The Grandiose Entrances to Angkor Thom

Entrances to Angkor Thom
Arriving at the entrance to Angkor Thom Temple

Angkor Thom (Big Angkor) is a 3km walled and moated royal city and was the last capital of the Angkorian Empire. There are five entrances or gates in to this city. There is a gate at each cardinal point leading you to the Royal Palace and we actually got to visit three of these gates. Although I can not quite remember which one was the South, East or North gate but here are the photos we took of them.

Entrances to Angkor Thom
I just love these beautifully carved faces on the top of the Gates

Angkor Thom was established as the capital of Jayavarman VII’s empire, and was the centre of his massive building program. One inscription found in the city refers to Jayavarman as the groom and the city as his bride. What a magnificent city to be the “creator” or “instigator” of.

Entrances to Angkor Thom
I can just imagine how Grand this must have looked hundreds of years ago

Everyone who entered the city had to pass through these gates. In honor of this function it has been built in a style grandiose and elegant, forming a whole, incomparable in its strength and expression. The gate above has unfortunately been allowed to fall into ruin a bit so it was not safe for us to pass under it.

Entrances to Angkor Thom
This is me standing in the South entrance!!!

Each gate is crowned with 4 giant faces facing each cardinal direction. The faces on the 23 m towers at the city gates, which are later additions to the main structure, take after those of the Bayon Temple and pose the same problems of interpretation. They may represent the king himself, the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, guardians of the empire’s cardinal points, or some combination of these. Nobody really knows what they represent which is sad as they are so beautiful and majestic.

Entrances to Angkor Thom
These faces are full of expression

The lower half of each gate is modeled like an elephant with three heads. Their trunks, which serve as pillars, are plucking lotus flowers. The Hindu god Indra sits at the center of the elephant with an Apsara on each side. He holds a thunderbolt in his lower left hand. I had a look and couldnt quite make out all of this detail, but maybe I was just looking at one of the gates that were not so well preserved.

The gateways themselves are 3.5 by 7 m, and would originally have been closed with wooden doors of which there is definitely no trace left. As my mom and I entered through these gates I could hardly contain my excitement at exploring the wonders that lay beyond.

 

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27 comments

    • Thank you! I am only now getting around to typing up our Vietnam adventure….this was actually a couple of years ago, while I was still living in Vietnam. I am currently living in Cape Town, South Africa and only starting to explore this area now. Will start blogging about it soon.

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      • Wow… You have been lucky to live all over. We’ve been in China for 4 years. Have been able to see lots of places we would have otherwise missed. What do you do to allow you to live in so many places?

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  1. Powerful photos. How lucky you are to have an experience like this. Isn’t it tragic that these “gifts” have fallen to ruin? Waving at you from The Garden State

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  2. Just one of the most amazing places in the world. TODAY I got my pictures back (they had been locked in an ex-friend’s garage for years) back from my first to o/s trips, including Angkor. Must take the wife there. It’s beyond words/

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  3. Are we going to see the wonders that lay beyond?? These faces of Angkor Thom are, I think, the very first images I saw in a book of Rose Macaulay’s (Pleasure of Ruins) that had been illustrated with some images by a photographer called Rolof Beny (I think) and it made me want to see this for myself….

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