The moment you hear the name 'Cambodia' almost everyone thinks of the awe-inspiring Angkor Wat. Trust me it is a spectacular place but I think there are many other mind-blowing places than Angkor Wat. Speaking my heart here, I found the Bayon temple, one of the most famous structures in the Angkor complex, much more breathtaking.
This could be partly because there was a mad crowd at Angkor Wat and the disrespect they visitors were showing on the premise was shocking. Perhaps this completely put me off and on the other hand, the serene smiles hiding a million secrets of Time is the real reason I love Bayon more.
Siem Reap was blazing hot when we got there. ( Just in case you were wondering, Siem Reap is where Angkor Wat is at, in Cambodia. ) The enigmatic faces of Bayon put a stop to all the inconvenience as we were hypnotized by the cryptic elegance of these mysterious faces. The temple complex was too beautiful and intricately designed with steep steps to the upper levels of the temple.
The original name for the Bayon temple is 'Jayagiri' which means "Victory Mountain". After French occupancy, it was later named Banyan Temple due to its allegiance with Buddhism and Buddhist imagery. And when the local Khmer people came to work on the renovation of Banyan Temple, they mispronounced it as Bayon and the name got stuck.
Official Info at the Bayon Temple:
Some More Info I Read Online:
The gigantic faces on the temple's towers have led many scholars to believe that the faces are representations of Jayavarman VII. Since the time of Jayavarman VII, the Bayon has undergone numerous additions and alterations.
There are 7 entrances or arches that denote entrances just like in Hindu Vishnu temples that symbolize the gateway to the heavenly abode.
There is so much confusion about the temples in Cambodia, especially those in Siem Reap, are steeped in theories regarding them being Hindu and then converted to Buddhist Wats. Most of the guides there, don't reveal the accurate history and say that the temples were originally built based on Buddhism.
Okay, back to the topic. Like I said, the entrances reminded me so much of Hindu south Indian temples and the architecture had strong resemblances as well.
The other interesting artifact I saw there was a Shivalinga. This is a common site in other temples in Siem Reap as well. Back in those days, it was common practice to have both Shiva and Vishnu deities in the same temple, mostly side by side.
They had restricted access to the two galleries around the temple. I had read a lot about the depictions about the loss of Khmer sovereignty to the Chams, and Jayavarman’s re-conquest of Khmer territory from the invaders.
The reliefs on the walls of the inner galleries are said to depict various Hindu deities like Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, and includes numerous scenes from Hindu mythology, such as the myth of the ‘Churning of the Sea of Milk’. I could some of the remains of the serpent sculptures from the temple terrace.
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Some Useful Tips When Travelling to Bayon:
- To beat the heat and the crowd, visit the Bayon temple early in the morning or late afternoon.
- Always keep a bottle of water, a towel, a hat and a tube of sunscreen on hit. It's hot.
- Eat as little as possible, because climbing those steep steps on a heavy stomach is a torture.
- The Bayon temple is located in the Angkor Thom complex, so you can reach it by Tuk Tuk, cab, bike or by bicycle.
- You need at least 1 to 2 hours to experience Bayon and take in the beauty, so make sure you have this minimum on hand.
- The entry for all the temples including Bayon are covered in the Angkor Pass. You can opt for a 1-day, 3-day or a 7-day pass to check out all the temples in the Angkor Thom complex.
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