fbpx
Connect with us

DailyArtMagazine.com – Art History Stories

Art Travels: Bayon Temple, Cambodia

The Bayon at Angkor Thom. Source: Cambodia Ministry of Tourism.

Art Travels

Art Travels: Bayon Temple, Cambodia

The Bayon Temple is located at the heart of Angkor Thom and served as the state temple of the Emperor Jayavarman VII. It is a mountain temple built to represent Mount Meru – the center of the universe in both Hindu and Buddhist mythology. It is a popular stop at the Angkor Archeological Park and epitomizes the creative architectural genius of the Khmer period under the patronage of Cambodia’s most celebrated king.

Art Travels: Bayon Temple
View of Bayon, Angkor Thom. Source: Diego Delso, delso.photo, License CC-BY-SA.

Location of the Temple

The temple was constructed in the center of Angkor Thom, a large capital city of the Khmer empire under Jayavarman VII. Unlike other Khmer temples, the Bayon is not surrounded by a moat, though the moat surrounding Angkor Thom probably serves as the first line of defense for the Bayon. Four roads from the four entrance gopuras of Angkor Thom lead directly to the temple.

Lions near the entrance of Bayon, Angkor Thom. Source: Diego Delso, delso.photo, License CC-BY-SA.

Labyrinth

From afar, the Bayon looks like a glorified pile of rubble reaching for the skies. The tunnels, small yards, stairs, and blocked doorways spread across three levels and the labyrinth only becomes apparent upon entering the temple structure.

Walkways through the Bayon. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Bas-Reliefs

Much like the Angkor Wat, narrative bas reliefs adorn the gallery walls of the Bayon. The galleries on the first and second levels are squared and contain bas-reliefs with over 11,000 figures depicting the everyday life of the Khmer people in the 12th century as well as records of historical events, particularly describing various events from the battle with the Chams and they’re eventual vanquish. There are also carvings on the outer wall of the first level that depict vivid scenes of everyday life in 12th-century Cambodia.

Art Travels: Bayon Temple
Bas Reliefs of Bayon, Angkor Thom. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Towers of Bayon

The first two gallery levels lead up to a third circular level with a central tower – a unique occurrence in Khmer architecture. The temple comprises a total of 54 Gothic towers. It is theorized that each tower served as “eyes” to keep watch on each of the Khmer empire’s 54 provinces of the time.

Art Travels: Bayon Temple
Tower Faces of Bayon, Angkor Thom. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Temple of Faces

The Bayon is also known as the temple of faces for the 216 serene faces sculpted on its towers. Initially, the faces were believed to represent the four-headed Brahma, the Hindu God of Creation. It was later established that the faces belong to Lokeshwara or Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion. There are a dozen or more faces visible from any vantage point at the temple. The face of Avalokiteshvara was modeled after Jayavarman VII himself.

Art Travels: Bayon Temple
Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion, Bayon Temple. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Rise of Buddhism

Most Khmer kings were Hindus belonging to the Shaivite (worship of Shiva) tradition, though Vishnu was also revered by the Khmer people. Jayavarman VII’s adoption of Buddhism as his faith and the state religion resulted in a shift from the Hindu iconography to Buddhist iconography in Angkorian construction.

The architecture of the Bayon was a definitive political statement about the widespread conversion of the Khmer people from Hinduism to Mahayana Buddhism. Although the Bayon was a Buddhist temple, other Gods were also worshipped. Separate shrines were dedicated to Vishnu and Shiva, while countless other deities were worshipped.

Apsara carvings and statute of Buddha, Bayon. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Hindu Conversion

The Hindu restoration of the Khmer empire began around 1243 AD after the death of Jayavarman VII’s grandson, Jayavarman VIII. He was devout Shaivite and was responsible for the large-scale destruction of Buddhist images and the reestablishment of Hindu icons that had been converted to Buddhism under his predecessor’s reign.

A 12-foot-tall statue of the Buddha at the Bayon was cast to the bottom of a nearby well under Jayavarman VII. A statue of the main idol, a seated Buddha sheltered under the hoods of the snake Mucalinda, was discovered in a pit under the main shrine during conservation efforts when the temple was rediscovered.

Art Travels: Bayon Temple
Devatas and Apsaras carvings at Bayon, Angkor Thom. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Modern Restoration

The Bayon was deserted around the 15 century when the Khmer kings moved to Phnom Pehn and the area became overgrown by thick jungle. The monument was first cleared in modern times around 1910 and the central sanctuary and the towers were restored around 1940 using the anastylosis method. The Bayon is currently maintained by the Japanese Government Team for Safeguarding Angkor (JSA).

South Inner Enclosure of the Bayon, Angkor Thom. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

If you enjoyed our Art Travels: Bayon Temple, you might also like:

Art, history, mythology, and dachshund enthusiast from New Delhi, based in Los Angeles.

Comments

More in Art Travels

  • Architecture

    Colorful Temples in the World

    By

    Whether colors represent environmental phenomena, human history, or personal freedom, there are canvases that exist beyond an artist’s studio. Mountains, lakes, buildings, and gardens are some of the most colorful places in the world. Let us hope this collection of colorful temples inspires you to visit them! Fushimi Inari-Taisha...

  • Architecture

    Rococo and Baroque Architecture in Turkey

    By

    Representing splendor, opulence, and brilliance, Rococo art prevailed in Europe from the year 1700. It followed the baroque period in art, which included less light and more religious depictions. When it comes to architecture, however, Baroque and Rococo styles are closely intertwined. The way the Rococo...

  • Ancient

    The Fascinating Ceramic Tile Art of the Anatolian Seljuks

    By

    The ceramic tile art of the Anatolian Seljuks dazzled with its mystical turquoise hues, fantastical creatures, and figural depictions. So, who were the Anatolian Seljuks and what inspired them to create such wildly, imaginative ceramic tiles? Who Were the Anatolian Seljuks? The Seljuks originated from the...

  • Architecture

    Global Landmarks Viewed from High in the Sky

    By

    If you are someone who does not deal well with heights, perhaps proceed through this article with caution. Because even though they are only images on a computer screen, these depicted landmarks from around the world are still very much awe inspiring when seen from high...

  • The House with Chimaeras Kyiv Ukraine The House with Chimaeras Kyiv Ukraine

    20th century

    House with Chimaeras: Facts and Legends About an Unusual Art Nouveau Building in Kyiv

    By

    House with Chimaeras (or Horodecki House) is one of the most extraordinary buildings in Ukraine in the Modernist era. Its construction is asymmetrical and concrete animals, birds, and fishes live there something which, despite its gloom, attracts many tourists.  The history of the building The famous...

To Top