Bayon = 216 smiling faces

Trip Start Dec 19, 2012
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Trip End Jan 13, 2013


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Flag of Cambodia  , Khétt Siĕm Réab,
Thursday, December 20, 2012

Bayon is a well-known and richly decorated Khmer. Built in the late 12th century or early 13th century as the official state temple of the Mahayana Buddhist King Jayavarman VII, the Bayon stands at the centre of Jayavarman's capital, Angkor Thom. Following Jayavarman's death, it was modified and augmented by later Hindu and Theravada Buddhist kings in accordance with their own religious preferences.

The Bayon's most distinctive feature is the multitude of serene and massive stone faces on the many towers which jut out from the upper terrace and cluster around its central peak. The temple is known also for two impressive sets of bas-reliefs, which present an unusual combination of mythological, historical, and mundane scenes. The current main conservatory body, the Japanese Government team for the Safeguarding of Angkor (the JSA) has described the temple as "the most striking expression of the baroque style" of Khmer architecture, as contrasted with the classical style of Angkor Wat.

The temple is oriented towards the east and so its buildings are set back to the west inside enclosures elongated along the east-west axis. Because the temple sits at the exact centre of Angkor Thom, roads lead to it directly from the gates at each of the city's cardinal points. The temple itself has no wall or moats, these being replaced by those of the city itself: the city-temple arrangement, with an area of 9 square kilometres, is much larger than that of Angkor Wat to the south. Within the temple itself, there are two galleried enclosures and an upper terrace. All of these elements are crowded against each other with little space between. Unlike Angkor Wat, which impresses with the grand scale of its architecture and open spaces, the Bayon "gives the impression of being compressed within a frame which is too tight for it."

The upper terrace is home to the famous "face towers" of the Bayon, each of which supports two, three or most commonly four gigantic smiling faces. In addition to the mass of the central tower, smaller towers are located along the inner gallery at the corners and entrances and on chapels on the upper terrace. "Wherever one wanders," writes Maurice Glaize, the faces of Lokesvara follow and dominate with their multiple presence."

At one point, the temple was host to 49 such towers; now only 37 remain. The number of faces is approximately 200, but since some are only partially preserved there can be no definitive count. Mr Wikipedia.

Pissa (and Lonely Planet) said that there were 216 smiling and enormous faces and I have taken pictures of most of them. No … I just love these faces especially with the beautiful morning light that I still have.

This along with Ta Prohm are my favourite Ankor sites. Both different and a really special place to be in.
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