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Temple Carving

The Bayon

The Bayon was built later than Angkor Wat as the religious power center of the vast Khmer empire. Unlike the tomblike closeness of Angkor, the Bayon has a more open, pretentious feeling. Rising above the main temple are stone towers with 54 carved faces. Smiling Faces Impossible to stand anywhere without being watched! Around the perimeter of the temple are wonderful bas-reliefs. Here, like at Angkor Wat, are processions of troops, battles and carnage, but also scenes of everyday life: childbirth, markets and gatherings of royalty. Hunters and monks appear in a forest filled with animals. There are scenes from Indian mythology, the Ramayana and the Mahabahrata, mixed with depictions of exotic apsara dancers, kings, priests and hermits. There are grand parties and solemn funerals. The eye delights in the details. There is a war galleon floating on an ocean of fish, crocodiles and strange sea creatures, and a king, bitten by a snake, lying on his deathbed. Elsewhere around the spread-out Bayon are other temples, a pyramid, a row of stone towers, a platform for mounting the royal elephants, and a dais for troop review.

Bas-Relief Heavenly Apsara Dancers