Astonishing Angkor Thom in Cambodia
Sitting on the west bank of the Siem Reap River in Cambodia, the incredibly beautiful Angkor Thom represents the remnants of the most important and long lasting capitals of the Khmer empire. The city was commissioned in the twelfth century by King Jayavarman VII, and it spans a total area of 3.4 square miles. The center of the site includes the Bayon, which was the king’s state temple and is currently one of the most important tourist attractions in the region.
The city was built on top of an older capital named Yasodharapura, which was erected 300 years earlier. The name of Angkor Thom was officially implemented during the 16th century, and it means “great city”. The last temple that was built within the walls of this amazing city is called Mangalartha, and it was reportedly constructed in 1295. Over time, the city itself fell into decay and was abandoned some time before 1609, when it was described by a traveler as an uninhabited city that is “as fantastic as the Atlantis of Plato.”
Due to its immense size and great significance, Angkor Thom is believed to have contained a population somewhere in between 80,000 and 150,000 people. The walls surrounding this incredible landmark are 26 feet tall and 1.8 miles long. The city also has gates placed at each cardinal point, and each gate is followed by a road that leads to the central temple of Bayon. The towers that were placed at the city gates soar up to 75 feet and feature a series of face inscriptions that are still the subject of debate and interpretation to this day. Some believe that they depict the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara or perhaps visages of the king himself.
Many structures found within the city were inspired in their design by principles of symbolism and myth. For example, each corner of the city includes a sandstone-made Prasat Chrung or corner shrine dedicated to Avalokiteshvara – a bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. Moreover, many Angkor ruins include bas-reliefs that depict gods, goddesses and other supernatural beings as well as real and fictional animals such as dragons.