Phnom Bakheng: 6 Oct 2003
  It is a testimony to the love of symmetry and balance which evolved its style... in pure simplicity of rectangles, its beauty is achieved. It is a pyramid mounting in terraces, five of them... below Bakheng lies all the world of mystery, the world of the Khmer, more mysterious than ever under its cover of impenetrable verdure.  


A New Beginning

Also known as the "first Angkor", Bakheng was the first major temple to be constructed in the Angkor area, and it marked the move of the capital of the Khmer empire from Roluos to Angkor in the late 9th century.


Opened Doors

Soon after Yasovarman I became king in 889 AD, he decided to move the capital from Roluos to the area known today as Angkor. He named his new capital Yasodharapura, and built Bakheng to be his state temple at the center of this new capital.


World Beyond

Today the ancient city of Yasodharapura is barely distinguishable to visitors. It was vast, even larger than Angkor Thom. A square wall, each side of which was 4 km long surrounded the city, enclosing an area of some 16 square km. The natural hill of Phnom Bakheng is in the center of the site.


Masonry Miracle

The foundations of Bakheng was carved from the existing rock edifice that formed the natural hill, rather than the laterite and earthfill of most other temples.


Steep Steps

Bakheng was a replica of Mount Meru and the number of towers suggests a cosmic symbolism. The seven levels (ground, five tiers, upper terrace) of the monument represents the seven heavens of Indra in Hindu mythology.


Temple Mountain

108 towers were evenly spaced around the tiers with the central sanctuary at the apex of the temple complex. The numerology of the 108 towers symbolises the 4 lunar phases with 27 days in each phase. The arrangement allows for only 33 of the towers to be seen from each side, a figure that corresponds with the number of Hindu deities. Today, most of these towers have collapsed.



"Every haunted corner of Angkor shares in the general mystery of the Khmers, and here the shadows seem to lie a little deeper, for this hill is like nothing else in the region"


King of the Jungle

Sadly, the main attraction of Phnom Bakheng today is the sunset view of Angkor Wat rather than it's historical significance. Inevitably the whole affair has turned into something of a circus, with crowds of tourist gasping up the steep hill slopes, pestered all the way by nimble-footed soft drink and souvenir vendors. One can even take an elephant ride up the hill.



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