The Angkor God-Kings

Siem Reap Travel Blog

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Today we spent visiting several of the temples in the Angkor area. They were all made in the 10th-12th century by the Angkor ‘God-Kings’.


The first we visited was Ta Prohm. This was a Buddhist monastery, made by Jayavarman VII in 1186. Ig is unrestored, simply having most of the Jungle cleared away. The ruins were massive and fantastic, with some gigantic trees growing on the temples. There were hundreds of Buddha statues and carvings, as well as carvings of celestial dancers, many of which had their heads removed (sold to museums by the French discovers). One of the interesting parts was the echo-chambers. If you hit your chest you got a resounding echo, but the chambers were only designed for that, and would not echo the clap of hands.


Next we visited Preah Rup, a temple founded by Rajendravarman II in 961. This was a smaller temple of nearly solid rock, which had been restored. There were five towers, giving it the appearance of Mt Meru, the holy mountain of India. The central tower stood for spirit/heaven, with the surrounding towers standing for the four elements of air, water, fire and earth. The temple was built with three levels, with the base being hell, the middle earth and the top heaven. The stairs up each level were very steep and narrow to symbolize that you have to work to get to heaven. There were also two libraries, and from the top was a distant view of Angkor Wat.


The next temple we visited was Preah Khan.

This was founded by Jayavarman VII in 1191. The central tower wash Buddhist, with the outer temples being Hindu (with shrines to Vishnu, Shiva and ancestor worship). Most of the Buddha images were removed by the Hindu kings in the 13th century.


We had lunch back in Siem Reap, and then went shopping in the central market, buying some gems for Mandy to use in her jewellery making. Back at the temples, we spent the rest of the day at Angkor Thom, which was the capital city during the Angkor period. Most of it was built by Jayavarman VII c.1200, and it was predominantly Buddhist. At the time, the capital held ~1 million people (bigger than any city in Europe). It was surrounded by a moat, with five causeways over it.

The causeways were lined by a row of 54 gods and 54 demons, each pulling on a ‘rope’ made of a Naga. This was from the legend of the churning of the ocean of milk, where the demons and gods joined together to help Shiva churn the ocean of milk to create holy water. The gods drank some and became immortal, but most was stolen by a crazy demon. Shiva was angry and cut off his head before he swallowed, so he became just an immortal head. Three-headed elephants were also born in this churning, and all o these decorate the causeway gates.


Inside Angkor Thom were the Royal Palace, Phimeanakas (a Hindu temple, with bathing pools for males and females), Baphuan (another temples, mostly ruined with a giant reclining Buddha which was being restored) and Bayon.

This last temple was the most magnificent, full of smiling faces from each of 54 towers in the temple. Each tower has four faces, except the central, which had 16. The smiling faces are thought to be a combination of Jayavarman VII and Buddha. We also went to the Terrace of Elephants – a long terrace carved with elephants to celebrate a battle victory, and the Terrace of the Leper King, so named for the mounting statue, which showed a sex-less king mediating. This is thought to be Kubera, the God of Wealth (who was a leper) or Yasouarman I, who became a leper after being bitten by a cobra.


One interesting thing was the grass in this area, called ‘touch-me-not’, which folded up whenever they were touched. We also saw a troop of monkeys by the side of the road playing. At every stop kids ran up to the bus trying to sell us postcards, flutes, toys, film, books or anything else, asking for “one dollar mister”. We ended up buying two flutes, two postcards and a book.

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photo by: genetravelling