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Angkor Thom – City


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Angkor Thom South Gateway

Angkor Thom South Gateway

Angkor Thom is one of the largest and most impressive of all the Angkor sites and was built as one of the last and most successful enduring capital cities, during the reign of the first Buddhist King Jayavarman VII late in the twelfth century. It remained the capital of the Khmer empire into its decline until it was abandoned some time prior to 1609.

Focused around the state temple, the Bayon built at its centre, there are also several other important monuments and complexes with the cities walls built at varying times by kings from both before and after King Jayavarman VII reign.

Within the City walls, are the following important sites:

- The Bayon – State temple built by Jayavarman VII
- Baphuon – Former state pyramid temple
- Phimeanakas – Part of the Royal palace
- Terrace of the Elephants – Stunning carved terrace
- Terrace of the Leper King – Stunning carved terrace
- Preah Palilay – Temple
- Tep Pranam – Temple
- Prasats Sour Prat – 12 sandstone towers
- North Khleang – Temples
- South Khleang – Temples

Jayavarman VII was renowned for his grand building projects during his reign and Ankgor Thom was at the centre of his policies. The total area within the city walls is around 9 square kilometres. Built on a grand scale, the plan of the city is square in shape, with 5 huge gates halfway along each side facing North, East, South and West (with an extra one in the eastern wall). The 8-meter high walls are buttressed with earth on the inside and include a parapet along the length of the top.

Angkor Thom South Gateway Detail

Angkor Thom South Gateway Detail

Each gate is 23 Meters high and are famous for their ornate carvings and architecture that includes typical Khmer corbelling and the famous carved faces, which are commonly thought to either represent King Jayavarman VII himself or Avalokiteśvara (a compassionate buddist deity overseer).

Each of the 5 Main gates is accessed from a causeway across a huge 100 meter wide moat that runs on the outside of the 12km wall. Along each of the causeways are 54 statues placed on each side, representing the Hindu story (popular in Angkor) of the Churning of the Milk-Ocean. The gateways themselves measure 3.5 by 7 meters, and originally would have had wooden doors that would have been able to close.

Originally, administrative and secular buildings of the city and empire occupied most of the land within the walls, however like at other Angkor sites, these were all built of perishable materials and have since been reclaimed by the jungle, which now covers most of the area. There was also at one time a network of canals through which water flowed through from northeast to southwest.

At its height it is commonly believed that Angkor Thom could have sustained a population of in between 80,000-150,000 people.