Angkor - The Khmer Empire

Angkor Wat

 

Model of the temple. Angkor Wat is a magnificent example of the temple-mountain (or pyramid) architectural style. 

 

Wide and elevated stone walkway leads from the outer wall to the main entrance.

 

View at the gallery on the second level of the pyramid. The first level does not have a typical stone floor - it is covered with grass.

 

Steps are very steep and narrow in Angkor Wat (and many other Angkor temples).

 

Some galleries have windows with narrow decorative columns.

 

Temple interior is very richly decorated.

 

Angkor Wat has three levels. Each level is surrounded by long galleries.

 

Carvings on portals show scenes from Hindu mythology.

 

Main sanctuary in the middle of the top level is the largest of all Angkor Wat towers. Originally, inside was just one sanctuary devoted to the Hindu god Vishnu. When the kingdom's religion changed to Buddhism, its four doors were filled with walls and four new sanctuaries with Buddha images were created - each facing one of the cardinal directions. This layout survived till today.

 

Walls are decorated with hundreds of aspara figures. In Hindu mythology, asparas were Indra's royal dancers. (Indra is the the king of Hindu gods.)

 

Bas-reliefs on the outer walls of the first level are a highlight of Khmer art. They mostly picture scenes from Hindu mythology and scenes from the life of Suryavarman II. The originally wooden ceiling has long decayed, but has been reconstructed in this part of the gallery.

 

Bas-relief detail. The bas-reliefs were added  in the 16th century (four centuries after Angkor Wat was first built).

 

Angkor Thom

Angkor Thom gates are topped with towers decorated with typical giant faces.  All five city gates as well as city walls and surrounding moats have been preserved.

 

There are rows of mythical figures holding the snake Naga in front of every city gate. Naga, the Hindu god of sea, is a popular element of the Angkor architecture.

 

One of the walls at the Leper King's Terrace (within the city of Angkor Thom) has been uncovered only recently. Its carvings have been beautifully preserved. You can see the king and the ladies of the court here. The king is holding a sacred sword, a symbol of power. He would not leave the palace without the sword during unstable times - he feared that somebody else could get hold of it while he was gone and thus assume power over the kingdom.

 

Bayon

Bayon is located in the middle of the Angkor Thom city. It is one of the most interesting and mysterious temples of Angkor. Most but not all of its 37 towers are decorated with giant faces. Some historians believe that this temple used to be dedicated to more than one Hindu god. 

 

Bayon walkways often curve around the many towers.

 

All the faces look somewhat similar. Its expressions combine peaceful smiles with determination. One of many theories says that these are faces of the king Jayavarman VII. However, there is no proof and the theory is not widely accepted.

 

Outside wall of the lowest level is beautifully carved. Most carvings show scenes from Khmer history. Some also depict daily life.

 

One of the detailed carvings. Traders and common people are accompanying a royal procession.

 

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm temple is being overgrown by the surrounding jungle.

 

Tree roots are growing over the structures inside this monastery.

 

Many structures have collapsed under the pressure of the trees, others survived and are very pictoresque

 

Roluos Group - Bakong Temple 

Bakong was the first Angkor temple built in the temple-mountain style. It was also one of the first temples where bricks started to be replaced with limestone.

 

Prasat Kravan

Prasat Kravan is one of the older temples in Angkor. Its architecture is not very intricate. However, it is unique in the fact that its sanctuaries are inside decorated with carvings, which is not the case with other temples. This picture shows Lakshmi, the goddess of love and fortune, the wife of Vishnu.

 

Western Baray

Huge water tanks (barays) were built around the city. They are only partially filled with water today. Most of their vast areas have been converted to rice fields.

 

Banteay Srey

"Citadel of Women" is a small, but beautifully decorated Hindu temple from the 10th century.

 

All temple walls and portals are decorated with mythological scenes or geometric patterns.

 

No words are needed here. It is just really beautiful.