Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Gate of the Dead

One of the enigmatic faces of the Gate of the Dead
The East Gate of Angkor Thom at the Angkor complex of temples just outside of Siem Reap leads nowhere. Unlike the other four gates of Angkor Thom, the Gate of the Dead, as it's also known, is therefore rarely-visited though it's still in fair condition. The leafy track that runs the one and half kilometres from The Bayon to the gate was occupied by birds, butterflies and a shy troop of small monkeys when I paid a visit last week, apart from that it was deathly quiet for a gate by which dead bodies were allegedly disposed of. Like all the majestic gates at Angkor Thom, the East Gate is 75 foot in height with four faces of Lokiteshvara (or Jayavarman VII if you prefer, as I do) staring out to the four cardinal points. The quartet of elephant (Indra's mount, Airavata) trunk pillars, either side of the entrance, have fared to varying degrees, as have the praying figures above, and at this gate, there are no gods and demons holding nagas still remaining. Some wooden supports are in evidence to stop the elephant trunks from collapsing but by and large, the gate is in good nick. After admiring the amazing craftsmanship of these late 12th century builders, I took my bicycle onto the top of the eight-metre high wall and cycled along the parapet to the Victory Gate nearby.
The 1.5 kilometre leafy lane that runs from the Bayon to the East Gate
The western side of the gate with the elephant trunks on either side of the doorway
Indra and two consorts have seen better days
The nose of the south-facing Lokitesvara is missing
Another view of the south-facing Lokitesvara and praying figures
The Gate of the Dead from the eastern approach, which becomes a small track into the surrounding forest
A stylized lotus blossom on the wall next to a collapsed elephant trunk
Three praying figures above the eastern face of the East Gate of Angkor Thom

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