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General information, history
Bayon (Bayon) is one of the most amazing temples located on the territory of Angkor Thoma and was its religious center. The "highlight" of Bayon are towers with many faces carved out of stone, silently looking down from a height on the vast territory of Angkor Thom, and during the heyday of the state – on the entire Khmer Empire. Initially, there were 54 towers, which symbolized the 54 provinces under the rule of the king. Unfortunately, today about 37 towers have been preserved. Each tower has four faces, looking in all directions of the world, and the facial expressions on each side are different. All the towers were covered with gold. In addition to the faces themselves, the bas-reliefs located in the galleries of the first and second tiers, the reznina and more than 1000 images of apsaras (celestial dancers) are also of particular interest.
The temple was built in the spirit of Buddhism, however, there are features of Hinduism.
Bayon was and remains the central temple of Angkor Thom. The legend of Churning the ocean of milk is directly connected with it, according to which the Bayon acts as a base serving as a means for churning the Ocean of milk to obtain the elixir of immortality.
The temple was built during the reign of Jayavarman VII (Jayavarman VII, ruled 1181-1220) and was repeatedly completed and rebuilt under subsequent rulers. Restoration work in Bayonne began in the 20s of the XX century.
The set of carved faces is the face of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, the deity of compassion, the prototype of whose appearance was Jayavarman VII himself.
Orientation in the temple, tips for inspection
Time to inspect the temple should be allocated about 2 hours.
Bayon is located in the center of Angkor Thom in the temple complex Angkor, at the intersection of four roads leading to Angkor Thom, which lead directly to the temple. You can drive directly to the Bayon itself by motorbike or bicycle, walk quite far: from the gate to the temple the distance is decent – 1.5 km, and from the center G. Siem Reap - 10 kilometers (cm. Bayon on the map of Angkor). It is quite common to get to Bayon through the southern gate from Angkor Wat. It is also worth mentioning the so-called "elephant trail", along which elephant rides are organized through the eastern gate to Bayon and around it.
Especially excellent photos are obtained in the early morning, when the sun rises, gradually illuminating the royal faces of Bayon, or at sunset. At this time, a huge number of people gather at the top of the temple. Since Bayon is a famous temple, there are always a lot of people here, so it will sometimes be very difficult to take photos.
There is a stone cross-shaped platform leading to the Bayon, consisting of two tiers and framed in some places by sculptures of lions and nagas, on both sides of which there used to be small ponds. There are four entrances to the Bayon (main) and two more on each side (additional), the main entrance is located on the east side.
Next to the Bayon (on the northwest side) there is a small open veranda with a statue of a sitting Buddha, called Preah Ngoc or Preah Ngok. It is of no historical interest. This shrine is operational, there are no tourists here. It is also worth mentioning another little-known "monument" - this is a tombstone erected in honor of one of the first French researchers Jean Commaille, involved in the restoration of Angkor, who was killed by robbers in 1916 and buried near Bayon, in the southwest.
Temple construction, architecture
The temple has the shape of a three–tiered pyramid, the first two tiers are square, the third is round. The temple is built of stone blocks, some of its parts are made of wood, in general, it has been preserved quite well.
Bayon is majestic from the outside, and at the same time chaotic in architecture, perhaps due to periodic completion and rebuilding of some parts.
The first tier of the building measures approximately 160 by 140 m, the height of the walls is 4.5 m. There are four corner towers on the edges, a gopura (gate tower) and two additional entrance towers in the center on each side. There are two library buildings in the courtyard on the east side.
This tier is interesting with galleries with carved bas-reliefs located around the perimeter. The bas-reliefs are located on a blank wall and have a height of 3.5 m, on the other side there is a double row of columns. Previously, there were wooden floors between the wall and the columns, but they have not been preserved.
It is recommended to inspect the bas-reliefs from the eastern entrance from right to left, in accordance with the ritual of pradakshina (ritual circumambulation of the shrine). If you don't have enough time to inspect all the bas–reliefs, then it's worth taking a look at the bas-reliefs depicted on the southern and eastern walls - they are the best preserved and give a general idea of the other bas-reliefs and their execution techniques. A feature of the images is the horizontal separation of images into several separate scenes. Some scenes were only outlined by the drawing, but not completed.
The galleries of the first tier depict the military and daily life of the king and his subjects, sometimes with historical accuracy, for example: Khmer warriors led by Jayavarman VII returning from battle; armed soldiers with wagons, carts and elephants; everyday life of ordinary people, their houses with birds sitting on their roofs, scenes of trade; naval battles of the Khmer Tonle Sap Island; the king gives orders; scenes of fishing; princesses surrounded by servants; Khmer victory over the Tyams; civil war scene; circus performance; scenes dedicated to the city of Angkor (Khmer defeat in the war of 1171, the sack of Angkor, the victory of the Khmer in 1181). There are also bas-reliefs with mythological images of apsaras, lingams, gods and saints, but there are very few of them.
In the courtyard from the north-west side there are mountains of stones that have not yet been installed in their places.
On the second tier you need to climb higher. It is formed according to the type of the first, only smaller in size, approximately 80 by 70 m. There are several additional galleries intersecting at right angles, and not always connected by transitions. On this tier there are four small courtyards in the corners. The tier contains an internal gallery with bas-reliefs, located not in the gallery surrounding the tier, but in separate rooms forming additional galleries. The theme of the bas-reliefs is devoted to religious scenes. The safety of some images leaves much to be desired.
In the galleries there are statues of Buddha and lingams, for example: in the southeast corner tower there is a well-preserved statue of Buddha framed by a many-headed naga (snake).
There are also scenes of palace life and military campaigns, but most of all there are paintings of Buddhist and Hindu orientation: revered saints and gods, mythological characters (apsaras), scenes from the ancient Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Rather steep stairs lead to the third tier. The upper terrace is located here, with very narrow passages, there are three small libraries (west, north, east), as well as prasata towers.
In the middle of the terrace there is a huge central tower with a diameter of about 25 m at the base, rising 43 m from the ground. The central tower has eight towers, the main tower is in a dilapidated state. Inside, the tower is divided along the axial lines into several independent rooms-sanctuaries, where previously there were statues of Buddhist and Hindu deities. In the very center of the main tower (from the eastern entrance), there is the most sacred place, it has a round shape with a diameter of 5 m and three exits along very narrow corridors. A 3.6 m high Buddha statue found in the foundation during the excavations of Bayon was originally installed in this room, it was subsequently removed, restored and placed behind the Prasat Suor Prat towers located closer to the south of the road leading from Victory Gate, behind the pool, there is a large terrace Vihear Prampil Loveng.
Today, there is also a statue of Buddha on this place and the aroma of incense is carried. Anyone can "talk to the Buddha" for a small monetary donation, receiving in return a string on his wrist and one or three incense sticks that need to be put in a pot of sand.
On the south and east sides, in the niches above the entrances, bas-reliefs and figures of apsaras in flower patterns, images of birds and gods are best preserved.