Royal Green Square – Elephant Terrace – Leper King Terrace

Elephant Terrace - Royal Green Square

Elephant Terrace overlooking Royal green square

 Elephant Terrace

The royal green square is a large green park area fronting the Elephant Terrace and Terrace of the Leper King in the heart of Angkor Thom. Interestingly if this was the Royal Square in the Forbidden City of China it would be a huge paved area with not a blade of green grass in sight. (Click on the image to enlarge).

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Close up of distant towers from royal green Square

Royal Square – green grassed reception area

After the somber grey ruins of the many temples in this ancient kingdom the green is a welcome sight. One can easily imagine this area as an open pavilion for royal receptions, public ceremonies and processions. The King able  to view and greet his subjects in safety and comfort from the Elephant Terrace. Mysterious towers appear among the trees on the far side of the royal square.

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Elephant Terrace overlooks Royal Green Square

300 meter long Elephant Terrace

The Elephant terrace runs from the entrance to the Bayon for some 300 m to the Terrace of the Leper King and gives a view of the green grassed Royal Square along its entire length.There are bas-reliefs of elephants with their mahouts the length of the wall; the wall 3 meters high. Very impressive. It would be really nice to see it again when cleaned of the black sooty mold, which incidentally covers much of the ruins (what do you expect after hundreds of years?).

Stairways of Elephant Terrace lead into Royal green square

Stairways Elephant Terrace lead into Royal green square

There are five stairways along the Elephant Terrace, one at either end and three in the middle section; the central staircase being the largest, all five stairways project into the Royal Square. The stairways at either end of the Elephant terrace flanked by the three-headed elephant pulling lotuses from the ground, at the top of the stairs stand two guardian lions. A small section of the wall leading to the main central stairway has carved lion-headed figures and Garuda.

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Carved Garudas – Elephant Terrace

 

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Three-headed Airavatar and mythological carvings-Elephant Terrace

Terrace of the Leper King

The Terrace of the Leper King is independent of the other buildings that surround the royal square. It projects in an almost zigzag fashion into the green of the royal square. Below is the front wall of deeply carved mythological scenes, a bit hard to distinguish exactly what the carvings are. There is also a hidden wall which again has wonderful carvings but difficult to see what they are because of the sooty mold.

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Carved wall – Terrace of the Leper King

 Dharma – god of the Underworld

Leaving behind the hidden reliefs we climbed the steps to the top of the terrace, first sight a headless statue. The original statue known as Dharma or Yama, the god of the Underworld. The god is in a seated position and carries a mace on his right shoulder. Not a popular god, this is a cement copy and even it has lost its head.

Headless Statue-Terrace of Leper King-Royal square

Headless cement copy Dharma- God of Underworld Leper Terrace

It is believed the statue became known as the “Leper King” as the surface of the original statue covered with patches of lichen and rough areas corroded from time and weather, it looked like a person with leprosy. There is also an old folk legend that one of Angkorian Kings had leprosy. Hence the name Terrace of the Leper King. The original statue of Dharma sits in the National Museum in Phnom Penh.

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Buddhist statue Terrace of the Leper King

A few paces behind the headless statue is a Buddhist statue from more recent times draped in a gold silk cloth. There are many areas like the one below in Angkor that have rows of large stone lying on green parkland areas, possibly ruins or perhaps for restoration purposes. There are so many interesting places to explore here.

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Ruins Elephant Terrace-Royal Square- Leper king Terrace

Moss covered ruins  – Terrace of the Leper King

It had rained heavily overnight. Our tour group took a lunch break and found the many streets of Siem Reap inundated with water.

Next – the  famous temple of Ta Prohm…..


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