Saturday, December 03, 2011

The Faces of Bayon


Bayon was built in the late 12th or early 13th century by Jayavarman VII as a Mahayana Buddhist temple in the center of Angkor Thom, the capital of the Khmer empire. There are more than 200 facial sculptures on 37 surviving towers. Four faces are carved in each tower staring at four different directions. These faces are believed to be the bodhisatva of compassion, Avalokitesvara or Lokeshvara.


There are studies suggesting that the faces in the temple are similar to that of Jayavarman VII from existing statues of him. This is not far fetched in light of the traditional belief among Khmer rulers that they were devaraja (god-king), but unlike other rulers who practiced Hinduism, Jayavarman VII was a Buddhist and would have aligned himself with Buddha and the bodhisattva (enlightenment being).

Khmer army marching to battle

Bas reliefs cover the walls of  Bayon in exquisite detail. There are scenes of battles, celebrations after the battle, everyday life, the next life. It's a picture book of the Khmer empire for all generations to come.



There's an important architectural element in the positioning of the towers shown above. Notice the diagonal perspective. The guides are quick to point this out.

To enter Angkor Thom, you need to purchase a pass before you enter the Angkor complex of temples. A single day pass cost US$20.00. For a three-day pass, you would pay US$40.00. It's best to buy a multiple day pass if you are planning to see temples beyond Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom.

*  *  *

Images by Charie

No comments: