Friday, 4 April 2014

Bayon - temple of the serene faces

The temple at the centre of Angkor Thom is called the Bayon  - it was also one of my favourites with its multitude of serene faces (216!).  The faces were everywhere, on all four sides of every tower, and all around the temple.  Theories abound as to whose face was being represented.  Many attributed them to be faces of the king Jayavarman VII who built the temple, others attribute them to be faces of the bodhissatva of compassion, which made total sense to me - the serenity all around was quite compelling!

The unmistakable shape of a library in Bayon - these are everywhere, sometimes two to a temple and after a couple, I was able to recognize the shape before the guide pointed it out.

Great place for a break from temple-hopping

Long corridors, portal within portal, made the temples fascinating places to explore;  and in the midst of them, a linga here or there, as the guides took great delight in pointing out these phallic symbols which are also symbols of power and cosmic forces.

Then there was also the constant reminder that these are active places of worship where people came for prayer

 Fascinating bas reliefs of mythological and historical events

The Terrace of the Elephants in Angkor Thom - riddled by bullet holes courtesy of the Khmer Rouge

Procession of tourists on tuktuks on what used to be a triumphal entry to the "Big City" Angkor Thom.   Many of the statues on both sides have been beheaded during the war. This gateway was particularly devastated.  The south gate  (below) was in relatively good shape.  

This brought back childhood memories of when I first saw photographs of these gateways - my parents and sister visited Angkor Wat and took pictures with these demon guards in the early sixties and I wished then I was there.  This is a realization of a lifelong dream to visit Angkor Wat - half a century too late.