Wednesday, January 28, 2009

King of kings

The South Gate of Angkor Thom
I find the giant faces of Angkor, whether it be at the Bayon or the five gates that permit access to Angkor Thom, or even as far away as Banteay Chhmar or Preah Khan of Kompong Svay, absolutely fascinating and spellbinding. I always have. Ever since I first saw them in 1994 when I turned up in Angkor, wet behind the ears on my first trip outside of Europe, and stepped foot into this incredible world of gods and demons, kings and temples. They captured my heart and soul then, and still do today. I simply can't get enough of them. And any chance to show them off and I will. So that's why I will close my recent visit to the South Gate of Angkor Thom with yet more pictures of this impressive gateway into the palace of the gods. I know everyone who has been to Angkor will include photos of the South Gate in their collection and I admit to taking photos there on all of my numerous visits over the years. I can't stop myself. But of course, it's easy to miss the detail when you are blinded by the sheer scale of the whole. And there's enough detail on the gates themselves as well as the causeway lined with gods and demons to keep you occupied for hours. As for who is represented in the faces you see, looking out and surveying the scene from all angles, I tell myself it's the king of kings himself, Jayavarman VII. Today most Cambodians have a picture of the king on the wall of their home and in his day, during the 12th century, this was just another version of the same, images of the king on the wall of his home, reminding his subjects who was in charge and to whom they owed their allegiance.
The gate is crowned by a triple tower with four giant faces looking out at the four cardinal points; north, south, east and west
The faces of Ravana, leader of the demons, is dwarfed by the face-tower of Jayavarman VII
Indra sits atop his elephant steed Airavata on four sides of the South Gate entrance
The face of Jayavarman VII stares out at visitors to the South Gate
The detail of gods and worshipping figures are lost to most eyes who concentrate on the giant faces and the elephant trunks
The faces of the multi-headed gods are also dwarfed by the impressive face-tower of the South Gate
The western face of the South Gate is a little indistinct
Part of the moat surrounding the walls of Angkor Thom reflecting the late afternoon sun

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andy, Preah Baht Jayavarman VII, the King of kings, does have a magical appearance about Him. I, too, felt so tiny in His Majesty's presence.

January 29, 2009 9:05 AM  

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