  • The Bayon is at the geometric center of Angkor Thom which is 1.5 kilometers north from the South Gate and it lies on the axis to the North Gate.
  • The main features to see are; (1) the 37 towers and 216 sandstone faces on the tops of the towers, (2) the east entrance & the Outer Gallery with murals of everyday life and historical events, (3) the Inner Gallery and the bas relief murals of Hindu mythology, (4) the upper terrace and the multiple images of the Buddhist ' Lokesvara '. (5) the Central Tower.
  • The other art features, which include the Devatas, the ApsarasBas-relief murals and the free standing stone statues of the Nagas and guardian Khmer lions.

Bayon Angkor

The Architecture and Design of the Bayon Buddhist Temple Angkor Thom

  • From the outside the architecture of the Bayon looks confusing and is best understood as follows.

The key points about the Bayon Temple are as follows;

  • The Bayon faces east inside enclosures on an east to west axis.
  • The Bayon is positioned in the exact center of Angkor Thom.
  • The Bayon has no walls or moats close to it as its walls and moats are those of the total Angkor Thom complex comprising a total area of 9 square kilometers.
(1)  The building is a Buddhist Temple, hence the 216 stone faces of the serene Buddha image on each of the towers. It does not have the Hindu gods present as with the other Angkor Temples however it does portray in statues and bas reliefs many Hindu legends and mythologies.

(2) The structure of the Bayon Temple is as follows;
  • The Bayon has three levels, the Outer Gallery on the ground, the Inner Gallery on the first level and the Upper Terrace. These are often referred to as the Third enclosure, the Second enclosure and the First enclosure (referring in order from the top down to the ground).
The Outer Gallery at the Bayon is covered in bas relief murals.
  • These are of contemporary times in the 13th century and show much about dress, war fare, international groups, art and clothing, etc.
  • One should purchase a detailed guide for details of these works and where to find them, but the following is an introduction about the murals.
  • 'From the east and still in the eastern gallery, on the other side of the doorway leading into the courtyard, another procession followed by domestic scenes depicting Angkorian houses, some of the occupants of which appear to be Chinese merchants;
  • in the southeast corner pavilion, an unfinished temple scene with towers, apsaras, and a lingam;
  • in the eastern part of the southern gallery, a naval battle on the Tonle Sap between Khmer and Cham forces, underneath which are more scenes from civilian life depicting a market, open-air cooking, hunters, and women tending to children and an invalid;
  • still in the southern gallery, past the doorway leading to the courtyard, a scene with boats and fisherman, including a Chinese junk, below which is a depiction of a cockfight; then some palace scenes with princesses, servants, people engaged in conversations and games, wrestlers, and a wild boar fight; then a battle scene with Cham warriors disembarking from boats and engaging Khmer warriors whose bodies are protected by coiled ropes, followed by a scene in which the Khmer dominate the combat, followed by a scene in which the Khmer king celebrates a victory feast with his subjects;
  • in the western part of the southern gallery, a military procession including both Khmer and Cham, elephants, war machines such as a large crossbow and a catapult;
  • in the southern part of the western gallery, unfinished reliefs show an army marching through the forest, then arguments and fighting between groups of Khmer;
  • in the western gallery, past the doorway to the courtyard, a scene depicting a melee between Khmer warriors, then a scene in which warriors pursue others past a pool in which an enormous fish swallows a small deer, then a royal procession, with the king standing on an elephant, preceded by the ark of the sacred flame;
  • in the western part of the northern gallery, again unfinished, a scene of royal entertainment including athletes, jugglers and acrobats, a procession of animals, ascetics sitting in a forest, and more battles between Khmer and Cham forces;
  • in the northern gallery, past the doorway to the courtyard, a scene in which the Khmer flee from Cham soldiers advancing in tight ranks;
  • in the northeast corner pavilion, another marching Khmer army;
  • in the eastern gallery, a land battle between Khmer and Cham forces, both of which are supported by elephants: the Khmer appear to be winning. The outer gallery encloses a courtyard in which there are two libraries (one on either side of the east entrance).'

Bayon Temple Angkor Thom Angkor