Monday, July 1, 2013


Now, Angkor Wat is the name everyone identifies. But Angkor Wat is one of many such temples that exist in Siem Reap. Few of them older than Angkor Wat, few more grander and bigger. As such, its not possible to get a guide for whole day. For one; its not about the expense; but about the control of time. You have total control of your time and can choose where you want to spend more time and the ones you want to skip.

Nothing is worth skipping but since the sq km area clustered with these temples run into 100s an you may need over a month to visit each one. And if you are from India; you wouldn't really need a guide since the temples are designed around Hindu mythology. Even if you are not a Hindu; you will know most things and then the temples and the art are self explanatory.

After Angkor Wat, we visited Bayon. Bayon is just across Angkor Wat. Its a 12th century temple built by Mahayana Buddhist king Jayavarman VII. Note that Jayavarman VII covered to Buddhism whereas his predecessors were Hindu. The conversion happened due to the influence of Sri Lankan Buddhist monks who visited Angkor kingdom. The capital of Jayavarman VII was Angkor Thom. If you have to visualize, all these places are just less than a km away; but each king had his own capital and a state temple.

Whats special about Bayon is that unlike a conventional temple tower design, the edifice has distinctive feature of numerous and serene stone faces on the many towers. The 54 towers has a total of 216 gigantic faces stares at you. Some historians believe that these are the faces of Bodhisatva called Avalokiteshvara or Lokeshvara while there are also conclusion that the faces may also be of King Jayavarman VII as DEVARAJA "God King" since the stone faces bears a strong resemblance to the king himself. These two theories need not be mutually exclusive. Later part of the 13th century saw the temple undergo modifications when the Khmer empire reverted to Hinduism and further alterations when Theravada Buddhism was adopted.

So what was my reaction? Well, by now I must say I was too stunned to even react. I kept thanking God for blessing me to be able to see these marvels and at the same time; feeling the walls of the temples to confirm I was really there. The feeling is overwhelming; nothing prepares you for that experience. If you ask me to describe in words my feelings; I can't. Visit Siem Reap to understand what I am trying to convey

Such tours are common :)

Bayon first glance

A scene of a day to day life on bas relief. A VIP on his way

Men at work

Elephants at war

Amry at war


War scenes

Everyday life of a Khmer

First look at inner courtyard

This is what i was talking about

Alterations - images and sculptures confirming conversion to Hinduism

Leaves you stunned; imagine gigantic faces looking at you which ever way you turn

Inner courtyard

A close up

Size comparison

Apsaras everywhere

A unique one; if you observe the image is smiling and the teeth are visible

I will die to be experiencing this

A very close up of a face. As you go to the top most courtyard; the gigantic faces come face to face with you


  1. While I was looking at the stone faces and carvings of dancers and warriors etc., the thought that was passing through my mind was on the cultural/racial distinctiveness of sculptures of the different regions of the world. Look at the faces - these are recognizably different from that of say India or Sri Lanka or Thailand, even though the cultures share the same religions, Hindu/Buddhism. The remarkable thing about the sculptor or painter or artisan is that they are like cultural historians. The temple murals/ wood carvings in some Kerala temples are like history books. And I am always awestruck by that feeling of 'connection' I get...

    1. I agree with you Balan. Looking at the art at a temple or a palace teaches us about the culture, the habit and about people. Look at Cambodia; they have had influences by Hinduism due to trade and some kings actually going and setting up kingdoms there. At the same time they have also been influenced by China in food habits. But they have improvised and created their own culture.

    2. In fact, won't it be surprising if we say Nepal and Sri Lanka shared kings long ago. The Malla dynasty which ruled Orissa and Nepal actually went down, got converted to Buddhism and started ruling in Anurahapura. See....

  2. Balan's observation is correct.
    Religion is influenced or is always blend with culture and the artists are inspired by both, I guess. That may be the reason for the dissimilarity in the same offshoot.

    I could see that you could transport yourself into the ancient, while you were there.

    1. I guess human tendency to improvise and be creative sums it up. Anil, transporting oneself can't be avoided. Its a surreal place; you can't believe you actually visited it

  3. Great description and great picture. I remember you went to Costa Rica and wrote a post on it. Can you please send me the link to that.

    1. Thanks Amrit. I have tagged them as "Costa Rica" and the panel on the right side of the page has it.

  4. Absolute delight to read and see so much rich cultural heritage! Need to see this place some time:)

  5. my comments are vanishing... as you said, you are truly blessed.. :) and I feel jealous :)

  6. Yes,I read about Malla dynasty while studying certain historical facts about Orissa

  7. Wow, archaeological wonder! yes, Bayon is a site of pristine temples and sculpture. just amazing picture gallery and post written well.


I'd love to know what you thought :-) Please shoot!