Friday, October 06, 2006

The Land of Eternal Smiles

good bayon2
Just 2 of the 216 enigmatic faces keeping watch over the Bayon, Angkor Thom.

A manifestation of King Jayavarman VII`s mystic Buddhist beliefs, the Bayon is a spiritual experience. Built in the 13th century, it was the last state temple to be built at Angkor, and the only one to be built primarily as a Mahayana Buddhist temple. From each of the survivng 54 towers, standing in the center of Angkor Thom, the kingdom's capitol, the enlightened grins of the Boddhisattva Avalokitesvara, one of the most worshipped divinities in Mahayana Buddhism and the kingdom's principal divinity, watches over the temple and out into the surrounding jungle. Carved in the likeness of the King himself (his portrait is known from other sculptures found elsewhere in Cambodia and Thailand), these enigmatically smiling faces portrayed the King as god, symbolizing his omnipresence and omnipotence.

When Chou Ta-Kuan visited Angkor in 1297-98, Bayon's towers were covered in gold, which was stripped by later conquorers. While Angkor Wat was kept from the ravages of the jungle by Buddhist monks, Bayon was forgotten- left to the mercy of nature. Four and a half centuries took their toll...

Experience a little bit of the Bayon for yourself, here.

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