While the almond eyes of the gods speak of goodness, the dilated round eyes of the Asuras symbolises the demons. It is known that two golden lions guarded the gates at each end of this city. Most of these are the replicas. Some of the original structures were stolen, and few of them are in the National Museum. These are popularly called as ‘Naga Gates’ by the locals.
The tower on the gate consists of the smiling faces and the sculpture of Indira, along with a three-headed elephant. It symbolises the gateway to the paradise, headed by its King Indira, which welcomes the visitors.
3. The Bayon temple is exactly at the centre of the city of Angkor Thom. The Khmers considered the connection between the earth and heaven. It is assumed that this is the reason why no walls, moat or a fort surrounds this temple, as the temple itself was considered a gateway for the mortal human beings – to transcend to heaven in this life?
Also, as the entrance depicts the churning of the sea, where is
Mount Mandara, the epicentral mountain of this churning? Archaeologists believe that the Bayon temple itself represents the mountain. While this theory propels from Hinduism, another philosophy is that the central tower signifies Mount Meru, the cosmic mountain, and the temple is considered a microcosm of the universe according to Buddhism.
4. A lotus tower, entirely made of gold, stood at the centre, at several feet high. It housed a statue of the Bodhisattva, which was taken away by the succeeding kings. The temple later became an abode of the Hindu Gods – with the idols of Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva being prominently worshipped.
5. Brahmin priests from India performed the rituals in this temple when Hinduism prevailed, and they held a revered position in the Khmer society.
6. The bas-reliefs on the walls surrounding the temple consist of more than 11,000 sculptures – each of them intricately carved, depicting a story of its own. Each of this stone weighs more than 300 kg!
7. The Goddess of beauty, Apsara is of great importance to the Khmer empire. You can find the incredible sculptures of these Apsaras dancing.
8. The bas-reliefs consist of figurines depicting the battle of Khmer with Cham ( which is today’s Vietnam) – you can even find the enemies being thrown into the water, to the crocodiles. Many scenes illustrate the lives of the Khmer people in Angkor Thom.
The Angkor Wat is unusual, but Bayon temple will remain my favourite – because, it is wild, enigmatic and rustic. It exhilarates the charisma of a lost kingdom, and the smiling faces – well, the aura of the smile will remain fresh in my memories for a long time.