March 1, 2009

in Angkor Temples

Temple Name: Baphuon
Notable Features: Exceptional animal carvings at the temple’s main entrance.
Getting There: Baphuon is situated within Angkor Thom, approximately 200 meters northwest of the Bayon.

The Fallen Mountain

Baphuon is a gargantuan temple-mountain built sometime in the 11th century by King Udayadityavarman II. This temple is in an advanced state of ruin, and has been the focus of ongoing restoration. As a result, only the exterior gateway and the elevated walking path are open to the public. But even from afar, the sheer size of Baphuon is worth experiencing.

Baphuon is located in present day Angkor Thom, close to the ancient city’s Royal Palace. When the temple was first constructed, Angkor Thom did not yet exist. At the time of construction around 1060, until the construction Angkor Wat, nearly a century later, Baphuon was the largest temple of Angkor.

Baphuon’s architects designed the temple to symbolize Mount Meru, which is the center of the Hindu cosmos (heaven, if you will). The temple mountain, or pyramid, is made up of five concentric tiers. It faces east, like most Angkorian temples, and was once adorned with a central prasat (tower). Today, the temple-mountain appears as a giant pile of rubbish, but is nonetheless an awesome site.

Unfortunately, Baphuon is in such a state of disrepair that most of the monument is off limits to tourists. The stone carvings at the temple’s exterior gateway, however, are accessible and worth seeing. You can also approach Baphuon via an ancient elevated walking path. The temple’s enormity alone is worth experiencing.

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