Bayon Temple The Charm Of Smile

The Bayon temple was the second important monument after Angkor Wat temple. This temple was considered as a last stone temple of the Khmer Empire. When they had finished this monument temple the Khmer were not to built the temple anymore because the country was getting declined and also had an unrest situation by the eternal conflict with the religion Buddhist and Hinduist. And also the Siamese who used to be the Khmer vassal had been emerged their power and they separated their own state away from their master at the 13th century. And since then, the Khmer Empire did not have a strong king anymore, that’s why they could not construct any monument in stone. By the way the Bayon was built in the end of the 12th century to served as a Buddhist temple in Mahayana sect and as the tomb of the last great king of the Khmers Jayavarman 7. Even the Bayon was younger than Angkor Wat, but the Bayon looked much older and poor condition than Angkor Wat temple. The reason is, Bayon was hurry to finish, that’s why the structure was not so elaborated built. Anyway when the capital city had abandoned, the Bayon was covered by the jungle completely which it was different from the Angkor Wat which maintained by the people.

The Bayon was constructed in the middle of Angkor Thom exactly, its location just 1.5 km from each sides of the gateway. When the French discovered you were not see its building at all because the jungle grown so densely. But during 1916 the French had clear the plantation away. From this monument and they began to restore until the war starting in 1970. The Bayon in Khmer is “The Powerful Magic”. This temple has adorned with 54 towers which on each towers decorated with the four faces of the compassionate Bodhisattva Avalokesvara and combination with the faces of Buddha-king Jayavarman 7. The 54 towers of Bayon were symbolized of the lucky number of the Hindu calendar which specially involving the lunar astrology. And also represented to the 54 provinces of the Khmer Kingdom at that period. For the good prosperity of the country, the king Jayavarman 7 arranged his region in the country as following the concept of the natural rotating of the planet, especially to the moon.

The Bayon temple was designed with three levels as the same as all the temple mountain for the tomb of the rulers. When the French began to work on this temple structure before they found the stone style, they thought this temple might be the Hindu temple which dedicate to the Brahma the creator god in the 9th century. Because they saw the four faces of the towers of this temple. But during the 1935 when the work started in the central sanctuary they were understood this temple was not a Hindu and neither the oldest one from 9th century. They knew that the Bayon was a Buddhist temple which built in the 12th century by the same style of many temple are nearby in the area, such as Taprohm, Preah Khan, Banteay Kdei etc… The French also were surprised by they had been found the big Buddha statue in the area of the main tower which they dug about 14 m deep. They restored this magnificent Buddha statue in 1940 by the order of king Monivong, this statue was installed in a small monastery of Preah Vihear Prampi Lveng which its location is behind the Sour Prat towers and along the road to the victory gate. Beside, they had found the big broken Buddha in the central tower they also found an image of Lokesvara in a pediment of the second level. This is a result of analyze the Bayon as a Buddhist Mahayana sect, by the image of the Lokesvara.

They also were able to find a proof of destruction of Buddha images in everywhere of Bayon that’s why they knew this temple as the work by the king Jayavarman 7. The Lokesvara image which they just found was later they had open as remove the stone floor from the to as for convenience to the visitors can see directly. According to the Chinese ambassador Chou Ta Kuan who living in Angkor Thom city for one year in 13th century had mention in his account which still exist today in Beijing about the Bayon as a “Golden Tower” because at its summit used gild with gold. And he mentioned more about statue of Buddha in the chamber of Bayon as well. The base of central sanctuary of Bayon was designed in around shape. Which symbolize of the wheel of life in Buddhist believed. The surrounding of this section they arranged with 16 chambers which for install the different statue including Buddha, Hindu gods and personal cults of the king ancestors. The main tower of Bayon is about 35m tall. This tower has 8 faces of Lokesvara which now most of theses faces had been damaged by the vandalism probably in the 14th century. The minor towers of Bayon were decorated only with four faces and their size are not identifying. We notice that some of them are taller and bigger scale and sometimes are smaller scale, this reason was according to the region how large of the size of the provinces of Cambodia and also its population of inhabitant.

The Bayon was a miniature of the kingdom of the Khmer under the reign of king Jayavarman 7, it was probably in each shrine of Bayon they installed the Buddha image which took from the different provinces of the kingdom as well. The outer gallery of Bayon are also designed with a rectangular form which from the north to the south is 140 m and from the east to the west is 160m. all around these galleries there are the base-relief which depicting the daily life of the common people and recording the real history of war in 1177-1181 with the Cham solders, Chinese solders also exist in this scene too.

Location: Siem Reap, Cambodia.

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