The Bayon is a well-known and richly decorated Khmer temple at Angkor in Cambodia. Built in the late 12th century or early 13th century as the official state temple of the Mahayana Buddhist King Jayavarman VII, the Bayon stands at the centre of Jayavarman’s capital, Angkor Thom. Following Jayavarman’s death, it was modified and augmented by later Hindu and Theravada Buddhist kings in accordance with their own religious preferences.
Because the temple sits at the exact centre of Angkor Thom, roads lead to it directly from the gates at each of the city’s cardinal points. The temple itself has no wall or moats, these being replaced by those of the city itself: the city-temple arrangement, with an area of 9 square kilometres, is much larger than that of Angkor Wat to the south.
The Bayon’s most distinctive feature is the multitude of serene and massive stone faces on the many towers which jut out from the upper terrace and cluster around its central peak. There are 54 towers of four faces each, totaling 216 faces. There is still a debate as to who is being depicted in the faces.
The temple is known also for two impressive sets of bas-reliefs, which present an unusual combination of mythological, historical, and mundane scenes. Bayon’s plan can be divided into three levels — the first two are bas-reliefs and the uppermost consists of the central sanctuary. The outer gallery depicts scenes from everyday life and historical events, while the second inner gallery depicts mythical figures and stories. In total, there are more than 1km of bas-reliefs to be viewed in the Bayon.
The current main conservatory body, the Japanese Government team for the Safeguarding of Angkor has described the temple as “the most striking expression of the baroque style” of Khmer architecture, as contrasted with the classical style of Angkor Wat.
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