Angkor Thom: City of Riches



Literally meaning the big city in Khmer, Angkor Thom is a magnificent ancient city dedicated to the Buddhists in Cambodia. This is one of the ancient treasures of the region, which even today boasts a myriad of interesting sights for the travelers. The main attraction here that pulls tourists from all the parts of the world is its Bayon Temple. I am sure you must have heard of this great shrine of Buddha, just imagine his four giant stone faces and you will know the grandeur of the temple. Well, this is not the only draw here; there are some more to it.

Founded by the ideal king of Angkor who is Jayavarman VII during his ruling time from 1181 to 1219 A.D, the city in the past was actually the abode of nearly one million inhabitants. Wow! Surprised to know that a southeast Asian city can also have such a huge accommodation. In those days, the city of Angkor Thom was erected in a four-squared wall with equal sides. Each of these sides was parallel to their matching four directions. It goes without saying that this 12 km wall also known as jayagiri was like a guard of the city including a 100 m moat that was the home of wild crocodiles. Each wall side is adorned with a gate carved exactly in the middle. It is through this that a causeway stretches across the moat in the bounds of the city. Also there was a royal palace on the site, which was fully made of wood in either the 10th and 11th centuries. However sadly, this no longer stands today.

The city of Angkor Thom is a vast area that runs beyond a mile and is packed with a plethora of stone temples as well as the other monuments. When you come here, first look for the Five Monumental Gates that adorn the four bordering walls along with the extra one into the eastern wall. Each of them is 20 m in height and is engraved with the stone elephant trunks – the motif that is beloved by the king – as well as the four faces of Avalokiteshvara. Just also take a look at the edges that are sculpted with the 54 statues of gods on the left along with the same number of demons adorning the right side. Actually, this decoration of statues depicts the event from the episode of the churning of the milk ocean as stated in the Hindu mythology. Out of all the gates, do explore the one in the south that is restored ideally. This one is known to take you directly to the sacred, Angkor Wat. As compared to the south one, the east and west gates are not that crowded at the end of rough tracks.

Formerly the observation base in the city, the Terrace of the Elephants was the sight from where the royal folks observed the events that used to take place around. The reason why it is named is the fact that it reveals the embellishments of elephants and garuda.

The Terrace of the Leper King, the decorated base, holds a middle statue that is enclosed by four statues. Each of these enclosing ones seems to be far away from the central statue. As per the research, it is proposed that the middle one is of a Khmer king who met death due to leprosy. This king can be then either Yasovarman I or Jayavarman VII.

The eye-soothing Bayon Temple stands exactly in the middle even today after it was built in 1190 A.D. Although it is a Buddhist temple, it reveals the beliefs of the Hindu mythology. The temple is purposely located in the center, which indicates the confluence of heaven and earth. Attracting maximum visitors, it is adorned with 51 towers each of which bears four intriguingly smiling faces of Avalokiteshvara who is also known as the Mahayana Buddha and beautiful bas-reliefs. Head in the north from Bayon and you will come across another robust temple of Baphuon that was made in 1066. The restoration work is in progress here.

Lastly, do take a tour of the Phimeanakas Temple that is a holy pyramidal symbol of the celestial Mount Meru – the abode of gods. The location of the temple was once the address of the royal palace. Despite the fact that a myriad of its charming elements are now not seen, you still can explore this fascinating monument for a thrilling hike to enjoy the vistas of the Baphuon temple.

The entrance fees are $20 per day, $40 for three, and $60 per week.

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