Bayon – Kingdom of Kings – Siem Reap

Pond reflections- Bayon - Kingdom of Khmer Kings

Awe-inspiring – Bayon – ancient temple Kingdom of the Khmer Kings

The Bayon is like a forest of rock pinnacles, a jumble of rocky towers reaching skyward, some 37 at last count, once believed to be about fifty. The block towers weathered an ancient grey, built in single stone blocks, towers seemingly arranged in no particular order, but rising towards the central tower. Most central towers have four faces, other towers three and some only two.

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Entering State Temple of Bayon – – Kingdom of Khmer Kings

This is the Bayon the State temple in the center of the Khmer capital city Angkor Thom. The kingdom of Khmer Kings. Ruling Kings –  JayavarmanVII and JayavarmanVIII.

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You cannot escape the smiling faces. Only –  216 huge smiling faces of  the god-king on the temple towers. Comparing the faces to known statues of the King, many scholars believe the faces represent King Jayavarman VII himself.  Then again some believe as a follower of Buddhism, King Jayavarman VII identified himself with the Buddha of compassion and the stone heads may represent the Buddha and the king; traditionally Khmer kings also believed themselves to be a God-King.

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Everyday life in Khmer Kingdom

Close up this temple is awesome, and quite an extraordinary complex. The Bayon is like exploring a maze. It has a confusing number of inner temples, narrow corridors, galleries and stairways rising to three levels. An exquisite carving of Hindu dancers (devada) appear unexpectedly on a large column. Glimpses of the Kings smiling face greets you from the third level as you explore the corridors below. In the southern galleries are Bas-Reliefs depicting images of everyday life in the Khmer kingdom.

Bayon buddha Statue King of Khmer Kingdom

Buddhist shrine – Bayon – Khmer Kingdom of Kings

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Everyday life – fishing on Tonle Sap- Khmer Kingdom

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Eastern Gallery – Battles 

In the eastern gallery beautifully detailed bas-reliefs record battle scenes between Khmer Kingdom and the Kingdom of  Champa (Vietnamese). One of particular note depicts the Khmer King seated on an elephant leading his army into battle. King Jayavarman VII defeated the Chams in battle in 1181. It is pretty amazing to  have the history recorded so beautifully in bas-reliefs, as well as on Stele discovered in the temples, now housed in the Conservation Office.

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Cham Kings warships going in to battle on Tonle Sap

Bayon Khmer Kingdom and the Kingdom of  Champa

Bayon-Khmer Kingdom- Army riding elephants into battle

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Khmers defeat the Chams in land battle Khmer Kingdom versus Kingdom of Champa

One has a feeling of well-being walking among the Kings smiling faces, definitely different smiles on some faces. Were sculptors allowed a little leeway, or were there just too many of the Kings heads to keep track of, or maybe its just the weathering over time?

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Below the central tower in the ruins of the Bayon, we watched in delight as  young Khmer dancers performed with such grace and beauty their special repertoire for the tourists.

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Bayon temple main tower – Khmer kings

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Elephants of the Khmer Kingdom

And then the Elephants, beautiful dark-skinned Asian elephants with their bright red and gold saddle cloths, lumbering gently and patiently along the path in front of the pond at the Bayon.  Asian elephants are smaller than their African counterparts and darker in color; very beautiful creatures. There were six in all kept busy by tourists; just caught their reflections as they ambled along on the other side of the pond. If you look to the wall pictures of the Khmer army riding into battle in a procession of elephants, it interesting to see that the elephants are now riding in a procession for tourists, which is probably a much less dangerous occupation.

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Bayon – Reflections – Elephant procession

 From the Bayon we moved on to explore the Elephant Terrace and Terrace of the Leper King……

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